The Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 promotes permanence and stability for children and young people who have been removed from their parents or guardians. It encourages decisions and actions to be made in a timely manner and, in the case of young children, as early as possible.
The Act also contains a number of provisions designed to ensure that the child's voice is heard. Children and young people must participate in decision-making where appropriate and must have a reasonable opportunity to put their views to the court.
A major change is that the guardianship function, currently undertaken by the Minister for Education and Child Development under the Children's Protection Act 1993, will instead be undertaken by the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection. This is in line with a recommendation of the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission to ensure decision making occurs as close as possible to the child.
It will also better align South Australia with other jurisdictions with respect to the guardianship of children and young people in care.
Some of the key changes include:
- the inclusion of a parliamentary declaration recognising the importance of children and young people in our State
- principles which require early decision making to promote permanence and stability for children and young people
- the guardianship function currently held by the Minister is vested in the chief executive of the Department for Child Protection
- increased voice and involvement for children and young people
- increased rights for carers, including the ability to apply to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) for review of certain decisions of the chief executive
- the establishment of Child and Family Assessment and Referral Networks, and a Child and Young Person's Visitor scheme
- the ability of the chief executive to cause a family group conference
- powers for the chief executive to direct parents to undergo drug and alcohol assessments and parenting capacity assessments
- a requirement for the Minister to arrange assistance for eligible care leavers, including:
- the provision of education and training services
- assistance finding accommodation, employment and accessing legal and support services
- a requirement for those employed in licensed residential facilities, both government and non-government, to undergo psychological assessment of a kind determined by the chief executive.
Changes to mandatory reporting for ministers of religion
The current laws in South Australia place mandatory reporting obligations on ministers of religion, but do not require a priest or other ministers of religion to divulge information that they receive through a confession.
As part of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017, this exemption to the mandatory reporting requirements will change from 22 October 2018.
The new Act will mean ministers of religion are subject to strict mandatory reporting requirements, which will include information communicated during a confession. These strict reporting requirements continue to apply to others in the community, such as social workers, educators and police officers.
These changes aim to better protect children from potential harm, and align with the recommendations of the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
For more details visit the Attorney-General's Department website.
You can see the new legislation and regulations, alongside the existing laws here.
A transitional Act and Regulations will also come into place.
- Children's Protection Law Reform (Transitional Arrangements and Related Amendments) Act 2017
- Children and Young People (Safety) (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2017
Legislation Implementation Team
Email: DCP.Legislation [at] sa.gov.au