We’ve developed examples to help you understand when a child at your service may be considered at risk of serious abuse or neglect for the purposes of Additional Child Care Subsidy (ACCS) child wellbeing.
On this page:
The following examples illustrate circumstances where a provider may assess a child is at risk. These examples are fictional and do not feature real people.
When a child does not meet the definition of at risk under state or territory law
Balendra’s parents separated recently and are currently sorting out their living arrangements. Balendra’s educators notice his attendance has become very random. They also notice he wears the same clothes most days and does not bring food, despite families being expected to supply food.
Following a conversation with Balendra’s parents, you determine that he is at risk of neglect. You make a file note of the conversation, outlining your concerns and why you believe Balendra is at risk.
Balendra does not meet the definition of at risk or in need of protection under state or territory law. However, his family’s circumstances put him at risk of neglect, so he does meet the definition of at risk for the purposes of ACCS child wellbeing. You may issue a child wellbeing certificate so Balendra can attend care without his family having to worry about fees.
Tim and his daughter, Brianna, have lost their temporary accommodation. Tim has let his service know that he and Brianna are living with friends until they find something more permanent. While Brianna seems fine and Tim is searching for stable accommodation, the circumstance suggests that Brianna may experience neglect in the future. The risk is real and apparent as Tim and Brianna do not have access to permanent accommodation.
In this circumstance, you may give Brianna access to ACCS child wellbeing based on the real and apparent risk that Brianna may be harmed in the future. When granting access based on an emerging risk, you must have evidence showing the risk continues to remain real and apparent. This could include evidence of significantly different or unusual behaviour.
Circumstances where a child is not necessarily at risk
The following examples illustrate circumstances that, on their own, do not necessarily mean that a child is at risk.
Lucy and Camille receive income support as their family’s sole source of income. While this can be financially challenging, on its own, it does not put their child Jack at risk of serious abuse or neglect.
However, Camille spends most of the income support on gambling. As a result, Jack regularly misses meals. These circumstances, when considered in full, would meet the definition of being at risk of neglect. The family’s income is part of the context, but not the sole reason that Jack is being neglected.
Ethnic, cultural, religious or racial background
Amez’s family are refugees from Iraq and do not speak English. His family fled racial persecution in Iraq and are living in a town in regional Australia. There are no other families with a similar background in Amez’s town. Amez’s ethnicity alone does not mean that he is at risk of serious abuse or neglect.
However, Amez’s mother Ashti suffers from serious post-traumatic stress disorder from her experiences in Iraq. Ashti does not have friends or family nearby to provide support. Ashti’s emotional state sometimes impacts on her ability to meet Amez’s basic needs. In this circumstance, Amez’s background has contributed to the circumstances placing him at risk of neglect but is not a reason by itself to assume neglect is happening.
Bernard and his 4-year-old daughter, Kirra, live in a remote part of the Northern Territory. Kirra would not be considered at risk of serious abuse or neglect based on her location alone. However, Bernard experiences bouts of severe depression and avoids interacting with Kirra during these episodes. While family try to check in with Bernard and Kirra periodically, their location makes these visits infrequent. Bernard regularly leaves Kirra unattended for many hours with inadequate amounts of food and mental stimulation, and their family is not aware of this until after the fact.
As there is evidence of neglect, Kirra would meet the definition of at risk. If Bernard and Kirra lived closer to their family, they may receive enough support to prevent Kirra from being at risk. In this circumstance, location is only a contributing factor. It is Bernard’s behaviour when he is experiencing a depressive episode that places Kirra at risk.
Disability, severe illness or mental illness
Disability, severe illness or mental illness does not necessarily mean that a child will be at risk. In some cases, however, these circumstances may result in a parent or carer not being able to care for their child when they normally would do so. Although there is no intent, this may result in a child being at risk of serious abuse or neglect.
Emma’s mother, Anita, relies on a wheelchair for mobility and has been formally recognised as a person with disability. Anita is otherwise healthy, able to drive a car, looks after Emma daily and has the support of her husband, Joe. Emma would not be considered at risk of serious abuse or neglect.
Thanh’s mother has a psychiatric condition that is managed with medication. When Thanh’s mother stops taking her medication, she forgets to purchase food and prepare meals. In this circumstance, Thanh’s mother’s failure to take her medication puts Thanh at risk of neglect. The psychiatric condition alone does not put Thanh at risk.
Evidence needs to address the type and extent of disability, severe illness or mental illness, and how it impacts the child.