The Importance of Child Safety When Engaging Children in Paid Employment – Child Safe Standards

  • The Child Safe Standards commenced in Victoria in January 2016. On 1 July 2022 eleven new Child Safe Standards came into force. All children and young people have the right to experience safety and security in their everyday lives and organisations working with children and young people must ensure they are protected from abuse and harm by complying with, implementing and embedding the Child Safe Standards into policies, procedures and workplace culture.

The Child Safe Standards apply to all organisations which provide services or facilities to a child or young person under 18 years of age. In addition, legislation has recently changed in relation to employing children under the age of 15 years old.

From 1 July 2023, if an organisation in Victoria wishes to employ a child or young person under 15 years-old in paid or voluntary employment, the organisation must:

  • ensure compliance with the Child Safe Standards,
  • apply for an employment licence; and
  • ensure supervisors of children under 15 years old hold a valid Working with Children Check.

The Child Safe Standards

The Child Safe Standards are statements of expected outcomes which organisations must achieve when working with children and include:

Standard 1: organisations establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of First Nation’s children and young people are respected and valued.

Organisations must ensure children and young people can express their culture and enjoy their cultural rights by ensuring employees understand the importance of wellbeing and safety for our First Nation’s children and young people through relevant policies, procedures, systems and processes. Organisations are expected to identify and confront racism and support and facilitate inclusion.

Standard 2: child safety and well-being is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.

Organisations are required to make a public commitment to child safety and ensure that a child-safe culture is modelled at all levels of the organisation. Child safety policies and codes of conduct should provide employees with guidelines on standards, obligations and responsibilities and support employees to engage in effective information sharing, record keeping and risk management which prevents, identifies and mitigates harm.

Standard 3: children and young people are empowered about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.

Children should be informed of their right to safety and information which is age appropriate and allows them to be supported so they do not feel isolated. Employees are required to be able to identify indicators of harm and foster a culture of participation and input from children and young people in decision-making. By developing a safe environment for children and young people it strengthens their confidence, trust, participation and engagement in safety responses.

Standard 4: families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and well-being.

Families should be involved in decision making processes and organisations should ensure they communicate openly about policies, practices and procedures. Families should be aware of organisational operations and governance and be supported to engage in policy reviews to support the safety of children and young people.

Standard 5: equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice.

Diversity and vulnerability should be understood and responded to appropriately by ensuring children and young people have access to information, support and complaints processes which are culturally safe, accessible and easy to understand. Organisations need to pay particular attention to Aboriginal children and young people, as well as children and young people living with disability, from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, those who are unable to live at home and those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Standard 6: people working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and well-being values in practice.

Recruitment processes must emphasise child safety and wellbeing and employees must have Working with Children Checks and all relevant background checks completed prior to commencing with an organisation. Organisations must provide an induction which ensures employees are aware of their responsibilities regarding child safety, record keeping, information sharing and reporting and an organisation’s supervision and people management must focus on the safety and wellbeing of children.

Standard 7: processes for complains and concerns are child-focused.

Complaints handling processes should be child-focused and outline the roles and responsibilities of everyone within an organisation. These processes need to be accessible and understood by children and young people, family and employees and must be culturally safe. All complaints must be taken seriously and responded to promptly and thoroughly through recognised policies and procedures which meet an organisation’s legal obligations.

Standard 8: staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training.

Organisations provide training and support to employees to effectively implement child safety and wellbeing policies and to identify indicators of harm, respond to allegations of abuse and provide culturally safe environments for children and young people.

Standard 9: physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.

Risk mitigation in physical and online environments occurs without compromising a child or young person’s right to privacy, access to information, social connections and learning opportunities.

Standard 10: implementation of the Child Safe Standards is regularly reviewed and improved.

Organisational policies and practices are regularly reviewed and evaluated against the Child Safe Standards and complaints are analysed to identify systematic causes or failures to mitigate ongoing future risk. Organisations are required to report on any findings to employees, community members, families, children and young people.

Standard 11: policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.

Policies and procedures meet all 11 Child Safe Standards and are accessible, well documented and easy to understand. Policies and procedures should be developed through consultation with key stakeholders and organisations should model compliance and ensure employees understand and implement the policies and procedures to ensure child safety and well-being.

 All children and young people have the right to experience safety and security in their everyday lives

Child Safety in Organisations

Organisations have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to protect children from harm and abuse which is reasonably foreseeable and avoidable. Organisations working with children and employing children must comply with the Child Safe Standards to ensure that they provide a safe space for children and young people.

The CSS outline the minimum standards expected of organisations to ensure that risk mitigation is embedded into practice. Risk mitigation is an essential component of safeguarding, as is the capacity to detect child abuse within the organisation and comply with all legal and moral reporting obligations. Organisations must ensure that employees and key stakeholders understand how the Child Safe Standards are embedded into policies, practices and procedures to foster safety, security, inclusion and participation.

It is integral that organisations who employ children in a paid or voluntary capacity ensure that they comply with their duty of care to children and young people and its mandated obligations in relation to the Child Safe Standards.

How can Safe Space Legal Help?

The team at Safe Space Legal have extensive child safety and safeguarding experience. We have worked with a number of organisations to ensure they are meeting the 11 Child Safe Standards and legal obligations when working with children. Safe Space Legal can provide following child safety services:

  • Drafting child safety policies, procedures and codes of conduct;
  • Delivering child safety training to ensure organisations are aware of their legal obligations and duty of care obligations;
  • Conducting child safety and safeguarding investigations which are compliant with relevant state and territory Reportable Conduct Schemes;
  • Ensuring that complaints handling and reporting processes are compliant with legal obligations and relevant Reportable Conduct Schemes;
  • Assistance and support to respond to allegations of child abuse including notifications under Reportable Conduct Schemes;
  • Support organisations to recognise gaps in policy and/or practice which put it at risk of non-compliance with legal obligations through thorough root cause and gap analyses; and
  • Provide sound legal advice on risk mitigation.

Contact [email protected] or call 03 9124 7321 to organise a complementary discussion in relation to your organisation’s child safety and safeguarding needs.

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