Specialised Substitute Residential Care: An Overview of Arrangements and Regulations in New South Wales

Introduction to SSRC:

Specialised Substitute Residential Care (SSRC), formerly known as Voluntary Out of Home Care (VOOHC), is an essential care arrangement provided in New South Wales and regulated by the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of SSRC, including its definition, types of care, funding options, the role of the Children’s Guardian, and the responsibilities of SSRC agencies.

 

What is Specialised Substitute Residential Care?

Specialised Substitute Residential Care (SSRC) is a care arrangement designed to provide children with support away from their usual homes for three or more nights within a seven-day period. This arrangement can be initiated for various reasons, including respite care to give parents or caregivers a break, behaviour support to address specific needs, or funding through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to assist children with disabilities.

 

Types of Care in SSRC:

SSRC services offer a range of care options tailored to meet the diverse needs of children. These include:

  • Stays of three or more nights: Children may stay in group homes, respite facilities, hotels, or Airbnb environments for three or more nights in a seven-day period. These stays do not necessarily have to be consecutive, allowing flexibility for families and caregivers.
  • Overnight or short-term accommodation: Children can be accommodated in group homes or respite environments for overnight or short-term stays, providing them with a safe and supportive environment outside their usual homes.
  • ‘Host family’ arrangement: In some cases, children may stay with another family for three or more nights as part of a ‘host family’ arrangement. This offers a unique opportunity for children to experience a different family dynamic while receiving care.
  • Longer-term residential care: SSRC can also involve longer-term residential care, where children live in a supportive environment for an extended period. This option is beneficial for children who require ongoing care and stability.
  • Respite or behaviour support camps: SSRC services may organize camps lasting three or more nights specifically focused on providing respite care or behaviour support. These camps offer a structured and therapeutic environment for children to develop new skills and socialize with their peers.
  • Accommodation under the NSW Bail Assistance Program: SSRC can be provided as part of the NSW Bail Assistance Program, which offers accommodation to children involved in the justice system or at risk of offending.

 

Flexibility and Duration of SSRC:

One of the key strengths of SSRC is its flexibility in catering to the unique needs of children and families. These care arrangements can be one-off emergency placements, providing immediate support during crises. Alternatively, SSRC can be accessed on a regular or long-term basis, ensuring consistent care and stability for children who require ongoing support.

 

Funding Options:

SSRC arrangements can be funded through various means, ensuring accessibility for families and children. The funding options include:

  • Direct payment by families: Some families choose to directly pay for SSRC services to ensure their child receives the necessary care and support.
  • NSW Bail Assistance Program: Children involved in the justice system or at risk of offending may access SSRC through the NSW Bail Assistance Program, which provides accommodation and support tailored to their needs.
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS): Children with disabilities can access funding through the NDIS to cover the costs of SSRC, ensuring they receive appropriate care and support.

 

The Role of the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian:

– The NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian plays a crucial role in regulating and overseeing SSRC services to ensure the safety and well-being of children. The agency’s responsibilities include:

  • Compliance with Child Safe Standards: SSRC agencies must adhere to the Child Safe Standards, which prioritize child safety by embedding it in organisational leadership, culture, and governance.
  • Continuous improvement: The Office of the Children’s Guardian facilitates continuous improvement in service coordination, planning, and delivery to enhance the quality of SSRC.
  • Monitoring and regulation: Since 2011, the Office of the Children’s Guardian has regulated SSRC – agencies, ensuring their practices align with the Statutory Procedures: Voluntary out-of-home care in NSW and Child Safe Standards. This regulation aims to maintain high standards of care and protect the rights and well-being of children.

 

Responsibilities of SSRC Agencies:

SSRC agencies such as Maple Youth Services are required to fulfill specific obligations to ensure the safety and well-being of children. These responsibilities include:

  • Registering with the Office of the Children’s Guardian: SSRC agencies must register with the Office of the Children’s Guardian to provide or arrange SSRC in New South Wales, ensuring compliance with regulatory standards.
  • Intake, assessment, and case planning: SSRC agencies are responsible for conducting thorough intake assessments, interagency coordination, and comprehensive case planning to tailor care arrangements to the specific needs of children and families.
  • Involvement of children and families: SSRC agencies must actively involve children, young people, and their families in care planning and decision-making processes. This approach ensures that the child’s voice is heard, and their preferences and needs are considered.
  • Complaint resolution: SSRC agencies must inform children, young people, and families about the complaint resolution process, providing a transparent and accessible avenue for addressing concerns and ensuring accountability.
  • Cultural appropriateness: It is essential for SSRC agencies to provide culturally appropriate services, respecting and valuing the diversity of children and their families.
  • SSRC Register: SSRC agencies are required to enter relevant information about children and young people accessing SSRC into the SSRC Register. This database records details such as names, birthdates, genders, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, disability information, care duration, and case plan dates.
  • Supervision and case planning: Children in SSRC for more than 90 days in any 12-month period must receive appropriate supervision. Additionally, children in long-term SSRC (over 180 days in any 12-month period) require an approved case plan, which is renewed at least once a year to ensure ongoing support and care.

 

Conclusion:

Specialised Substitute Residential Care (SSRC), previously known as Voluntary Out of Home Care (VOOHC), offers crucial support for children requiring care away from their usual homes. This article provided a comprehensive overview of SSRC, including its definition, various types of care, funding options, the role of the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian, and the responsibilities of SSRC agencies. By ensuring compliance with Child Safe Standards and fostering continuous improvement, SSRC agencies prioritize the safety, well-being, and individual needs of the children in their care.

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