You are a social worker at a youth drop-in centre that has multiple service arms including a medical clinic, a housing agency and a counselling service. In a recent staff meeting you have been informed by management that the legislation in Victoria has now changed and that there is a new offence called ‘Failure to disclose child sexual abuse offence’ whereby it is an offence for failure to disclose child sexual abuse and this has come into effect on 27 October 2014.
The offence requires “that any adult who holds a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child (aged under 16) disclose that information to police. The offence applies to all adults in Victoria, not just professionals who work with children, unless they have a reasonable excuse” http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/for-service-providers/children,-youth-and-families/child-protection
Later in the week you see a fifteen year old girl, Hanifi, who presents at the medical clinic asking for contraception. One of the nurses from the medical clinic, referrers Hanifi to see you as Hanifi has presented with her boyfriend, Akmal, who has just turned eighteen years old. In her handover to you, the nurse tells you that neither Hanifi nor Akmal are at school and are both homeless, either sleeping rough and couch-surfing. She reports that Hanifi came in for a pregnancy test but that it was negative and the couple were very relieved. The nurse reports that due to the new legislation and the difference in ages she is worried that she needs to make a report against Akmal. The nurse is worried that if she tells the couple this, that they might not return for the contraception management services they need. The nurse asks you to speak to Hanifi to assess further if she is ‘at risk’ from Akmal and to assess the organisation’s role in complying with the legislation.
Hanifi is initially reluctant to see you alone without Akmal. Correspondingly, Akmal appears very protective of Hanifi. Eventually Akmal says he will ‘go and get a coffee’ and leaves you with Hanifi for about fifteen minutes.
Hanifi tells you that she has been homeless since she was fourteen due to her parent’s drug-use and that she met Akmal ‘on the street’. Hanifi tells you that she likes Akmal and that he is the only person she has in her life to ‘look after her’. Hanifi says ‘he is a good guy’ and that she thinks she loves him but is not sure, but she knows that right now he is the only one keeping her safe from the other ‘creeps on the street’ and also that ‘he has a car’ which helps her a lot. Hanifi says she ‘doesn’t mind’ having sex as Akmal seems to enjoy it and that they both want to make sure she doesn’t get pregnant which is why they’ve come into the clinic today. Hanifi asks you ‘will you tell the police or anyone’ what I tell you?’ She then says that Akmal would be ‘really angry’ if he knew that the agency was going to tell the police about their age difference and that he ‘wouldn’t let her come back there again’.
Use this scenario to demonstrate your understanding of the differences between social work and legal perspective in practice.
– What are your legal considerations here (include specific Acts, policies, and procedures)? What are your social work considerations (include social work code of ethics)?
– What do you need to know about the legal aspects of this scenario and what legal considerations might your client be considering? (eg: natural justice, privacy and confidentiality)
– What ethical frameworks might you use in considering your legal obligations?
– What organisations might assist you to discuss your client’s legal rights? What legal issues might your client be using?