Queensland focus: child and youth risk management strategies
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Sector.
Queensland early childhood and education services have an obligation under the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 to develop and maintain a ‘Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy’. Child protection expert Brad Poynting provides some guidance on how to ensure that your strategies meet the legislative requirements, as well as the expectations of the families that attend your service.
At Poynting Consulting & Advisory (PCA), we often come in to contact with providers of all sizes – some national, some local and some sole operators that are not aware that they have an obligation under the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 to develop and maintain a ‘Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy’.
Generally speaking, if you work in an environment which requires you or your staff to hold a valid blue card, you will more than likely also be required to maintain a Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy.
A Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy can be put together by an organisation with little to no internal child protection skills or specialists. However, the question an organisation needs to ask themselves is, “Do I just want to meet my legal requirements, or do I want to be doing everything I can to keep children safe in our organisation?”
If the aim is to do more than just meet your legal requirement, it may be a good idea to contact a specialist to help develop your strategy. For smaller organisations or sole operators, this document may be all that you need to adequately minimise the risk of children you have contact with, and to give families confidence that you are keeping their children safe. For larger organisations, a Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy is probably only one of a number of tools used to mitigate against child abuse and neglect occurring within your organisation.
Blue Card Services have a toolkit and a Sole Operator Supplement to help organisations develop and implement a Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy. However, PCA would advocate that this should only be used as a starting point for organisations to implement their prevention strategies. We have recently seen some examples where larger organisations have used a ‘find and replace’ search to insert their organisation’s name in to Blue Card Services’ template and released the document without further review. This has left the reader of the document to be directed to sections which are blank or entirely absent which renders the document inadequate to serve its purpose – to guide staff on how to keep children safe. It also sends a message to staff and families that suggests the organisation does not see keeping children safe as a priority.
The legislation mandates that the following topics must be included in the Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy:
- A statement of commitment
- A code of conduct
- Policies for recruiting, selecting, training and managing employees
- Procedures for handling disclosures and suspicions of harm
- A plan for managing breaches of your child and youth risk management strategy
- Policies and procedures for compliance with the blue card system
- A risk management plan for high risk activities and special events
- Strategies for communication and support.
If you’re not sure if your organisations current Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy is doing what it is supposed to, a great starting point is to use Blue Card Services’ Self-Assessment Tool to identify gaps and weaknesses in your strategy. It is also important to remember that the strategy needs to be reviewed every twelve months and that even if your organisation has the best strategy in Queensland, it is only worth the value that your organisation gives it. Does everyone in your organisation know about the strategy, how to access it, and the information it contains?
This update has focused on the compliance side of the Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy, but the culture of the organisation is what is really going to keep your children safe and protected from abuse and neglect. Luckily, PCA can help with both. If your organisation does not have a Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy, if it is in need of review and redevelopment or if your organisation needs training or cultural change to be willing and know how to prevent harm, abuse, and neglect, contact PCA today to discuss your needs.
Brad Poynting is Principal at Poynting Consulting & Advisory (PCA). He has worked toward and advocated for the best interests of children for over 10 years, beginning his focus on protecting children from harm when he joined the Queensland Department of Communities as a front-line child protection worker, before transitioning to the early education sector to work at the nexus of early education and child protection. Brad’s focus in the ECEC sector has been to increase awareness of the prevention of institutional child abuse and neglect, commonly called ‘child safeguarding’ in addition to preventing child abuse and neglect in the community. For more information, visit the PCA website.