Responses to children and young people with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours
- New South Wales
Fourth Action Plan actions
- Primary prevention is key
- 2 Improve coordination across primary prevention activities to maximise their impact on community attitudes and behaviours that lead to violence.
- Support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children
- 7 Build the workforce capability to ensure delivery of high quality, holistic, trauma-informed and culturally safe supports that respond to the complex needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children.
- Respond to sexual violence and sexual harassment
- 14 Deliver client-centred, trauma-informed, specialised and consistent support to victims and survivors of sexual violence.
What are we doing?
The NSW Government allocated $37.7 million over five years from 2018-19 to improve the prevention of and responses to children and young people with problematic or harmful sexual behaviours. The NSW Government is developing a framework, based on a public health approach, that will promote prevention activities. It is being developed using a co-design approach with a broad range of stakeholders including priority populations such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, people with disability and people from culturally diverse communities. Children, young people and families with lived experiences have also informed this work. The approach will support families, communities and professionals to identify and assess the problematic or harmful behaviours and respond early to ensure supports are in place. The framework will also include proposed policy and legislation changes to improve referral pathways for children and young people with harmful sexual behaviours.
The NSW Government has allocated $19 million of the new funding to improve access to specialist treatment services for children and young people and their families who need it. New Street is an evidence-based specialist service for children and young people aged 10 to 17 years who have engaged in harmful sexual behaviours. The NSW Health New Street Service network has been expanded to deliver services in every Local Health District.
There are now nine full New Street Services plus two smaller ‘spoke services’ that are supported by a neighbouring ‘hub service’. Each full service has at least one identified Aboriginal counsellor who supports the service to be culturally safe, including by delivering or coordinating cultural consultation for non-Aboriginal clinicians working with Aboriginal clients. The state-wide clinical advice structure has been expanded to include an identified Aboriginal advisor for the network.
NSW Health is establishing a new State-wide program, called Safe Wayz for children under the age of criminal responsibility (currently 10 years) with problematic or harmful sexual behaviours and their families. The program adopts a public health approach, including prevention, early support and specialist therapeutic treatment. Safe Wayz will coordinate the delivery of prevention activities with local service providers, support generalist services who engage with children and families with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours and provide specialist therapeutic support for children and young people where that is needed. The Safe Wayz program will be led and coordinated by the NSW Health Sexual Assault Services (SAS) with a state-wide workforce expansion of 24 full-time positions, of which a minimum of 9.4 positions will be identified Aboriginal. The program will be rolled-out from 2022. The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network will provide state-wide clinical and cultural leadership and advice through two new clinical advisor positions, one of which is an identified Aboriginal role.
What have we achieved so far?
New Street Services for children and young people aged 10-17 years with harmful sexual behaviours have been rolled out across the state. Services are available in every local health district. Contact details for each service are at: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/parvan/hsb/Pages/new-street-services.aspx. In quarter 4 (April-June) of 2020-21, New Street Services provided counselling for 203 children and young people with harmful sexual behaviours. New Street has been evaluated and found to effectively reduce offending behaviours for clients that complete treatment.
A program model for the Safe Wayz program for children under the age of criminal responsibility with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours has been developed through co-design with key stakeholders including consultation with an Aboriginal Expert Group convened by the NSW Health Education Centre Against Violence (ECAV). This co-design process has embedded principles of cultural safety in each of the elements of the Safe Wayz program including prevention, early support and specialist counselling. All Local Health Districts have developed Safe Wayz Program Implementation Plans and begun to conduct readiness activities prior to the launch of this Program. The NSW Ministry of Health has also funded the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network to recruit two clinical advisor positions to provide state-wide clinical support and leadership to the Districts. One of these positions will be Aboriginal-identified and will focus on cultural as well as clinical support.
On behalf of NSW Government, NSW Health has been leading the development of a sector wide Framework for preventing and responding to children and young people with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours. The Framework will support the implementation of a child and family-centred system response to this cohort, based on a public health approach. A detailed implementation plan will be developed to outline proposed next steps for NSW Government. Both the Framework and Implementation Plan will be completed by the end of 2021.
The Framework is supported by three flagship projects that reflect a public health approach. The Prevention Action Strategy provides evidence of prevention of PHSB and outlines key opportunities and priority actions for NSW Government and the broader community to prevent PHSB. The Common Approach to Identification and Support provides a resource and screening tool for early responders and practitioners to identify, assess and respond to children and young people displaying PHSB. The Policy and Legislation model proposes referral pathways into treatment and support for children and young people with harmful sexual behaviours to address their behaviour so that they are diverted away from the criminal justice system.
The Framework is also guided by a Case for Change that provides the evidence base to support a public health approach to responding to PHSB in NSW, identifies current gaps and opportunities in the system, and champions the need for an integrated approach to preventing and responding to PHSB. The Case for Change is informed by two specifically commissioned pieces of research; a consumer research project which was completed in September 2021. The research explored consumer experiences of children and young people with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours and their families with accessing services to address their behaviour and an online workforce survey, which looked at sector wide skills, confidence levels and capacity building needs.
What is next?
The Framework will be completed by the end of 2021, with partner agencies contributing to the NSW Implementation Plan.
NSW Government will convene an inter-agency workforce standards and training committee to support sector wide capability development. The Committee will progress priority projects under the NSW Implementation Plan.
Following the completion of the consumer research project, educational resources for parents, carers and broader community are under development.
What difference will we make?
These initiatives respond to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about children and young people with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours.
Progress on these initiatives is measured and reported through the NSW Government response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, please see public annual reports.