Family Services iris data Dictionary For Child first/Integrated Family Services Program

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Family Services IRIS Data Dictionary

Iris Data Dictionary For Child FIRST/Integrated Family Services Program


NOTE that the 2013 Data Dictionary has been updated to reflect the components that have been reviewed and incorporated into the 2013 IRIS upgrade.

This data dictionary has been prepared to support the recording of data related to clients of the Child FIRST and Integrated Family Services activity funded by the Department of Human Services. The target group for this activity is vulnerable children, young people and their families who are:

  • Likely to experience greater challenges because the child or young person’s development has been affected by the experience of risk factors and /or cumulative harm

  • At risk of concerns escalating and becoming involved with child protection if problems are not addressed.

Section 61 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 requires Child FIRST and Integrated Family Services to prioritise services based on need.

The Family Services IRIS Data Dictionary has been developed to promote greater consistency and reliability of IRIS Family Services data.

IRIS records key data about the client and service profile within Child FIRST and Integrated Family Services. All data fundamentally derives from practice - from the initial referral to Child FIRST and Integrated Family Services, to recording of the client issues and service activities to the case outcome and closure reasons. IRIS data therefore provides a tool to analysing the broad characteristics of Child FIRST and Integrated Family Service interventions and clients/families and is also the primary source for information about the performance and capacity of the Integrated Family Service program.
IRIS data is used to generate Child FIRST and Integrated Family Services Reports in order to inform:

  • Government, about the performance and value of its investment in Integrated Family Services in Victoria,

  • Department of Human Services, about the progress of the legislative implementation and program performance,

  • Family Services agencies, about client needs, service responses, agency capacity and future planning,

  • Child FIRST catchments about operational management, service coordination and service planning, and

  • Child FIRST and Integrated Family Services practitioners and managers about allocation prioritisations, demand, capacity and workload, client characteristics and supervision.

For the Child FIRST and Integrated Family Services reports to be of value, the data that is entered must have a consistent interpretation. Critical to this is the role of the Family Services staff who enter the data. Different workers or different workplaces have different understandings about expectations and meanings of the data. These differences affect the reliability and consistency and therefore value of the data. The purpose of the IRIS Family Services Data Dictionary is therefore to establish an agreed state-wide taxonomy of terms used within IRIS, and an explanation of how the data will be interpreted and counted for reporting purposes in order to increase the consistency and reliability and therefore value of the data.

For additional support in applying the terms described in this Data Dictionary, please contact your local area family services contact.

Introduction 3


Client and Case 5

Client and Case Identifiers 5

Measures and terms for counting clients and cases, tracking cumulative harm, and integrated catchment service delivery to families 6



CLIENT LIST FUNCTIONS (new, open, delete, export, refresh) 10



CASE FUNCTIONS (new, open, export, delete, merge, refer) cases tab 16


Refer case (Using the Refer Case button under cases tab) 17

Importing cases (Partner agency) 19

Track Back Closed Referral Cases to Child FIRST (Performed by Partner agency) 19


Case Category (Note this section was reviewed in 2012) 24

RELATED PERSONS screen ca00-2 25

ISSUES screen ca00-3 28



CLOSURE screen ca00-5 44


This information has been provided to assist agency and catchment managers to better understand the structure of the IRIS data for planning, research and evaluation purposes. The critical information for practice purposes is provided under the relevant screen details to follow.

Client and Case

IRIS makes a distinction between information attached to the client and information attached to the case. Screen cl02 is the only screen where client data is entered on IRIS. This includes the client name, DOB, address, Indigenous status, as well as the client code and user code. The Client List can be searched by a number of the fields entered on this screen. This client information is also what is used to filter and populate client reports. Client code and user code are both free field options in IRIS. Each client in IRIS must have a unique client code. The user code can be used to designate particular client sub-types that can then be reported on as a group/cohort. This may include for example, clients receiving a holding response, or clients for whom the agency has primary case management.
All other information in IRIS is case information. This includes referral source, related persons, issues, service activities, intake outcomes, and children recorded). The case fields are used to populate the case reports eg Case Summary; Case Details; Case Throughput; and Case Statistics reports.

Client and Case Identifiers

All IRIS data is entered and interpreted in relation to its ‘client’ and ‘case’ identity. These terms are therefore crucial to being able to track a child’s cumulative history within IRIS and to use IRIS data to report about numbers, circumstances and experiences of Family Services clients. IRIS has a number of different ways of assigning ‘identity’ to client and case characteristics that are therefore important to understand.




Client name

The client name entered on IRIS is the ‘representative’ for the family – usually the mother or primary carer. This name will be the primary and most critical field within IRIS when searching for previous or subsequent case entries in order to link the cumulative case history of a family to the one identity.

When the child (ren)’s family name is different to the primary carer’s, the child (ren)’s family names must also be recorded under Client name, linked to the primary name by / (eg Smith/Brown). If an alias is known indicate by (brackets).

Always search using ‘Find Similar’ or using * and key letters in the family name(s) to maximise linking new cases to existing client identities in IRIS or to identify when same children are provided services within different household/family groups. See later terms for more detail:

Client‘s name Search Merge client

The client name is NOT exported to DHS as DHS receives de-identified data only.

Client code

The client code is generated by agencies as a unique identifier for that client family within the agency. Agencies have developed coding conventions to assigning unique client codes within the agency. All subsequent cases attached to the client name with this code therefore have the same client code. The client list can be filtered and searched using the client code. The client code also provides a filter for Client Reports eg: Client Summary Report.

Note that client codes only have relevance in the agency in which they are identified. With the exception of the ‘refer case’ capacity and reference code (and to some extent the SLK, see below), IRIS has no other means of recognising when the same clients are presenting at different agencies. While this is a problem for best tracking of cumulative history for children and for accurate reports of numbers of users of Integrated Family Services (FS), it exists as an important privacy protection for clients. The integrated Child FIRST and Family Services partnerships, and the requirements to receive referrals and undertake risk assessments for children with significant wellbeing concerns, however, challenge traditional organisation specific privacy boundaries. See also ‘Measures and terms for counting clients and cases..,’ below.




Reference code

The reference code is automatically generated by IRIS every time a new case is established in IRIS. This ‘travels’ with the case when exported via refer case to a catchment partner agency and will enable information about this case to be linked back to the same client and case at the referring/exporting agency (eg Child FIRST/Central Intake.)

Statistical linkage key

Automatically generated from the client’s name, DOB and sex. The SLK is the only means for the DHS data analyst to identify when same clients are presenting at different locations across the State (though DHS cannot identify the name of the client as names are not exported to DHS). (It is essential for this purpose that the identical spelling is used when a client is referred to Family Services – as per the name on the Medicare card.)

User Code

Optional free text field for the agencies own use. Agencies may use this field to track client or program characteristics of internal value to the agency or catchment. Examples of this are:

  • To use the user code to designate that your agency has primary case management responsibility for the case when allocated to more than one agency

  • To designate that the case is receiving a holding service (also enter hours under ‘active holding’)

The Client list can be searched, or Client Reports can be filtered, using the user code. Eg: a Client Summary Report may be produced for all holding cases or all clients receiving case management from the agency.

Case type and funding source

All cases created for DHS funded Family Services are selected as ‘Family Services’ cases. Two funding sources are available – DHS and Child FIRST. Only Child FIRST uses the Child FIRST option (NOT other Family Services teams in the Child FIRST agency or other agencies in the Child FIRST catchment). For all other Family Services cases select the DHS funding source. If agencies want to distinguish between different case types within the DHS funding source, use the case code or user code. Agencies may set up alternative case or funding sources for cases that are not funded by DHS Family Services. These will not be reported to DHS.

Case code

A non mandatory free text field that can be used to designate case types of interest to the agency. These cases can then be reported on as the case code is a filter for Case Reports eg Case Summary report.

Case owner


Service Provider

The case owner is the case manager or the person in the agency responsible for the case. The case owner shows on the case screen and in case reports. (Note on the client screen and in client reports ‘creator’ or ‘created’ relates to the person who created the client record). A secondary worker can be added as the service provider against the relevant service activity.

Measures and terms for counting clients and cases, tracking cumulative harm, and integrated catchment service delivery to families

IRIS collects data on an organisation-by-organisation basis. A state-wide aggregate is developed when each agency exports its de-identified data to DHS (on a quarterly basis), creating a valuable platform for research, evaluation and performance management.

A critical limitation of IRIS, however, is that it has no state-wide whole-of-data base capacity to search for previously known clients to Family Services beyond individual organisation (server) boundaries. This was built into IRIS as a safety mechanism for client privacy, and this remains a relevant concern. With the move to the integrated Family Service agency partnerships within sub-regional catchments, and the requirement for heightened vigilance for children legislatively defined as having significant concerns about their well-being, the landscape has changed. Increased capacity to share information across agency/organisation borders is essential to meeting the objectives to ensure the safety and wellbeing and prevent cumulative harm to these and other vulnerable children known to Family Services.

In accordance with these requirements, the IRIS upgrade of 2007 established increased capacity to share information for case and operational management across organisational boundaries within catchments only. Cross-catchment, state-wide identification of clients within IRIS remains limited. This continues to be regarded as a safety mechanism to enable time to evaluate client impacts of increased information sharing; for clients to gain increased awareness of the integrated basis to Family Service delivery; and to ensure technology supports, rather than leads development in this sensitive ethical area.

The way for IRIS to share information across agency boundaries is through the refer case functionality. This enables cases referred to Child FIRST to transfer client and case information to partner agencies within the catchment and, where the track progress facility is selected, for Child FIRST to be updated about ongoing client issues, related persons and service activities for these cases. Over time, Child FIRST will establish a growing record of all families referred into the catchment through Child FIRST and be able to report on catchment-wide client and service profiles for these cases.

Where it is not appropriate to track progress in this way (in the absence of Child FIRST and associated catchment governance arrangement that incorporate privacy considerations for clients), agencies may refer to each other within a catchment by using the new intra-catchment referral source (more information is provided in later sections of the Data Dictionary). When a case is referred to a partner agency using the intra-catchment referral referral source this will indicate integrated agency activity to program managers and evaluators and enable the overall count of service to be adjusted to count an additional case but not an additional client family within the catchment.

The critical data to tracking cumulative harm and client and case numbers within Family Service catchments follows.



Integrated service delivery within catchment and case numbers

Within the integrated catchment partnerships, any single intake to Family Services may result in a number of agencies providing services, with each agency’s effort recorded as a separate case for that client. This scenario will therefore be counted as one family (one registered client as above) but multiple cases.

A new case is established every time a family is referred to Child FIRST and every time a family is referred onto or between partner agencies within an integrated catchment partnership (using either refer case or intra-catchment referral referral source). The multiple cases combine as the service response provided by one or more agencies to the initial referral of the family/client to Family Services, until final closure of that service episode. All hours of service are recorded against cases within each individual agency. The total number of hours of service within a catchment (i.e. across agencies) as a result of a single referral for a family into Family Services can be aggregated by Child FIRST or DHS (from export data) only when track progress is used in refer case.

Number of families and number of clients

A client is a family receiving a service from a Family Service agency. One family may be a client in multiple agencies at the same time (with the possibility of more than one client identity and more than one case across agencies). Duplicates can only be excluded by matching same reference codes and SLKs. With increasing numbers of referrals originating through Child FIRST, the count of families accessing Integrated Family Services within catchments will however become an increasingly reliable figure (via matching reference codes). Key counting rules are:

  • The number of families referred for Integrated Family Services in any period will be counted as the number of referrals (less intra-catchment referrals) within the specified reference period This will therefore exclude double (or more) counting of clients receiving services from multiple Integrated Family Services agencies within the same catchment (referred to partner agency via refer case (includes transfer of the original referral source) or as an intra-catchment referral in response to the same initial referral).

  • The number of families who ever receive service from Integrated Family Services will be an adjusted estimate taking into account number of different client codes less intra catchment referrals and additional client codes attached to the same case reference number (ie same family receiving service following refer case from a partner agency in a catchment). Where different, additional client codes associated with same statistical linkage keys may also be subtracted from total family numbers to capture same clients accessing Integrated Family Services in different parts of the State.

  • The number of clients receiving a service from Family Services at any point will be the number of individual cases across all agencies (allows that one family is a client in multiple agencies at the same time)

  • Only families with cases with service activity over the reference period will be counted as active Family Services clients (to exclude cases ‘open’ due administrative errors or over-sights in case closures).

  • Child FIRST clients/cases will be adjusted to factor in cases open due to administrative updating of track progress activity (n= no. open clients – no. refer case exports)

Counting for funding agreement target purposes

Each agency in its Funding Agreement has an allocated number of targets. For Integrated Family Services the two performance measures* are ‘number of hours of service’ and ‘number of clients’. The total number of targets (clients receiving a service from Family Services at any point) will be the total number of individual cases for all clients across all agencies. Targets are reported for funding purposes as the number of clients provided a service. Department of Human Services Policy and Funding Plan 2012-2015 - Department of Human Services, Victoria, Australia

Tracking of Cumulative Harm

Cumulative harm may be indicated by reference to one or more of the following:

  • Families, and children of families, with an assessment of significant concerns about wellbeing

  • Previous entries to Child FIRST

  • Number of previous Family Service cases

  • IRIS issues for these families (number and type)

  • Amount of time open in Family Services for this case and across cases (hours and months)
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