Panel of Independent Assessors - Q&As
Changes under the Permanency Support Program from 1 October 2017 require that permanency planning is embedded in each new case plan, with a goal for achieving permanency, in most cases, within two years.
We’ve established a panel of Independent Assessors to help caseworkers determine the best permanency option for a child or young person. Managers Casework retain delegated responsibility for permanency decision making.
See the panellists for your district and read the Q&As below to find out more about how the panel of Independent Assessors can support your permanency case planning.
Why do we need a panel of Independent Assessors?
Independent Assessors already provide a vital resource for DCJ and non-government service provider caseworkers who require high quality, independent assessments and support when working towards achieving permanency for a child or young person – particularly when it comes to guardianship or open adoption.
This new, and expanded, panel of Independent Assessors enables us to meet growing assessment demand and progress permanency plans for children and young people. The panel system means DCJ can monitor assessor quality, availability and cultural competence, and act on any supply gaps and improve the geographical spread of assessors to better meet children and young people’s needs.
The panel provides a clear and transparent process for increasing the number of assessors.
It also streamlines the process for Districts (and our NGO partners) to engage an assessor when needed.
To support more consistent, predictable and timely outcomes, the panel deed (or contract) clearly describes our expectations of Independent Assessors.
How were Independent Assessors selected for the panel?
Independent Assessors on the panel were selected following a rigorous, two-stage procurement process led by a DCJ evaluation committee comprising representatives from Child & Family, Adoption Services and Procurement.
The committee evaluated over 100 applications based on:
- qualifications, training and accreditations
- practical experience in achieving permanency outcomes for children and young people
- ability to collaborate with both DCJ and non-government service providers
- capacity to build relationships with parents, prospective guardians and adoptive parents and other
- examples of clear, insightful and evidence-based past work like court reports and casework
- proactivity and organisation.
What do Independent Assessors do?
An Independent Assessor is commissioned to undertake impartial, high quality assessments to provide information about the quality of relationships a child is developing with their permanent caregivers, assess the suitability of each of the permanency pathways, and make recommendations about permanency case plan goals.
Independent Assessors play a significant role in engaging with family members and other significant people to positively influence permanency case planning, for example in the negotiation of an adoption plan.
While engagement of an Independent Assessor will reflect legislative requirements, DCJ guidelines and the background of each case, Independent Assessors can undertake:
- Restoration Viability Assessments
- Guardianship Assessments
- Adoption Assessments and Adoption Plans (including non-OOHC Adoptions)
- Permanency Assessments.
The Independent Assessors on the panel have different areas of expertise and geographical coverage. For more information, see the panellists for your district.
How can I access an Independent Assessor?
To access an Independent Assessor, first view the panellists for your district.
The list provides information about each Independent Assessor’s area of expertise and service coverage. Once you have identified one or more suitable Assessors, they can be contacted to discuss:
- the complexity of your referral
- any cultural and linguistic considerations for your referral
- the geographical location of the referral and the Assessor’s capacity to travel if required
- the Assessor’s availability to accept the referral and complete the required work during your timeframe
- the Assessor’s completion of any required DCJ training (such as adoption training)
- the estimated time and cost for the Assessor to complete the work required under as part of your referral.
DCJ staff can access templates on the FACS intranet to help scope the referral and obtain an estimation of time and cost from the Independent Assessor (a quotation).
Once your district delegate approves the estimate in line with the delegations manual (which is likely to be the Manager Client Services or Director Community Services or Operations in most cases), a purchase order is released to confirm the referral and you can commence working with the Assessor. Districts will need to cover any costs relating to the engagement of an assessor.
Where can I find out more about an Independent Assessor’s background and expertise?
As part of the assessment process, assessors provided their resumes and outlined their qualifications and professional experience. You can ask an Independent Assessor for this information if you are interested.
How do I find an Independent Assessor with Aboriginal cultural competence or Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) expertise?
Please discuss your preference for specific cultural competence directly with your shortlisted Assessor/s as part of your selection process.
Can DCJ-funded service providers use the list to source Independent Assessors?
Yes. Independent Assessor panel members have agreed that their contact information can be made available to both DCJ and its non-government partners.
Service providers may freely use the panel to contract an Independent Assessor. However, DCJ disclaims any legal liability or otherwise regarding a service provider’s decision to use a particular Independent Assessor.
Can I only use Independent Assessors from the panel?
Given the rigour involved in establishing a panel of high quality Independent Assessors, DCJ Districts should always allocate independent assessment work to panel members.
In instances where there are no suitable or available panellists in a particular area, try to identify an Independent Assessor from another location who is willing and available to travel.
In instances where no locally available or culturally suitable Independent Assessor from the panel can be identified, the Director Adoption Services (for adoption matters), or Director Community Services or Operations (or their delegate) can approve engagement of an Independent Assessor outside of the panel.
In these cases, you should inform the panel secretariat at State-WideContracts@facs.nsw.gov.au to guide expansion of the panel in areas of need.
How is the panel’s quality and performance monitored?
All Independent Assessors on the panel are required to meet performance requirements about delivering a quality service, on time. These requirements are set out in the service level agreement signed with each Independent Assessor.
We’ll use feedback gained through referrals and periodic surveys about considerations like timeliness, the standard of service, quality, cost, and communication to support continuous improvement among panel members. This information will also help to select Independent Assessors for future referrals and to identify training needs.
A Secretariat and Steering Committee has been established to monitor the operation of the panel and act if we identify persistent performance issues.
We will also help Independent Assessors establish a peer-to-peer network to provide mutual support and share learning.
How can I provide feedback on an Independent Assessor?
In the first instance, you should discuss any issue with the relevant Independent Assessor directly.
The service level agreement for Independent Assessors includes performance expectations about responding to and reporting on these kinds of discussions.
If direct discussion fails to resolve a concern or complaint, you should escalate the issue to the Contract Manager (in Statewide Contracts, Partnerships) by emailing State-WideContracts@facs.nsw.gov.au
How can new Independent Assessors join the panel?
The panel of Independent Assessors panel is an ‘open panel’, meaning that from time to time, based on any known gaps or shortages, we’ll open it for new applications.
We’ve set up a ‘register of interest’ process via the NSW eTendering website for new applications.
We’ll invite applicants who satisfy defined mandatory criteria (such as qualifications, experience, and capacity to travel) to participate in a select tender process and submit more detailed information, such as examples of relevant assessment reports, and respond to questions that test their knowledge of permanency assessments.
Please send any questions about the registration of interest process to IndependentAssessorsProject@facs.nsw.gov.au.