LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA. Protecting children and other vulnerable from harm MODEL SAFE ENVIRONMENT POLICY + PROCEDURE CHECKLIST

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1 LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA Protecting children and other vulnerable from harm MODEL SAFE ENVIRONMENT POLICY + PROCEDURE CHECKLIST This document is an updated version of the Safe Environment Policy Models + Checklist released by LGA in It has been updated to take account of amendments to the Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) which came into effect on 1 January 2007, and new arrangements for certain aged care services funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. PART ONE BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT Page 1. INTRODUCTION 1 2. THE SAFE ENVIRONMENT PROJECT 1 3. CHILDREN S PROTECTION ACT 1993 (SA) Child Safe Environment Policies and Procedures Mandatory Reporting Criminal History Screening 3 4. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND AGEING (CWTH) 4 5. MODEL SAFE ENVIRONMENT FRAMEWORK Risk Management Review 5 6. SAFE ENVIRONMENT CHECKLIST 6 PART TWO RESOURCES AND CONTACTS Attachment 1: Model Safe Environment Policy 12 Attachment 2: References and Contacts 17 Attachment 3: Roles and Responsibilities - Examples 18 Attachment 4: Managing the Risks of Abuse 20 Attachment 5: Dealing with Criminal History Information 21 Attachment 6: Child Safe Mandatory Reporting Training Options 22 Members of a Local Government Safe Environment Focus Group have contributed to the development of this document. The contribution of those practitioners has been invaluable, and sincere thanks goes to all those who have participated. Date Released November 2007

2 1. INTRODUCTION The abuse issues raised in recent years in various organisations has very publicly revealed the need for all organisations to be vigilant about creating a safe environment and minimising the risk of harm to children and other vulnerable people in their care. By demonstrating leadership and ensuring effective policies and procedures are in place, Councils will have a level of confidence that they are taking all steps necessary to provide a safe environment for children and other vulnerable people for whom they have a duty of care responsibility. In addition to children, other vulnerable people could potentially include: young people (over 18 years of age) people with a disability (physical, intellectual or a mental illness) the frail aged people who experience disadvantage, for example, Aboriginal Australians and new arrived immigrants or refugees. At first glance, Local Government may not seem a high-risk area for exposure of children and other vulnerable people to a risk of exploitation or abuse. However, increasingly Councils are providing child care services, school holiday programs for children, social and recreational programs for young people, and social and community care options for frail, aged people and people with a disability. 2. SAFE ENVIRONMENT PROJECT The Safe Environment Project was initiated to support Councils in assessing existing policies and good practice approaches aimed at ensuring children and other vulnerable people are protected from harm. At the outset it is acknowledged that the approach to policy development and good practice approaches will vary from Council to Council. Accordingly, this resource is not intended to be a one size fits all template, but rather it is presented as a series of prompts and ideas for Councils to consider as they reflect on current practices and the need to review existing policies, procedures and practices. In some cases, amendments to existing policies and procedures may be all that is required. In other cases, it may be an opportunity to develop additional policies and good practice approaches. 3. CHILDREN S PROTECTION ACT 1993 (SA) Amendments to the Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) were proclaimed on 31 December The amendments arose from A State Government reform program responding to the Layton Child Protection Review, tabled in Parliament on 26 March The reform program Keeping Them Safe: the South Australian Government s Child Protection Reform Program acknowledged the need for a whole of community approach and resulted in amendments through the Children s Protection (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2005 (the Act). The key principle which underpins the Act is that all children should have a right to feel safe and be safe at all times. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting November

3 The amendments set out responsibilities for government and non-government organisations (encompassing Local Government Councils) including sporting clubs, churches and religious groups, and volunteer organisations. In summary, the amendments widen the safety net to protect children by: requiring government and non-government organisations to develop policies and procedures which reflect SA Department for Families and Communities (DFC) principles and Standards to ensure child safe environments; requiring criminal history police checks for those working with children in prescribed positions; and extending mandatory reporting obligations to employees and volunteers in religious organisations and organisations that provide sporting or recreational services where there is a suspicion of child abuse. Section 8 C (3) of the Act provides: (3) this section applies to an organisation that (a) provides health, welfare, education, sporting or recreational, religious or spiritual, child care or residential services whooly or partly for children: and (b) is a government department, agency or instrumentality or a local government or non-government organisation. The Chief Executive Officer of DFC has carriage of the administration of the Act, including the functions of: developing codes of conduct and principles of good practice for working with children; providing guidance on the recruitment and supervision of staff in government and non-government organisations who may have contact with children in the course of their employment; developing and issue of standards in relation to criminal history screening; and monitoring progress towards child safe environments in the government and non-government sector and to report regularly to the Minister on the subject. More information about the reform program and legislative amendments can be accessed via Implementation of the legislative amendments described in this section is to occur as soon as practicable after proclamation (31 December 2006) and before 31 December 2007 DFC Guidelines were released by the Chief Executive DFC in late October 2007, and it is expected that as of 31 December 2007, Councils will be taking steps to progress the development of policies and procedures for implementation as soon as practicable. The model policy framework and procedure checklist in this document has been prepared to enable Councils to progress down this path. The mandatory reporting requirement will not be new for some Councils, for example, where the requirement arises with respect to industry standards, funding criteria, mandatory reporting requirements which were in place prior to the amendments, Office for Youth funded programs, aged care accommodation, and the delivery of home and community care services. A summary of the relevant amendments to the Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) follows. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting November

4 3.1 Child Safe Environment Policy and Procedures Section 8C(1) of the Act requires Councils to establish policies and procedures for ensuring that: child safe environments are established and maintained within the organisation; and appropriate reports of abuse or neglect are made (under Part 4 of the Act). The policies and procedures must reflect DFC standards, but may vary according to the size, nature and resources of the organisation. 3.2 Mandatory Reporting Prior to the amendments, mandatory reporting was required by health professionals and those working specifically with children, namely a medical practitioner, registered or enrolled nurse, dentist, pharmacist, psychologist, police officer, community corrections officer, social worker, teacher, approved family day care provider; and any person who is an employee of, or volunteer in a government department, agency or instrumentality, or a local government or non-government organisation that provides health, welfare, education, child care or residential services wholly or partly for children. S11(2) amendments extend mandatory reporting requirement to a priest or other minister of religion (excluding the confessional) a person who is an employee of or volunteer in, an organisation formed for religious or spiritual purposes, and a person employed by, or volunteering in, organisations that provide sporting or recreational services wholly or partly for children. It is the last dot point that is particularly relevant as it captures a range of programs and/or services provided to children by Councils. 3.3 Criminal History Screening Section 8B requires criminal history screening to be undertaken in non-government organisations prescribed by regulation (whether an employee, volunteer, agent, contractor or subcontractor) of people (over 18 years of age 1 ) occupying or acting in a prescribed position before a person is appointed to, or engaged to act in a prescribed position at any time as the organisation thinks necessary or desirable for the purpose of establishing or maintaining child safe environments. Note: At the current time, regulations only prescribe this requirement for nongovernment schools. That is, there is no regulation requiring local government (Councils) to undertake police checks. However, DFC Child Safe Environment Standards referred to in 3.1 above include criminal history screening for those in prescribed positions as an indicator of compliance. The implementation of these standards will also ensure the fair and reasonable management of criminal history information and support the privacy of individuals as far as reasonably practicable. If criminal history screening is undertaken the information obtained must be dealt with in accordance with DFC standards. The application of these standards will ensure the fair and reasonable management of criminal history information and support the privacy of individuals to the extent possible. The relevant DFC standards are included as Attachment 5. 1 Refer Draft DFC Standards Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting November

5 A prescribed position is a position that requires or involves prescribed functions which involve any of the following: Regular contact with children or working in close proximity to children on a regular basis Supervision or management of persons in positions requiring or involving regular contact with children or working in close proximity to children on a regular basis Access to records relating to children Functions of a type prescribed by regulation (none as at September 2007) The Children s Protection Act 1993 does not include definitions of regular contact, close proximity, or regular basis. As a result DFC suggest that the terms must be given their ordinary everyday common sense meanings and that ultimately it will be up to the courts to decide what the terms mean in the context of the Act. Generally speaking the term regular contact implies contact that has a constant or definite pattern, or which recurs at short uniform intervals or on several occasions during short periods of time such as a week. 2 Councils will need to consider this guidance in identifying prescribed positions, and if necessary contact DFC or their own legal advisors for advice. It is also to be noted that most people do not have a criminal history, and that criminal history checks are recognised by DFC as only part of a comprehensive screening process which also involves interviews, referee checks, and other background checks to assess suitability for working with children. 4. AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND AGEING New arrangements were announced by the Department of Health and Ageing for criminal history (police) checks for certain staff and volunteers working in the area of aged care which came into effect on 1 March These requirements apply to Australian Government subsidised aged care services, namely Community Aged Care Packages (CACP) Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH) Packages, and EACH-Dementia. Approved providers providing services under the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) were contacted directly about these new requirements. Further information can be obtained via or by contacting the Department s Aged Care Information Line on free call At the present time, criminal history checks for staff and volunteers working in Home and Community Care (HACC) funded programs are not mandatory unless the staff or volunteer is working with children and young people up to 18 years of age (as required by the Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA)). However, criminal history screening in these circumstances is considered to be good practice, and it is likely to become a mandatory requirement in the future for all those working in the aged care area. 2 DFC Child Safe Environments Standards CH p6. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting November

6 5. MODEL SAFE ENVIRONMENT FRAMEWORK A Model Safe Environment Checklist follows in section 6. The aim of this Checklist is to support Councils to develop policies and procedures to foster a safe environment and comply with the requirements of the Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA). With respect to these requirements, Councils attention is drawn to the following key issues. Councils may have some or all of the requirements written into existing policies, procedures and codes of conduct. The legislation does not require a re-write or reproduction of policies, but rather that the policy framework in place reflects the DFC standards. The draft DFC standards as referred to previously are set out in the Checklist. Councils are not required to take these as written, but rather policies and procedures must reflect the standards and principles of good practice developed by DFC. This may vary according to the size, nature and resources of each organisation. Councils will need to consider structures for providing support to mandated notifiers and how they will manage records relating to the child abuse mandatory reporting. Whilst the duty under Section 11 lies with the individual and not the organisation, Councils also have a duty of care to both the child and employee and a requirement to observe confidentiality and privacy principles. (Refer the Checklist : Establish a procedure for dealing with enquiries and to support staff with mandatory notification obligations ) Councils may wish to consider nominating a Safe Environment Contact Officer as an advisor to staff and volunteers, and a contact person for children, carers and parents in relation to safe environment issues. The Chief Executive of DFC is responsible for monitoring progress towards child safe environments and reporting to the Minister on that subject. Organisations that do not meet the legislative obligations may face a fine of up to $10, Risk Management Review The LGA Mutual Liability Scheme undertakes an annual Risk Management Review. The Review covers most areas of Council operations and specifically targets areas that have a high level of civil liability exposures or areas that require a formal risk management approach to prevent potential civil liability claims. The Review has financial implications for Councils, as Risk Management is a component of the Scheme s bonus allocation process. As part of the Safe Environment Project, it is proposed that as of the next annual Review, a check list of questions covering the development and implementation of a Safe Environment policy be included and that progress within the sector be assessed.. It is also to be noted that indicators for measuring a safe environment organisation are included on page 10 of the DFC Guidelines. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting November

7 6. SAFE ENVIRONMENT CHECKLIST The checklist below reflects the standards and principles of good practice developed by DFC. The checklist is based on a risk management approach which aims to promote the wellbeing of children, young people and other vulnerable people in contact with the organisation, and protect them from harm. DFC Guidelines recognise that risk management strategies will vary in scope and detail depending on the complexity and size of the organisation, the type of activities or services provided, and the age and maturity of the children and young people involved. SAFE ENVIRONMENT CHECKLIST ISSUES TO CONSIDER AND DFC GUIDELINES: INDICATORS OF COMPLIANCE Determine the policy review approach Options include: What approach to policy review will be adopted? Allocate individual responsibility; or Convene a Reference Group. Representation could include Council Member/s, relevant staff, volunteer co-ordinator/representative, and program participant/s. This approach will foster greater understanding of the policy principles. Developing and Implementing a Risk Management Strategy Work through the steps in the Procedure Checklist to review existing child protection policies develop strategies to minimise and prevent risk of harm to children, young people, and other vulnerable people ensuring protective work practices are in place to guide those providing services to children and other vulnerable people. Refer: PART 2 Attachment 4: Managing the Risk of Abuse DFC Guidelines pages 11-13, and Develop a Safe Environment Policy (Refer Model Safe Environment Policy at Attachment 1) Scan existing documents to identify relevance to ensuring a safe environment, for example: o Safe Environment Policy o Council Member and Staff Codes of Conduct. o Equal Opportunity Policies - provision of goods and services and sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation o Customer Service Standards Determine if a separate/new policy is required or whether existing policies could be reviewed and updated Define roles and responsibilities Refer PART 2, Attachment 3: Roles and Responsibilities Examples DFC Guidelines: Indicators of Compliance as follows Safety review identifies Council s strengths and weaknesses relating to the safety and protection of children and vulnerable people Key services provided to children are identified and the risks posed to children are assessed. o For example, personnel, physical environment, activities, training, organisational culture and/or practices. Risks are minimised in high-risk situations. o These risks may be referred to in the Code of Conduct, which may also explicitly outline situations best avoided or how to minimise risks. The Risk Management Strategy is regularly reviewed. DFC Guidelines: Indicators of Compliance require the policy to: indicate Council s commitment to a child safe organisation be clear and easy to understand, identify legislative requirements be endorsed by Council specify responsibilities and have supporting procedures and standards be communicated to relevant audiences. Encourages employees and volunteers to sign a statement acknowledging awareness and responsibilities which is kept on the personnel file. Ensure parents, caregivers and children (where appropriate) are made aware of the policy and are able to access a copy. Be current and ensure that it is reviewed and evaluated on a regular basis. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting November

8 SAFE ENVIRONMENT CHECKLIST ISSUES TO CONSIDER AND DFC GUIDELINES: INDICATORS OF COMPLIANCE Develop a Code of Conduct which specifies standards of conduct and care when dealing and interacting with children, young people and other vulnerable people. Safe work practice guidelines could also be included in codes of conduct or other documentation to assist and support those working with children, young people, and other vulnerable people. DFC Guidelines (pages 16 to 20, and page 41) include further information about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and establishing professional boundaries. An Example of a Code of Conduct is included on page 17 Additional references are listed on page 38. Tips for maintaining professional boundaries included on page 41 Refer also PART 2, Attachment 4: Managing the Risks of Abuse DFC Guidelines: Indicators of Compliance suggest codes of conduct include statements about the responsibility of adults and children to treat one another with dignity, respect, sensitivity and fairness set out acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for all those working with children, and children. This includes discriminatory, offensive and violent behaviour is unacceptable are developed collaboratively including input from children where practicable require signed acknowledgement by all employees and volunteers where practicable are linked to performance management processes make it clear that unacceptable behaviour/complaints will be acted on outline procedures to report concerns and ensure that breaches of the code are linked to the Council s disciplinary procedures set out procedures that are clear, accessible and transparent. Promote the participation of children and young people in programs design and service delivery where relevant. For example, in the development of codes of conduct, and ensuring they know how to speak out about issues that concern them. Identify Relevant Council Services and Programs These will include all programs where services are provided wholly or partly to children and other vulnerable people. Examples include: Child care centres and services Library services and programs School holiday programs Recreation centres and programs Swimming pools and programs Youth Advisory Committees, youth services, events and programs Aged care accommodation Home and Community Care programs Services/programs for people with a disability and/or the frail aged. DFC Guidelines: Indicators of Compliance require the following where relevant A mechanism for seeking feedback from children and young people on the services provided, and relevant policies and codes of conduct Procedures to inform children and young people of their rights and how to access grievance procedures A list of the services and programs will form the basis for a review of roles and responsibilities of staff and volunteers and enable mandated notifiers to be identified, as well as prescribed positions requiring criminal history screening (see next page). The compiled list could be an attachment to Council s Safe Environment Policy. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting November

9 SAFE ENVIRONMENT CHECKLIST ISSUES TO CONSIDER AND DFC GUIDELINES: INDICATORS OF COMPLIANCE Identify mandated notifiers with specific legal obligations under the Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) Mandatory reporting obligations extend to all employees, contractors, consultants, and volunteers who provide health, welfare, education, sporting or recreational services wholly or partly for children; and supervisors and managers who have direct responsibility for the supervision of the provision of these services. Councils will need to Identify relevant positions where mandatory reporting obligations apply Review duty statements to ensure they reflect mandatory reporting requirements Develop a mandatory reporting training program and schedule for all relevant existing employees, volunteers, managers, and supervisors Include training/overview in induction/orientation program for relevant new employees and volunteers. DFC Guidelines: Indicators of Compliance require relevant employees and volunteers are aware of their responsibilities, and have adequate information and training to assist them to identify children at risk of harm, and to report suspicion on reasonable grounds to the Child Abuse Report Line procedures to guide action if there are concerns about a child s safety or welfare a process in place for recording incidents, concerns and referrals, storing records securely, and maintaining confidentiality appropriately procedures for dealing with concerns of abuse or neglect of a child perpetrated by an employee or volunteer of the organisation. Identify prescribed positions for criminal history screening The Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) defines prescribed positions as where there is regular contact or working in close proximity to children on a regular basis (this could be extended to include other vulnerable people, such as recipients of aged care services) supervisors and/or managers of those positions relevant contractors, agents, and consultants staff and volunteers with access to records relating to children DFC Guidelines state regular contact includes contact that may facilitate instances where people deliberately use their position and status to access and exploit children. For example, multiple instances of contact of limited duration (weekly group gathering) or fewer extended and intense periods of contact possibly away from children s usual environment (day trip, overnight camp) Close proximity means in reasonable unaided visual sight if physical structures were not present that is, within eyeshot Note: Local Government Councils are not regulated at the current time to undertake criminal history checks. However, this practice is recommended as part of an overall risk management approach. If Councils choose to do so, they must comply with DFC standards for dealing with criminal history information. DFC Guidelines: Indicators of Compliance require Procedures to identify prescribed positions (staff and volunteers), and duty statements state requirement for criminal history screening prior to appointment Identify current staff/volunteers in prescribed positions and undertake criminal history screening Screening procedures (applies to over 18 years)are to be transparent and available to all relevant audiences Assessment panel to document rationale/decision for excluding applicants for positions based on their criminal history information. Where there is an adverse report relevant to the job criminal history report applicants have an opportunity to make a response for further consideration and have access to an independent review (e.g. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) Criminal history information is to be dealt with in accordance with DFC standards See Attachment 5. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting November

10 SAFE ENVIRONMENT CHECKLIST Child Safe Environment Mandatory Reporting Training DFC Guidelines require relevant staff and volunteers to undertake training to enable them to meet this obligation. Appropriate training is also central to an overall risk management approach to ensuring a Safe Environment. A one day training session is recommended for staff and volunteers, and their managers and supervisors, who are primarily engaged in providing services to children, including all those in prescribed positions. Shorter sessions, or printed information, may be appropriate for other employees and volunteers with less frequent or occasional contact with children. This can be developed from the one day training course material. Include Child Safe - Mandatory Reporting as a topic on induction and orientation program check list for newly appointed staff and volunteers Establish a procedure for dealing with enquiries and to support staff with mandatory notification obligations. Note: Under S11, the duty to report suspected abuse lies with the individual mandated notifier based on their suspicion on reasonable grounds. However, whilst not compelled to do so, there are likely to be occasions where the mandated notifier would like to discuss the concern confidentially with their supervisor/manager or other nominated person within the organisation before doing so. For example, this may be relevant where the child/family access services in several Council program areas. DFC consider this arrangement is unlikely to breach confidentiality as the organisation has a duty of care responsibility to both recipients of services and its employees and volunteers, and when disclosure of information is in the best interest of the child. ISSUES TO CONSIDER AND DFC GUIDELINES: INDICATORS OF COMPLIANCE Identify relevant staff and volunteers who will be required to undertake training, either through one day Child Safe Mandatory Reporting training a shorter training session Identify relevant staff and volunteers who could be advised of the new requirements through printed information and provision of DFC publication: Child-Safe Environments Reporting Child Abuse & Neglect Guidelines for Mandated Notifiers Refer PART 2, Attachment 6: Child Safe Mandatory Reporting Training Options Consider nominating a Safe Environment Contact Officer to provide advice and to support staff dealing with mandatory notification responsibilities. Otherwise, supervisors and managers will need to undertake this role. The Safe Environment Contact Officer, and/or relevant supervisors and managers should be suitably trained to deal with issues raised in a sensitive, confidential and in a timely manner; have undertaken Child Safe Mandatory Notification one day training session, thereby being informed about what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and relevant mandatory reporting obligations; be aware of and observing arrangements for keeping appropriate records in a private and secure place, in accordance with Council s record keeping policies; have direct reporting responsibility to the Chief Executive Officer in relation to matters arising from the Safe Environment Policy. Note: There may circumstances where action is required in accordance with Council s duty of care responsibilities, in addition to reporting to the Child Abuse Report Line. Councils will need to develop a procedure for maintaining records securely so that confidentiality is observed. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting November

11 SAFE ENVIRONMENT CHECKLIST Review of Urban Design in Public Places Give consideration to maximising safety through appropriate design features of public places, Council buildings and facilities, parks and reserves, playgrounds and areas where young people gather, access services and participate in programs. Compliance with Council s Safe Environment Policy Contractors and Consultants Grant Funding Agreements o Include a clause in contractor and consultant contracts, and grant funding agreements regarding compliance with the Safe Environment Policy o Consider requiring contractors and consultants to nominate key personnel involved in providing services prior to engagement. Review Council licensing and facility lease/hire arrangements and consider associated risk exposure Identify licensing arrangements where contact with children or other vulnerable people may occur and there is a risk of harm Identify leases where the facility is used for providing services or activities for children and other vulnerable people Review hire of facility agreements/conditions of hire and include a clause relevant to the Safe Environment Policy where relevant. ISSUES TO CONSIDER AND DFC GUIDELINES: INDICATORS OF COMPLIANCE Refer PART 2, Attachment 4: Managing the Risks of Abuse Building design Lighting Visual surveillance Include a clause in contractors/consultants contracts, and grant funding agreements where relevant about compliance with Council s Safe Environment Policy. Refer PART 2, Attachment 3: Roles and Responsibilities - Examples Seek legal advice about any specific circumstance where risk exposure is unclear, or in relation to applying the policy and procedure, in particular in relation to the extent of control that Council is able to exercise over persons who are not employees. Include a clause in license/lease/hire agreements where relevant about compliance with Council s Safe Environment Policy. Refer PART 2, Attachment 3: Roles and Responsibilities - Examples Seek legal advice about any specific circumstance where risk exposure is unclear, or in relation to applying the policy and procedure Let everyone know about the Safe Environment Policy When endorsed by Council, provide a copy and brief all staff and volunteers and ensure relevant staff and volunteers are aware of mandatory reporting obligations requirement for criminal history screening in prescribed positions procedures for dealing with suspicions of child abuse or neglect Promote the new Safe Environment Policy through Council and Community Information networks, such as newsletters, Council s website and through other established forums. Ensure parents and children are aware of the Safe Environment Policy and procedures for making enquiries about child safety issues, and/or what to do if they have a complaint or concern. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting November

12 PART 2 OTHER REFERENCES AND RESOURCES Attachment 1: Model Safe Environment Policy 12 Attachment 2: References and Contacts 17 Attachment 3: Roles and Responsibilities Examples 18 Attachment 4: Managing the Risks of Abuse 20 Programs Premises Protective Work Practices Attachment 5: DFC Guidelines Dealing with Criminal History 21 Information (Not released as at time of drafting this document) Attachment 6: Child Safe - Mandatory Reporting Training Options 22 Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting 11

13 Attachment 1: MODEL SAFE ENVIRONMENT POLICY 1. INTRODUCTION AND RATIONALE Council is committed to the safety and wellbeing of children, young people and other vulnerable people who access our services. We support the rights of the child and vulnerable persons in the community and will act without hesitation to ensure a safe environment is maintained at all times. We also support the rights and wellbeing of our staff and volunteers and encourage their active participation in building and maintaining a secure environment for all children, young people and other vulnerable people. In addition to children and young people, other vulnerable people could include the frail aged, people with a disability, and or people who experience disadvantage, for example, some Aboriginal Australians and newly arrived immigrants and/or refugees. In addition to the moral obligation, amendments to the Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) which came into affect on 1 January 2007 places a legal obligation on Councils (and all other organisations providing a service wholly or partly to children) to ensure all children in their care are safe from harm. New requirements for criminal history checks for certain staff and volunteers working in the area of aged care also apply as of 1 March This policy aims to ensure the Council organisation and facilities are safe environments for children, young people and other vulnerable people and that they are protected from abuse and neglect. This policy also aims to ensure that all relevant Council managers, employees, volunteers, contractors and consultants are aware of their duty of care responsibilities for the protection, safety and wellbeing of children at all times. Author s Note: More detailed background information is provided in the Department of Families and Communities Child Safe Environments: Principles of Good Practice hereinafter referred to as DFC Guidelines, available at ments/download/ /cse%20standards%20august% pd f 2. LEGAL OBLIGATIONS Section 8C(1) of the Children s Protection Act requires local government Councils to establish policies and procedures which take account of Department for Families and Communities Child Safe Environment Standards to ensure: child safe environments are established and maintained within the organisation; reports of suspected abuse or neglect are made under Part 4 of the Act. S11(2) prescribes mandated notifiers as any Council employee or volunteer providing sporting or recreational services wholly or partly for children. Mandated notifiers must report any suspicion of abuse or neglect of a child to the DFC Child Abuse Report Line: telephone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on Section 8B requires criminal history screening to be undertaken by non-government organisations prescribed by regulation of people occupying or acting in a prescribed position: before a person is appointed to, or engaged in a prescribed position; and/or Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting 12

14 at any time as the organisation thinks necessary or desirable for the purpose of establishing or maintaining child safe environments. 3 New arrangements were announced by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing for criminal history (police) checks for certain staff and volunteers working in the area of aged care which came into effect on 1 March These requirements apply to Australian Government subsidised aged care services, namely Community Aged Care Packages (CACP) Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH) Packages, and EACH-Dementia. Whilst these requirements do not apply to the provision of Home and Community Care services at the current time, it is expected that criminal history checks will be a requirement in the future. 3. DEFINITIONS The Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) states that child abuse and neglect (or harm) in relation to a child means Sexual abuse; or Physical or emotional abuse, or neglect to the extent that: o the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, physical or psychological injury detrimental to the child s wellbeing; or o the child s physical and psychological development is in jeopardy. Child means a person under the age of 18. Criminal history screening involves obtaining information about relevant potential employees, volunteers, contractors or consultants on the basis that the information is deemed relevant to working in a child-related area. The information gathered may include details concerning previous employment and relevant experience; verification of qualifications and professional registration; criminal history information, reference checks and work history reports. Mandatory reporting obligation means a mandated notifier (any person providing services solely or partly to children) must report any suspicion of abuse or neglect of a child to the DFC Child Abuse Report Line. Prescribed position is one that requires or involves prescribed functions as follows: Regular contact with children or working in close proximity to children on a regular basis. o Close proximity means in reasonable unaided visual sight that is physically o being within eyeshot. Regular contact includes contact that may facilitate deliberate use of position and status to access and exploit children. This may include multiple instances of contact of limited duration (attendance at a weekly program) or fewer, extended and intense periods of contact which may be away from children s usual environment. Supervision or management of above positions; and Access to records relating to children. A prescribed position may also include one that involves provision of aged care services, or services to other vulnerable people. 3 Note: As at August 2007 there is no Children s Protection Act regulation requiring Local Government Councils to undertake police checks. However, criminal history screening is included in the DFC standards, referred to above and Council has endorsed the implementation of criminal history check screening for prescribed positions. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting 13

15 Identifying prescribed positions will involve consideration of the nature of the service provided (proximity or intimacy), the frequency (incidental contact, regular and/or ongoing contact), and the vulnerability of the child or other vulnerable person in the service provision context. 4. APPLICATION OF THE POLICY AND RESPONSIBILITIES The policy will apply from the date of endorsement, to all employees, students on placement, work experience students, relevant volunteers, contractors and consultants providing services wholly or partly to children, or who work with children. Author s Note: A schedule of roles and responsibilities relevant to the Safe Environment Policy is included in PART 3, Attachment 2. The Safe Environment Policy will be communicated to all relevant audiences to ensure awareness and understanding of Council s commitment to ensuring a safe environment. This will include Council Members, staff, volunteers, contractors, consultants, parents, carers, and children where relevant. 5. POLICY AND PROCEDURE STANDARDS Council is committed to and has endorsed procedural standards which focus on ensuring the organisation and Council facilities are safe environments for children and vulnerable people. In particular, the following standards reflect the guidance provided by DFC on appropriate standards of conduct for adults in dealing with children. Author s Note: The Safe Environment Model Policy + Procedure Checklist is based on Draft DFC Guidelines and provides further detail about what is involved in each of the following standards and includes indicators of compliance. 5.1 Risk Management Strategy Council will identify and assess potential sources of harm and take steps to decrease the likelihood that harm will occur to children, young people and other vulnerable people who use our services. Areas of risk assessment will include human resources, activities and programs, record keeping, physical spaces, and organisational culture. Author s Note: Risk management strategies will vary in scope and detail depending on the complexity and size of the organisation, the type of activities or services provided for children and the age and maturity of the children involved. Check if there are policy issues arising from the risk assessment for inclusion in the Safe Environment Policy. 5.2 Codes of Conduct All employees, volunteers, contractors and consultants will be required to comply with the code of conduct endorsed by Council which sets out standards of conduct when providing services to children. The code of conduct is supported by Council s grievance procedure to address breaches of the code of conduct. For more information about these procedures, contact the Safe Environment Contact Officer. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting 14

16 Author s Note: Codes of Conduct could be independent or written into existing codes of conduct to provide guidance in relation to protective work practices for staff and volunteers, and to prevent harm to children. Refer DFC Guidelines pages for information about Codes of Conduct, and Attachment 3 for protective work practices. 5.3 Recruitment, Selection and Enhancing Performance Council will take all reasonable steps to ensure that it engages the most suitable and appropriate people to work with, and provide services to, children and other vulnerable people. Applicants for prescribed positions will be screened for their suitability to provide services. Screening may involve interviews, referee reports, checking qualifications and previous employment history in working with children, and obtaining criminal history reports. If a criminal history report is obtained information will be dealt with in a manner that reflects the standards developed and issued by the Chief Executive DFC (refer.link to www ) Author s Note: Reference is made to criminal history screening and indicators of compliance in DFC Guidelines pages 20 25, and also see Attachment 5. Council will ensure that all staff and volunteers who work with children or who have access to their records have ongoing support and training to develop, enhance and maintain a child safe environment. Author s Note: If Council intends to specify a contact person (see 5.2 above) that officer could also be the contact person for staff, parents and children in relation to safe environment issues. Refer DFC Guidelines pages for further information) 5.4 Involvement in decision-making Council will promote the involvement of children, young people and other vulnerable people in service development planning where relevant, and inform them of their rights and how to access grievance procedures where relevant. 5.5 Responding to Suspected Abuse and Neglect Council will ensure that staff, volunteers, contractors and consultants providing services to and/or working with children are aware of and are trained, and appropriately supported to report any suspicion of abuse or neglect on reasonable grounds. Author s Note: Consider existing/new procedures which articulate step by step guidance setting out the option for seeking advice and support from supervisors, managers or the Safe Environment Contact Officer, recording incidents, concerns and referrals, and storing these securely; and procedures for dealing with concerns of abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable person that has been perpetrated by Council staff, volunteer, contractor or consultant. 6. ASSOCIATED DOCUMENTS Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) SA Department for Families and Communities Child Safe Environments: Principles of Good Practice SA Department for Families and communities Child Safe Environments: Dealing with Criminal History Information Approved Providers of Australian Government Subsidised Aged Care Services Fact Sheet Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting 15

17 Any other relevant Council policy, procedures and code of conduct documents 7. POLICY REVIEW The Safe Environment Policy will be reviewed annually to ensure compliance with the DFC standards, and effective maintenance of a safe environment. Author s Note: Possible indicators for measuring a safe environment organisation are included on page10 of DFC Guidelines. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting 16

18 Attachment 2: References and Contacts Keeping Them Safe Program, Department of Families and Communities and the Children s Protection (Keeping Them Safe) Amendment Bill A collection of Child Safe Environment references and resources on a range of topics is available via the website. Department of Families and Communities, Child Abuse Report Line - Telephone This is a 24 hour line and can be reached from anywhere in South Australia for the cost of a local call. SAPOL Special Investigations Unit Telephone Contact to discuss, in confidence, concerns about behaviour of employees or volunteers that is believed to be inappropriate adult to child behaviour. SA Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE), Child Protection Policies and Training Packages Policy Statement Policy for Children s Services, Schooling and TAFE Appropriate Behaviour Protective Practices for School Staff in their Interactions with Students - Draft Policy Statement home/ NSW Commission for Children and Young People Child Safe and Child Friendly Policy Working with Children Check Reducing Risk Volunteer Resources Canada Screening: Volunteer Canada s Safe Steps Screening Program SAPOL Volunteer Organisation Authorisation Number for Police Checks applying to nongovernment organisations providing a charity or community service. The State Government will meet the cost of police checks for volunteers who work with vulnerable groups such as children, the aged and frail, or people with a disability. For further information contact , visit or SA Equal Opportunity Commission - Managing Equal Opportunity 2002 Equal Opportunity Laws and good practice complaint handling procedures Managing the Risks of Child Maltreatment Risk Management Resource Centre A list of other references and resources are included in Appendix II: Useful Resources of the DFC Guidelines. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting 17

19 Attachment 3: Roles and Responsibilities - Examples Council is responsible for development of the Safe Environment Policy and in conjunction with the Chief Executive Officer: promoting protection of children and other vulnerable people from abuse; responding promptly to advice received from the Chief Executive Officer or other sources concerning significant changes to relevant legislation and regulations; and regularly reviewing the effectiveness of the policy. Council Members have individual responsibility for appropriate behaviour towards children and other vulnerable people, and for compliance with the policy. The Chief Executive Officer is accountable to Council and responsible as follows. Ensuring the policy is implemented, monitored, reported on and evaluated. Identify prescribed positions for criminal history screening Being aware of mandatory reporting requirements, procedures, and associated legal responsibilities. Ensuring significant changes to relevant legislation are brought to the attention of Council in a timely manner. Managers and supervisors (paid and voluntary) are accountable to the Chief Executive Officer as follows. Recruitment and selection in accordance with Council s human resources policies and procedures and requirements for criminal history screening of existing employees and preferred applicants for prescribed positions. Effective implementation of the policy, procedures and safe work place practices. Being aware and promoting acceptable behaviour when dealing with children and other vulnerable people. Providing appropriate induction and on-going training as required in relation to the Safe Environment Policy. Establishing and maintaining supportive procedures for fulfilling mandatory notification requirements and ensure mandated notifiers understand their legal responsibilities. Reporting any reasonable suspicion of abuse of a child to the Child Abuse Report Line. Supporting staff and responding to enquiries regarding suspicions of abuse or related issues, maintaining appropriate records and ensuring records are securely stored. Maintaining confidentiality and fully cooperating with the Department of Families and Communities, the South Australian Police and other relevant government agencies in their investigations of suspected abuse of a child or other vulnerable person. Report annually to the Chief Executive Officer on implementation, monitoring and review the Policy and relevant services, programs, and workplace practices. Mandated Notifiers have obligations under the Children s Protection Act 1993 (SA) to notify the SA Department of Families and Communities if they suspect, on reasonable grounds, that a child has been or is being abused or neglected and the suspicion is formed in the course of their work (paid or voluntary) in carrying out official duties. Note: Whilst the obligation to report suspicions of abuse rests with mandated officers, they are encouraged to seek advice and support from their supervisor and manager, or Safe Environment Contact Officer in relation to suspicions of child abuse or neglect. This practice will ensure staff and volunteers are appropriately supported, records are kept confidentially and securely, and any organisation responsibilities in addition to the mandatory reporting obligation are pursued where relevant. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting 18

20 Other Council Staff, volunteers, contractors and consultants (non-mandated notifiers) All Council staff and volunteers, contractors and consultants providing services on behalf of Council have a role to play in providing a safe environment for children, young people and other vulnerable people, and for complying with the policy. Council strongly encourages and will sensitively support any staff member, volunteer, contractor or consultant who, though not a mandated notifier as defined by the Children s Protection Act (1993), suspects incidents of abuse or neglect of a child or other vulnerable person. In these cases, incidents of abuse of a child or other vulnerable person are to be reported to the relevant program manager who will, in consultation with the Chief Executive Officer, determine the appropriate action to be taken and where appropriate report to the relevant Government authorities. Third Party Responsibility Contractors/Consultations Licensees Lease of Council premises/facilities Hire of Council facility - conditions/agreements It is recommended that Councils include a clause in contracts of engagement, leases and relevant hire agreements, stipulating the requirement for compliance with Council s Safe Environment Policy Councils should: disclose the policy attach a copy of the policy to the contract, lease or hire agreement, or provide access to an electronic version of the policy reserve within the clause a right to update the policy insert within the clause an obligation to comply with the policy, and insert within the clause an obligation to notify Council of instances of non-compliance with the policy. It is suggested that Councils seek legal advice in relation to any specific third party arrangements where relevant. Prepared for LGA of SA by Margaret Heylen Consulting 19

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