Background to the Child Safe Standards
In December 2015, the Victorian Parliament passed legislation which aims to improve the way organisations prevent and respond to child abuse in Victoria. Compulsory minimum standards now apply to organisations that provide services for children to help protect children from all forms of abuse. The child safe standards form part of the Victorian Government’s response to the Betrayal of Trust Inquiry. The child safe standards aim to drive cultural change in organisations that provide services for children so that protecting children from abuse is embedded in everyday thinking and practice.
The child safe standards will apply to organisations from 1 January 2016 in phases:
Phase 1: Organisations regulated or funded by government that provide services for children will be required to work towards compliance with the standards from 1 January 2016
Phase 2: Organisations that provide services for children that have limited or no funding or regulatory relationship with government will be required to comply from 1 January 2017
A relevant organisation is one that exercises care, supervision or authority over children, whether as part of its primary function or otherwise. This includes:
- churches and religious bodies
- education and care services (i.e., childcare centres, family day care,
- kindergartens, outside school hours care services)
- licensed children's services such as occasional care services
- schools and other educational institutions
- boarding schools and student hostels
- ·out-of-home care services
- community service organisations providing services for children
- hospitals and other health services
- government agencies or departments providing services for children
- municipal councils (e.g., those that deliver Maternal and Child Health services)
- sporting groups and youth organisations.
In complying with the child safe standards an applicable entity or individual carrying on a business to which the standards apply must include the following principles as part of each standard:
- promoting the cultural safety of Aboriginal children
- promoting the cultural safety of children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds
- promoting the safety of children with a disability.
To create and maintain a child safe organisation, an applicable entity or individual carrying on a business to which the standards apply must have:
- strategies to embed an organisational culture of child safety, including through effective leadership arrangements
- a child safe policy or statement of commitment to child safety
- a code of conduct that establishes clear expectations for appropriate behaviour with children
- screening, supervision, training and other human resources practices that reduce the risk of child abuse by new and existing personnel
- processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse
- strategies to identify and reduce or remove risks of child abuse
- strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children.
What are the implications for playgroups?
It is Playgroup Victoria’s interpretation that Child Safe standards apply to:
b) funded supported playgroups
c) roster playgroups
d) playgroups that engage volunteers (that attend without a child in their care)
Community playgroups, those run by and for parents, will not be compelled to comply with the standards as parents attend with their children. However, if the playgroup has a volunteer that attends regularly, without a child in their care, it is strongly recommended that the playgroup has a policy that requires volunteers to have a current WWC. It is beneficial for everyone that participates in playgroup to have an understanding of the context of the legislation, to understand the risks and legal responsibilities, and develop appropriate policies and procedures relevant to their playgroup.
It’s worthwhile for any organisation that works with children, whatever state it’s in, to work to the new Victorian standards. Any organisation that receives funding to operate Supported Playgroups or employs a facilitator or engages a volunteer leader, should be aware of the implications of the Child Safe standards, check their organisation’s current position, ensure that the playgroup employees and volunteers are covered under relevant policies and procedures and be working towards compliance
As the Victorian Inquiry’s Betrayal of Trust report highlighted, merely having policies in place does not guarantee child safety. Organisations must ensure all relevant people (volunteers, contractors and staff) have the knowledge, skills and capability required to create, implement and follow appropriate systems and processes.
- A child-safe policy and a code of conduct are two essential documents for any organisation whose volunteers, employees or contractors come into contact with children.
- Develop and implement a child-safe policy and code of conduct
- Embed an organisational culture of child safety,
- Provide induction/training in recognising and responding to child abuse
- Maintain adequate records of child safety issues
- Clearly communicate child safety policies and procedures to all staff, volunteers, children and families
- Communicate your child-safe statement in community languages
- Have processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse
Child Safe Policy for Playgroups Sample
Further supplementary guidance materials, including toolkits and templates are available on the DHHS and CCYP website.