Based in Victoria? Make sure you are meeting the Victorian Child Safe Standards
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Sector.
The Victorian Child Safe Standards have been designed to drive cultural change in organisations to embed child safety as a priority. The framework is compulsory for organisations that fall in scope and require those organisations to implement policies to prevent, respond and report allegations of child abuse. The standards were created in the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005.
The list of organisations that are required to comply with the standards is impressively long. In short, any organisation that does one of the following will fall in scope:
- Provide any services specifically for children;
- Provide any facilities specifically for use by children who are under the organisation’s supervision; or,
- Engage a child as a contractor, employee or volunteer to assist the organisation in providing services, facilities or goods.
For a full list of the types of organisations that fall in scope, refer to the Schedule 1 – Category 1 entities and Schedule 2 – Category 2 entities sections of the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005.
The standards require organisations to have:
- Strategies to embed an organisational culture of child safety, 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 resource 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.
The standards are underpinned by three additional principles which require organisations to recognise that some children are more vulnerable than others. The three principles are:
- Cultural safety of Aboriginal children
- Cultural safety of children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds
- Safety of children with a disability.
The Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) has the responsibility for the oversight and enforcement of the standards. Their role is to educate and provide advice on the safety of children, preventing child abuse, and compliance with the standards. It is also their responsibility to enforce compliance with the standards. This means CCYP have the power to:
- Compel organisations to provide evidence and documents on how they are meeting the standards;
- Inspect premises of organisations that fall in scope of the standards;
- Compel organisations to provide documents to assist their investigations; and,
- Take organisations to court and seek a civil penalty of up to 60 penalty units which amounts to (at the time of publication) $9,671.40.
To re-cap: there are three principles; seven standards; they apply to any organisation for children, used by children, or who employ children in some capacity; and, there are financial penalties for non-compliance.
Brad Poynting is Principal at Poynting Consulting & Advisory (PCA), a consultancy that works with businesses to ensure children within their service are kept safe. 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.