Child safeguarding standards in NSW have changed. Are you up to date?
December 2021 will mark the fourth anniversary of The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. A fourth year of continued change and improvement. One of the NSW Government’s key responses to the Royal Commission was implementation of the NSW Child Safe Standards, which have now evolved into the NSW Child Safe Scheme 2021. This Scheme forms the primary framework that guides child safe practice in organisations in NSW.
The Scheme comprises ten principle-based standards encompassing existing child safety requirements for individuals and organisations. These include Working with Children Checks, the Reportable Conduct Scheme and requirements to report information to police and to the Department of Family and Community Services.
The standard’s key themes include:
- organisational leadership
- governance and culture
- children, family and community involvement in decision making
- equity and diversity; engaging, supporting and adequality training suitable people
- the process of responding to complaints
- minimising abuse in the physical and online environment
- continuously reviewing and improving the implementation of the Child Safe Standards.
Organisations in NSW must now incorporate the Scheme into their systems, policies, and processes to keep children and young people safe. The reach of the Scheme is significant and applicable to entities in connection with the categories under the Working with Children Check scheme in NSW, including public authorities, religious bodies and organisations engaged in work relating to children who live or are present in NSW including Education, Early Childhood, Sports and Recreation, Health and Youth justice sectors to name a few.
These organisations must now develop a child safe action plan which contains the strategies the organisation will take, both in the services it provides and with the related bodies it funds or regulates, to build awareness in the community, build capability and improve the safety of children by implementing the Child Safe Standards. Furthermore, the new Child Safe Standards require the head of a child safe organisation to ensure that the Standards are implemented through systems, policies and processes, and that these systems, policies and processes are continuously reviewed and updated.
For many organisations embedding this Scheme is uncharted territory. For some, whilst operating as a child safe organisation is not foreign, they may not feel confident that they are operating in line with better practice.
Child safeguarding standards, principles and regulations are accountability and transparency drivers. They shouldn’t just reflect what is required by law, these policies should tell the story of your organisation’s values, what you believe in and what you stand for. We understand many organisations are unclear as to how to best protect and promote the safety and wellbeing of children, while some may not feel confident they are operating in full compliance or in line with better practice.
We recommend organisations who engage with, provide services to, fund, or oversee the environments children visit consider the following critical questions when self-assessing their maturity to gain comfort that they are fully compliant with the Child Safe Standards:
- Do you periodically report child safety related incidents and near misses to the Board and Senior Leadership, overseeing preventative action on any emerging risks or trends?
- Do you have a child safe code of conduct?
- Are you confident that all staff, contractors and volunteers which are brought into your organisation are safe and are aware of their child safety obligations?
- Do you train your staff in child safety and child safety incident management?
- Do you have a transparent and accessible complaints process?
- Does your organisation foster a child safe culture?
- Do you perform Child Safety Risk Assessments to identify, monitor and manage situations, environments or circumstances which may be high risk to children?
Should you answer ‘no’ to one or more of these critical questions you may need to consider the policies, processes and culture you have in place to keep children and young people safe.
One of our critical learnings is that becoming a child safe organisation involves embedding child safety across the breadth of systems and processes, together with shifting mindsets and practices of the entire organisation to enhance culture towards child safety.
For more information. Safeguarding Advisory Services