Guidance for use of email and instant messaging by youth justice staff to interact with young people and/or their families.

 

When to use this procedure

When seeking clarification regarding the use of email and instant messaging by youth justice staff.

 

What else you need to know

Make sure you have read and understood the following procedures:

 

Practice context and legislation

  • Email and instant messaging, including short message service (SMS), can be useful tools in case management of young people involved with youth justice. However, the privacy of both youth justice staff members and young people and their families remains paramount.
  • The use of email and instant messaging by youth justice staff is governed by the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees (No 1) 2007 which guides the standard of behaviour required of all youth justice staff regardless of the forum. The Department of Human Services' Acceptable Use of Computer Services Policy provides guidance specifically in relation to the use of email and instant messaging for all department employees including youth justice workers.
  • The Guidance for use of social media in the Victorian public sector (available from State Service Authority: Codes of Conduct website) includes email and instant messaging within the definition of social media. The department’s Social media policy for employees does not refer to email and instant messaging within the definition of social media.
  • For the purposes of youth justice practice, in this instruction email and text messaging are considered separate tools of communication to what is broadly understood as social media. For more information specifically about social media please refer to the procedure for Social media.
  • Youth justice workers are required to familiarise themselves, and act in accordance, with the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees (No 1) 2007.
  • Workers using email and text messaging to interact with young people and/or their families need to mindful of privacy requirements as well as limitations of these forms of communication and general worker safety considerations.
 

Roles and key tasks

Case manager

Use email and instant messaging in an appropriate manner, using discretion and within legal parameters.

Team leader / team manager

Provide oversight, direction and monitoring of the area youth justice program. Provide case consultation and direction regarding the use of email and instant messaging.

Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support

Provide case consultation regarding details of the young person and the appropriate use of email and instant messaging in case management.

Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor

Provide case consultation regarding court recommendations, breaches and young people exhibiting high risk behaviours. This should occur subject to area agreements between Assistant director / Manager Individual and Family Support and the Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor.

 

The procedure in detail

Limitations of practice instruction

This procedure relates to the use of email and instant messaging to interact with young people and their families/supports.

The use of email and instant messaging to interact with client support services, other professionals and organisations is covered within the Acceptable Use of Computer Services Policy.

Nature of electronic communication

Comments made on email or instant messages are able to be reproduced and distributed in other media.

Workers must ensure that there is no information contained in messages or email that can identify a young person as being involved with the youth justice service.

Code of Conduct

The use of email and instant messaging by youth justice staff is governed by the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees (No 1) 2007 which guides the standard of behaviour required of all youth justice staff regardless of the forum.

Youth justice staff should familiarise themselves with, and comply with, the code.

Acceptable Use of Computer Services Policy

The department’s Acceptable Use of Computer Services Policy includes specific guidance in relation to the use of email and instant messaging. Section four of this policy sets out the acceptable use email, instant messaging. The following points that may apply specifically to case management are highlighted below:

  • 4.1 Email or instant messaging must not be used for any purpose that may bring the department into disrepute.
  • 4.2 Email or instant messaging must not be used to send confidential or private information to users outside the department’s secure network unless the information is protected as appropriate to the sensitivity of the information.
  • 4.5 Email sent and received in the course of business activity should be treated as a public record and included in the department’s record keeping systems as required by the department’s policy and law. Any email communication regarding a young person should be cut and pasted or scanned into the young person’s CRIS file with an easily identifiable subject title.

Limitations of instant messaging and email

Email and instant messaging can be perceived by the sender to be instantly received and may create an expectation of immediate response.

If workers are using email and instant messaging to communicate with their young people, it is important to have an initial discussion with the young people to ensure that expectations are understood and agreed upon by both parties.

Limitations of email and instant messaging may include (although are not limited to):

  • worker’s hours of duty
  • worker unavailability within those hours, such as attendance at meetings and court appearances
  • physical limitations, such as not hearing the phone or the phone or computer being switched off
  • periods of leave, including unanticipated absences.

Private email addresses or telephones/devices

For personal safety, privacy and professional integrity youth justice workers should not use private email addresses or telephones/devices to contact young people and/or their families.

Restrictions on publication

Section 534 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 places restriction on the publication of any information that may lead to the identification of a child as being the subject of an order made by the Children’s Court; the venue of the Children’s Court or any party or witness to the Children’s Court proceedings.

As comments made on email or instant messages are able to be reproduced and distributed in other media, workers must ensure that there is no information contained in messages or email that can identify a young person as being involved with the youth justice service.

Case noting communication with young people

All communication with young people, including email and instant messages, should be recorded as a case note within the Client Relationship Information System (CRIS).

Emails about young people

Email correspondence regarding young people should not contain their name in the subject title. It is acceptable to use the young person’s initials.

Standard signature block for emails

The following signature block must be included for all email correspondence with young people and families.

This email account may not be accessed daily. For urgent matters please seek assistance in person or by telephone.

Also consider adding the following information.

If you need assistance outside of business hours the following 24hour services may be useful:

  • Kids helpline ph. 1800 55 1800
  • Lifeline ph. 13 11 14

Contact with young people previously involved with youth justice via messaging and email

To maintain professional integrity, youth justice staff must not 'friend', message or interact with young people previously involved with youth justice on social media.