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Responses to children and young people with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours

Responsible government

  • 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 has 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 will be developed using a co-design approach with various stakeholders including priority populations such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, people with disability and people from culturally diverse communities. It will also include children, young people and families with lived experiences. 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 achieve state-wide service coverage.

There are now nine full New Street Services plus two smaller ‘spoke services’ that are supported by a neighbouring ‘hub service’. 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 10 years with problematic and harmful sexual behaviours and their families. The program will deliver prevention activities, capacity build generalist services who engage with children and families to provide early responses and support to address 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 mid-2021.

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.

The NSW Ministry of Health has co-designed the Safe Wayz service model with an Aboriginal Expert Group convened by the Education Centre Against Violence. This co-design process has embedded principles of cultural safety in the different elements of the Safe Wayz program including prevention, early support and therapeutic treatment. Local health districts have been funded to conduct readiness activities prior to the launch of this service. These activities include establishing intake, governance and quality assurance structures, conducting training audits, stakeholder mapping, and scoping prevention and early support needs. 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 advice to districts delivering the Safe Wayz program. One of these positions will be Aboriginal-identified and will focus on cultural as well as clinical support.

A Children and Young People’s Sexual Safety Team in NSW Health was established to lead NSW Health’s initiatives and the development of the NSW Government 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.

In 2020, NSW Health partnered with the NSW Department of Communities to lead the policy and legislation stream under the framework In September 2020, they released a consultation paper seeking stakeholder feedback on whether a model similar to the Victorian Therapeutic Treatment Order scheme could be applied in NSW. Findings from submissions have been used to inform the co-design activities for the development of the policy and legislation model.

Co-design activities for the framework and supporting projects commenced in October 2020 and will conclude in March 2021.

What is next?

The NSW Ministry of Health will fund local health districts to recruit clinical positions to support local implementation of the Safe Wayz program in mid-2021. The NSW Ministry of Health will codify the Safe Wayz program model in a Policy Directive, and will establish and support a State-wide Safe Wayz Implementation Committee to oversee and support Program implementation.

Consultations with stakeholders will continue until March 2021. The Framework is anticipated to be completed in June 2021.

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.

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