Managing critical incidents to protect children – Part 2

This blog entry was authored by Rhiannon Wright, Client Relations and
Engagement Manager, Safeguarding Children Services
at the Australian Childhood Foundation


This blog is the second part of a two-part serious on critical incident management in Child Protection. You can see the first part here.

The Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria State Government, has recently developed a new client incident management system (CIMS) that focuses on the safety and well-being of its clients, including children and young people.

The CIMS includes five stages:


1. Identification and response

  • Identification is when an incident is disclosed to, or observed by, a service provider at any service delivery setting (for example, provider premises, outreach location, client’s home). This can include disclosure by a client, family member or other professionals, to the service provider.
  • Response covers the immediate activities undertaken to ensure the safety and well-being of clients, staff and visitors, preserve evidence and notify emergency services and family or other support people.


2. Reporting

  • Reporting captures specific information regarding the incident identified.
  • As part of this stage, follow-up is undertaken to ensure that the information provided in an incident notification is accurate, and service providers and the department are assured that appropriate actions are being planned and undertaken to manage the incident.


3. Incident investigation

  • An investigation is a formal process of collecting information to ascertain the facts, which may inform any subsequent criminal, civil, disciplinary or administrative sanctions.
  • In the context of this guide, the purpose of an incident investigation is to determine whether there has been abuse or neglect of a client by a staff member or another client, in relation to an allegation in a client incident report.


4. Incident review

  • A review is an analysis of an incident to identify what happened, determine whether an incident was managed appropriately, and to identify the causes of the incident and any subsequent learnings to apply to reduce the risk of future harm. Such reviews may be carried out by service providers (including the department) or external bodies.
  • Note that incident reviews are distinguished from incident investigations (above), which have a focus on determining whether there has been abuse or neglect of a client by a staff member or another client. In general, if an investigation has been carried out, there is no requirement for the service provider to undertake an incident review, so long as the investigation sufficiently covered any relevant issues of quality assurance and continuous improvement that would otherwise be considered by a review.


5. Analysis and learning

  • Analysis and learning includes monitoring and acting on trends identified through the analysis of client incident information to enhance the quality of service and supports to clients.
  • Stage 5 of the system, involves incident data analysis, which includes the monitoring, interrogating and acting on trends identified through the analysis of incident information. At its core, the purpose of analysing incident data is to fulfil three core objectives in relation to client incidents:
  • Understand what is happening in relation to incidents (that is, with trends in the volume and type of client incidents, key risk areas)
  • Understand why this is happening (that is, what is driving these events – why are certain types of incidents / services / clients / locations seeing increases / decreases in incidents?)
  • Inform what can be done to produce better outcomes for client safety and wellbeing (that is, based on this understanding, how can changes to policy / practice / case management be made in order to prevent and mitigate the risks of incidents and improve the quality of services and the service system for the benefit of clients).


The data analysis component of the CIMS is designed to support continuous improvement through the ongoing identification of issues and trends and implementation of changes that result in improved services and better outcomes for client safety and wellbeing, including changes in relation to case management, practice changes and / or policy changes. The above example highlights the importance of robust and integrated critical incident management systems for understanding thematic child protection issues, and when such systems are in put place, the responsibility of organisation to keep children safe is upheld.


If you would like to learn more about how our Safeguarding Children Services can support your organisation you can download this information PDF here.




Client incident management system (CIMS), 2017 – Victoria State Government, Department of Health and Human Services https://fac.dhhs.vic.gov.au/news/new-client-incident-management-system