Child Safe and Vulnerable Persons Policy

1. Introduction and Scope

The Learning for Life Autism Centre Inc. (Learning for Life) is committed to promoting and protecting the well-being and safety of children and other vulnerable persons. We have zero tolerance for child abuse.

Child safety is a shared responsibility between all adults in the Learning for Life community and this policy therefore applies to all those directly associated with the programs run by Learning for Life, including all Board and staff members, contractors, volunteers, students on placement and all parents or guardians of the children directly involved in a Learning for Life program.

2. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to:

1. ensure a safe environment is provided for all children and vulnerable persons who may come into contact with Learning for Life;

2. promote an organisational culture of child safety;

3. identify, reduce and remove risks associated with child abuse so as to prevent harm from occurring within Learning for Life;

4. ensure identification and intervention when a child involved in a Learning for Life program is at risk of abuse or neglect from outside of the organisation;

5. ensure that all parties are aware of their responsibilities for identifying and reporting child abuse and for establishing guidelines, controls and procedures for preventing, detecting and/or reporting such abuse within or outside the organisation;

6. provide a clear statement to all Responsible People (refer definition in Attachment 1) and families that Learning for Life is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable persons and has zero tolerance for child abuse of any sort or by any person;

7. outline how Learning for Life will conduct appropriate checks on workers through its recruitment and onboarding process;

8. ensure Clients (and/or their parents/guardians, as applicable) are aware of their rights to be safe from abuse, violence, neglect, exploitation and discrimination at all times and to outline the steps Learning for Life is taking to protect its Clients;

9. strive to ensure children are involved in their own safety, including listening to children and incorporating their views about how to provide a safe environment.

3. Values

All children and other Vulnerable Persons, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religious beliefs, age, disability, sexual orientation, or family or social background, have equal rights to protection from abuse.

Learning for Life:

  • has zero tolerance for child abuse;
  • is committed to promoting and protecting, at all times, the best interests of children or other Vulnerable Persons involved in its programs, including (without limitation):
    • promoting the cultural safety of Aboriginal children;
    • promoting the cultural safety of children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; and
    • promoting the safety of children with a disability;
  • will encourage and listen to the opinions of children (so far as appropriate and possible in the context) and use such opinions to develop child protection policies; and
  • supports and respects all children, staff, volunteers, students on placement, contractors and parents/guardians of children directly involved in a Learning for Life program.

4. Responsibilities

The Board of Learning for Life has ultimate responsibility for the detection and prevention of, and response to child abuse by virtue of it being responsible for:

  • providing leadership for an organisational culture of accountability for child safety and wellbeing which is open to scrutiny and is continuously reviewed and improved;
  • ensuring that appropriate policies and procedures and a Code of Conduct are in place and regularly reviewed; and
  • ensuring that appropriate and effective internal control systems are in place.

The Executive Officer and the Child Safety Officer of Learning for Life are each responsible for:

  • keeping up to date and complying with relevant changes in legislation and practices in relation to this policy and informing all Responsible People (see definition in Attachment 1) of any changes impacting their responsibilities under this policy;
  • ensuring that all Responsible People are aware of relevant laws, policies and procedures and of their obligation to observe the Code of Conduct (particularly as it relates to child safety and wellbeing);
  • ensuring that all Responsible People are aware of their obligation to report suspected abuse of a child in accordance with this policy and the procedures outlined in Attachment 3;
  • providing support for all Responsible People in undertaking their child safety responsibilities, including providing adequate resources and training to assist all Responsible People to undertake their child safety responsibilities;
  • ensuring recruitment and induction processes for all Responsible People are in line with this policy;
  • receiving and ensuring Learning for Life responds to reports of child abuse in accordance with this policy and applicable legislation and regulations;
  • ensuring compliance with the Reportable Conduct Scheme, including, without limitation, ensuring investigations and reporting processes are followed as required by the Reportable Conduct Scheme;
  • ensuring a report is submitted to each board meeting which provides an update on the following (whilst respecting the confidentiality of any family or child involved):
    • any child safety notifications that have been made in relation to the actions or behaviour of Learning for Life personal (including any notifications raised on a working with children check record) and any associated reports made to external parties (such as the police or the Reportable Conduct Scheme);
    • any reports that have been made by Learning for Life in relation to external parties;
    • any amendments that have been made to the “Child Safe Risk Register”.

The Clinical Director and each Program Supervisor (together, Senior Clinical Staff) must ensure that they:

  • promote child safety at all times and contribute to an organisational culture of child safety. For example, by (i) maintaining regular communication with their teams and ensuring teams are equipped to prevent, detect and respond to child abuse; (ii) using supervision and performance review opportunities to monitor compliance with child safe policy and promote the importance of child safety;
  • keep up to date and comply with relevant changes in legislation and practices in relation to this policy;
  • assess the risk of child abuse within their area of control and eradicate / minimise any risk to the extent possible;
  • educate employees about the prevention and detection of, and response to, child abuse; and
  • facilitate the reporting of any inappropriate behaviour or suspected abusive activities.

Senior Clinical Staff should be familiar with the types of abuse that might occur within their area of responsibility and be alert for any indications of such conduct. Refer to the definitions in Attachment 1 for explanations of types of abuse and neglect.

All Responsible People share in the responsibility for the prevention and detection of, and response to, child abuse, and must:

  • familiarise themselves with the relevant laws, the Code of Conduct (including signing and returning the Code of Conduct Acknowledgement) and Learning for Life’s policy and procedures in relation to child safety, and comply with all requirements. Without limitation, this includes:
    • understanding and complying with legal obligations (refer to Attachment 1 for relevant legislation) in relation to:
      • discrimination, harassment and vilification;
      • negligence;
      • grooming;
      • protection from and disclosure of child sexual abuse;
      • protection of a child from abuse;
      • sexually harmful behaviour in children;
      • privacy and confidentiality;
      • maintaining relevant Working with Children checks (as applicable); and
      • for those individuals who fall under “mandatory reporting” legislation (refer Attachment 1), complying with the mandatory reporting obligations (refer Attachment 3).
    • understanding and following the procedures for reporting, investigating and responding to suspected child abuse as outlined in Attachment 3 of this policy
  • co-operate with other services and/or professionals (including Child FIRST, the Victorian Police and DHHS Child Protection) in the best interests of children and their families; and
  • provide an environment that is supportive of all children’s emotional and physical safety.

All Parents are responsible for:

  • reading and complying with this policy and the Code of Conduct;
  • reporting any concerns involving the safety of a child involved in a Learning for Life program, including in relation to potential child abuse, to Learning for Life; and
  • reporting any concerns relating to potential child abuse to the appropriate child protection authorities (i.e. Child FIRST, or DHHS Child Protection, depending on the circumstances) or, if immediate police attention is required, the police.

5. Risk Management

Learning for Life has a risk and compliance sub-committee committed to identifying and managing risks at Learning for Life. Learning for Life will ensure that child safety and wellbeing is a part of its overall risk management approach and the risk and compliance sub-committee members will receive regular training in relation to child safety.

6. Privacy

All personal information considered or recorded will respect the privacy of the individuals involved unless there is a risk to someone’s safety. Learning for Life will have safeguards and practices in place to ensure any personal information is protected.   Everyone is entitled to know how the personal information is recorded, what will be done with it, and who will be able to access it.

7. Communication

This Policy shall be communicated to all Responsible People upon its commencement and to Responsible People upon the commencement of their employment or service with Learning for Life.

8. Review

Every two years, and following any occurrence or allegation of Reportable Conduct, a review shall be conducted to assess whether the organisation’s child protection policies or procedures require modification to better protect the children under the organisation’s care.


Attachment 1: Definitions and Relevant Legislation/Regulations

Definitions

Child means a person below the age of 18 years unless, the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.

Child protection means any responsibility, measure or activity undertaken to safeguard children from harm.

Child Abuse means all forms of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and other exploitation, neglect or negligent treatment, commercial (eg. for financial gain) or other exploitation of a child. Child abuse covers any actions that results in actual or potential harm to a child including where a child witnesses family violence or where a child is subjected to bullying or racial, cultural or religious abuse. Where abuse is repeated and ongoing such that it detrimentally impacts a child’s development and well-being it is known as “cumulative” harm.  Where multiple abuse types are experienced at the same time (e.g. sexual abuse also involves physical and emotional abuse) it is known as “multi-dimensional harm”.

DHHS Child Protection is the statutory child protection service provided by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, to protect children and young people at risk of abuse and neglect. This service works closely with family services (including Child FIRST) to support the assessment and engagement of vulnerable children and families.

Child Safety Officer means the person appointed by the Executive Officer and Board to take primary responsibility for providing all relevant information on child protection and safety to staff, the board and other relevant members of the Learning for Life community. The Child Safety Officer works with the Executive Officer to ensure the implementation of this policy and promotion of an organisational culture of child safety.

Client means, for the purpose of this policy, a child who is enrolled in a Learning for Life program.

Code of Conduct means the Learning for Life’s Code of Conduct as relevant to a Responsible Person or a Parent.

Commission means the Commission for Children and Young People as established by the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic) and being the independent statutory body responsible for managing and overseeing the Reportable Conduct Scheme.

Emotional Abuse occurs when a parent or carer repeatedly rejects or frightens a child, uses threats or subjects them to continual coldness, name-calling or ‘put downs’. It can result in damage to the child’s physical, social, intellectual or emotional development. Witnessing family violence is a form of emotional abuse.

Family Violence means violence between members of a family or extended family or those fulfilling the role of family in a child or young person’s life. Witnessing family violence is a specific form of abuse as exposure to family violence places children and young people at increased risk of emotional and physical harm and has a significant impact on their well-being and development.

Grooming concerns predatory conduct undertaken to prepare a child for sexual activity at a later time. In Victoria, the offence applies where an adult communicates by word or conduct with a child under the age of 16 years or with a person who has care, supervision or authority for the child with the intention of facilitating a child’s involvement in sexual conduct, either with the groomer or another adult. Grooming does not necessarily involve any sexual contact or even discussion of sexual activity if it is deemed to have the purpose of facilitating sexual activity at a later time. The offence can be committed by any person aged 18 years or over.

Learning for Life means The Learning for Life Autism Centre Inc ABN 47 260 122 955

Neglect involves the failure to meet a child’s basic needs, such as providing adequate food, drink, shelter, clothing, supervision, hygiene and medical attention to the extent that the child’s health and development are, or are likely to be, placed at risk.

Parent means a parent or guardian of a child directly involved in a Learning for Life program.

Physical Abuse occurs when a child suffers or is likely to suffer significant harm from an injury. The injury may be inflicted intentionally or may be the inadvertent consequence of physical punishment or physically aggressive treatment of a child. Without limitation, this may take the form of punching, kicking, beating, biting, pulling hair,  shaking or otherwise harming a child (including burning with a cigarette or other implement, inappropriate administration of alcohol or other drugs or inappropriate kinds of discipline).

Reasonable grounds for belief (also known as Reasonable Belief) is a belief based on reasonable grounds that child abuse has occurred when all known considerations or facts relevant to the formation of a belief are taken into account and these are objectively assessed. Circumstances or considerations may include the source of the allegation and how it was communicated, the nature of and details of the allegation, and whether there are any other related matters known regarding the alleged perpetrator.

A reasonable belief is formed if a reasonable person in the same position would have formed the same belief on the same grounds or if a reasonable person would believe that:

a) the child is in need of protection;

b) the child has suffered or is likely to suffer “significant harm; and

c) the parents/guardians are unable or unwilling to protect the child.

Examples of where a ‘reasonable belief’ might be formed include where:

a) a child states that they have been abused;

b) a child states that they know someone who has been abused (sometimes the child may be talking about themselves);

c) someone who knows the child states that the child has been abused;

d) professional observations of the child’s behaviour or development leads a professional to form a belief that the child has been abused or is likely to be abused;

e) signs of abuse lead to a belief that the child has been abused; and/or

f) the child requires medical attention and it is clear that the parents/guardians have/are not obtaining the required medical assistance.

Responsible People (or Responsible Person) means all Learning for Life board members, staff, contractors, volunteers and students on placement.

Reportable Conduct means any of the following conduct (as defined in the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic)) if alleged to have been conducted by a Responsible Person:

(i) sexual offences (against, with or in the presence of, a child);

(ii) sexual misconduct (against, with or in the presence of, a child);

(iii) physical violence (against, with or in the presence of, a child);

(iv) behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm; or

(v) significant neglect of a child.

Reportable Conduct Scheme means the Reportable Conduct Scheme established by the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic) in relation to allegations of child abuse or neglect by an organisation’s worker or volunteer.

Sexual Abuse, with respect to a child, is any act which exposes a child to, or involves a child in, sexual processes beyond his or her understanding or contrary to accepted community standards. Sexually abusive behaviours can include the touching or fondling of genitals, masturbation, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, finger or any other object, fondling of breasts, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and exposing the child to or involving the child in pornography. Sexual abuse includes grooming and sexual exploitation, each of which are specific forms of sexual abuse.

Sexual Exploitation is considered a specific form of sexual abuse because children, by virtue of their age and development, are unable to give informed consent. Sexual exploitation of children takes different forms. It can include children being involved in sexually exploitive relationships, exposing a child to pornography, receiving money, goods, drugs or favours in exchange for sex with one or more adults, or being exploited in sex work. In all cases, those exploiting the children have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, physical strength, economic or other resources, such as access to drugs or gifts

Sexually Harmful Behaviour in Children means harmful behaviour perpetrated by a child against another child.  Harmful behaviours in children are often an indicator that they have experienced abuse or neglect.  Where sexually harmful behaviour occurs, organisations have a duty of care to both children.   Note that in children under 10 years of age, such behaviour is usually referred to as sexually problematic behaviour.

Vulnerable Person means anyone above the age of 18 who might not be able to look after themselves or protect themselves from harm or exploitation.

Relevant Legislation and Regulations

Victorian services that provide services to children are required under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic) to ensure that they implement compulsory minimum “Child Safe Standards” to protect children from harm.  The standards aim to drive continuous improvement in the way services prevent and report child abuse and response to allegations of child abuse.  The seven principles of the “Child Safe Standards” are listed below, noting that Standard 2 requires services to have a child safe policy or statement of commitment to child safety.

Standard 1: Embed an organisational culture of child safety

Standard 2: Have in place a child safety policy or a statement of commitment to child safety

Standard 3: Have in place a Child Safety Code of Conduct

Standard 4: Ensure screening, supervision, training and other human resources practices are in place that reduce the risk of child abuse

Standard 5: Implement procedures for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse

Standard 6: Implement strategies to identify and reduce or remove risks of child abuse

Standard 7: Implement strategies to promote child participation and empowerment.

In addition to the Victorian Child Safe Standards, the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations provide guiding principles for protecting children from harm. Unlike the Victorian Child Safe Standards listed above, these National Principles are not mandatory but have been endorsed by members of the Prime Minister’s Office and Council of Australian Governments.

Principle 1: Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisation leadership, governance and culture

Principle 2: Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously safe

Principle 3: Families and communities are informed and involved in policy and practice.

Principle 4: Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice

Principle 5: People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice – robust recruitment and screening practices are in place

Principle 6: Processes to respond to complaints and concerns are child focused.

Principle 7: Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training

Principle 8: Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed

Principle 9: Implementation of child safe procedures is regularly reviewed and improved

Principle 10: Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people

The Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) governs and guides the process of child protection in Victoria and provides the legislative basis for the provision of services to vulnerable children, young people and their families. It places children’s best interests at the centre of decision-making and service delivery. Importantly, this Act states that:

  • any person who forms a Reasonable Belief that a child is in need of protection may report their concerns to DHHS Child Protection; and
  • those specified in section 182(1) are deemed “Mandatory Reporters” and are legally mandated to report incidences of child abuse. Failure by a mandated person to report is a criminal offence. The following are mandated reporters:
    • registered medical practitioner;
    • nurse or midwife;
    • a person registered as a teacher under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) or has been granted to teach under this Act;
    • the principal of a Government school or non-Government school within the meaning of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic);
    • a member of the police force;
    • out of home care workers (excluding voluntary foster and kinship carers);
    • early childhood workers;
    • youth justice works;
    • registered psychologists.

The criminal offences in the Crimes Amendment (Protection of Children) Act 2014 (Vic) protect children from abuse, noting also offences relating to an individual’s failure to disclose, failure of those in positions of authority in an organisation to protect and the grooming offence. More specifically:

  • section 327 – Failure to Disclose Offence: refers to the responsibility of all individuals to disclose to authorities if they have a reasonable belief that a child under the age of 16 years has been sexually abused. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.
  • section 49c – Failure to Protect Offence: applies where there is a substantial risk that a child under the age of 16 under the care, supervision or authority of a relevant organisation will become a victim of a sexual offence committed by an adult associated with that organisation. A person in a position of authority in the organisation will commit the offence if they know of the risk of abuse and have the power or responsibility to reduce or remove the risk, but negligently fail to do so.

In addition, the Crimes Amendment (Protection of Children) Act 2014 (Vic) specifies that a grooming offence is committed if an offender intends to commit a sexual offence involving a child under the age of 16 years and communicates by words or conduct with that child or their carer or supervisor.

As referred to in the definitions above, the Commission for Children and Young People administers a Reportable Conduct Scheme in Victoria. The Reportable Conduct Scheme provides oversight of how organisations respond to allegations of child abuse and child-related misconduct by workers and volunteers. Attachment 3 to this policy sets out the Learning for Life procedures and obligations for reporting under the Reportable Conduct Scheme. Under the scheme, the Commission has the power to:

  • Monitor organisations’ investigations of abuse or misconduct and report on trends;
  • share information with key organisations, such as the Working with Children Check Unit and certain professional registration bodies, to improve child safety;
  • inquire into the safety systems of organisations engaged in child-related work; and
  • share relevant information to better protect children from the risks of abuse.

The Working with Children Check Act 2005 (Vic) outlines the purpose of the Working With Children Check, what constitutes child-related work, the occupations that apply and also explains relevant offences and findings that are relevant to the Working with Children Check. This Act sets out obligations of individuals and organisations and how personal information is stored and disposed of

The above legislation is not an exhaustive list of relevant legislation and standards, with other legislation such as the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 2005 (Vic) and the Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic) having relevance, among others.


Attachment 2 – Guidelines for Incorporation of Child Safety into the Recruitment and Management of Staff, Contractors and Board Members

Relevant Learning for Life policies and procedures must outline requirements for recruitment, training and management of Responsible people to ensure:

  • recruitment actively incorporates relevant child safety protection measures (such as worker screening checks, child safety directed questions in interviews and reference checks, clear statements of commitment to child safety and related expectations in all recruitment documentation and advertisements);
  • training and education with regard to child safety is provided to all staff and board Members.
  • performance reviews and actively supervised sessions consider each staff member’s contribution to creating a child safe environment;
  • a register of all Responsible People is maintained which includes:
    • the details of each Responsible Person’s Working with Children’s Check (other than volunteers that are under the age of 18 years) and confirmation that it has been linked to Learning for Life;
    • confirmation that each Responsible Person’s Working with Children’s Check (other than volunteers that are under the age of 18 years) has been checked annually against the Working with Children Check database by a Learning for Life staff member to ensure it remains current, valid and has not been revoked, suspended or subject to a negative notice.
    • confirmation that the Code of Conduct acknowledgment has been signed and returned by each Responsible Person;
  • Police Checks are carried out every two years on all Responsible People other than:
    • volunteers are under the age of 18 years; or
    • any Responsible Person that has regular police checks carried out as part of their professional or Victorian Disability Worker registration process and evidence of this up to date registration is provided to Learning for Life;
  • processes are developed to deal with a Responsible Person who is given a Negative Notice or an item on their Police Check;
  • a “Child Safe Risk Management Plan” is agreed to by the parents/guardians of children undertaking therapy in their home. This plan will set out strategies to provide for a child safe environment and proposed risk mitigation in the event a therapist is left alone with the child. Learning for Life’s recommendation as will be advised to families is that an adult should stay home throughout the consultation so that the therapist is not alone in the home with the child at any time.  However, it is acknowledged that the personal circumstances of each family differ, having an adult home for the duration of the consultation is not always possible and in some cases a child’s program intentionally includes a therapist taking the child out of the home without a parent.
  • child safe protective education is included in a child’s program as relevant and appropriate to each individual child or program.

Attachment 3: Processes and Procedures for Reporting, Investigating and Responding to Suspected Child Abuse

Overview

  • If a Responsible Person believes a child is at immediate risk of abuse, they should call 000.
  • All Responsible People MUST ACT if they form a reasonable belief or have a suspicion that a child has been, or is at risk of being, abused. The appropriate action to be taken in each case is detailed below.
  • Learning for Life will ensure a flowchart is made available to each Responsible Person which clearly articulates reporting action required.

Receiving and responding to disclosures and made by a child

  • Best practice for receiving and responding to disclosures of abuse made by a child involves the following:
  • listening carefully to what the child is saying and allowing the child to use their own words;
  • telling the child that they did the right thing by telling you and that you are pleased they told you;
  • telling the child that is it not their fault and that they are not responsible for the abuse;
  • letting the child know what will happen next in practical terms;
  • avoid making promises you cannot keep (such as promising that you will not tell anyone);
  • do not push the child into giving details of the abuse. Your role is to listen to what the child tells you and make observations, not to conduct an  investigation;
  • do not discuss the circumstances of the incident with others (other than as required under reporting obligations), even indiscriminately, with those not directly involved with the child.

Reporting

If a Responsible Person believes a child is at immediate risk of abuse, they should call 000 immediately. Next, as soon as possible and within 24 hours:

  • they should consult their manager (who will escalate it to the Executive Officer); and then
  • either the Responsible Person or the Executive Officer should make a follow on report to DHHS Child Protection.

Responsible People must report any suspicion or concern that a child’s safety or wellbeing may be at risk to their supervisor or the Child Safety Officer (or, if their supervisor is involved in the suspicion or is not considered to be addressing the concern appropriately, to the Child Safety Officer or the Executive Officer).

Any report received by a supervisor or Child Safety Officer must be escalated by to the Executive Officer (or, if the Executive Officer is involved in the Suspicion or not considered to be addressing the concern appropriately, to the Child Safety Officer) as soon as possible and within 24 hours.

The Executive Officer (or, in the event the Executive Officer is involved in the suspicion, the Child Safety Officer) must assess the report (seeking advice or consultation if necessary) and then determine and record the action required in line with the following principles:

  • With respect to a suspicion or risk of abuse by someone external to Learning for Life:
    • where there is significant concern for the well-being of a child, but there is not a belief that they are at risk of significant harm and the immediate safety of the child will not be compromised, a referral to Child FIRST is likely to be appropriate;
    • where it is determined that there are reasonable grounds for belief of child abuse, the Chief Executive Officer (or, in the event the Chief Executive Officer is believed to be involved in the abuse, the Child Safety Officer) must report the belief, as soon as possible and within 24 hours, to each of the Victorian Police, the NDIS Quality & Safeguard Commission (as outlined in Clause 10 of the Duty of Care & Incident Management Policy) and, if the incident involves sexual misconduct, the Victorian Disability Worker Commission;
    • where the Executive Officer determines that it is not appropriate to make a report to DHHS Child Protection, the Victorian Police or Child FIRST, the rationale for this determination must be documented and the reporting Responsible Person notified;
    • where a Responsible Person holds a reasonable belief that a child has been or is at risk of being abused, but the Executive Officer does not agree or decides not to report it, that Responsible Person must make a report to DHHS Child Protection and/or the Victorian Police (regardless of the advice of any board member, Child Safety Officer or other staff member) and inform the Executive Officer that they have done so. For those Responsible People who are deemed Mandatory Reporters under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) (e.g. registered psychologists) it is a criminal offence not to report where a reasonable belief is held;
  • With respect to an internal suspicion or risk of abuse by a Responsible Person:
    • where the Executive Officer (or, in the event the Executive Officer is involved in the suspicion, the Child Safety Officer) determines there are not reasonable grounds for belief or risk of abuse or Reportable Conduct, the rationale for this determination must be documented and the reporting Responsible Person notified. The Executive Officer (or Child Safety Officer) may still commission an internal investigation or ensure closer supervision of the Responsible Person in question if deemed appropriate;
    • where it is determined that there are reasonable grounds for belief of child abuse, the Executive Officer (or, in the event the Executive Officer is believed to be involved in the abuse, the Child Safety Officer) must report the belief to the Victorian Police as soon as possible and within 24 hours;
    • where it is determined that the suspicion or belief of abuse constitutes Reportable Conduct (refer definition in Attachment 1), regardless of whether or not it has been determined that reasonable grounds for belief of child abuse exists, the Executive Officer (or, in the event the Executive Officer is believed to be involved in the abuse, the Child Safety Officer) must report the belief as soon as possible and within 3 days to the Commission;
    • where a Responsible Person holds a reasonable belief that a child has been or is at risk of being abused by another Responsible Person, but the Executive Officer (or Child Safety Officer) does not agree or decides not to report it to DHHS Child Protection or the Victorian Police, that Responsible Person must make a report to the Victorian Police (regardless of the advice of any board member or other staff member) and inform the Executive Officer (or Child Safety Officer) that they have done so. For those Responsible People who are deemed Mandatory Reporters under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) (e.g. registered psychologists) it is a criminal offence not to report where a reasonable belief is held.

Responsible People should seek advice from their supervisor, the Child Safety Officer or Executive Officer if they are uncertain about whether they have sufficient grounds to form a reasonable belief or if they are unsure about what is the correct course of action in a given circumstance.

Records are to be kept about all child safety concerns or complaints and stored in accordance with Learning for Life’s privacy and confidentiality policies.  Privacy is to be maintained and information is only disclosed on a need-to-know basis.

Permission is not required from a parent or guardian of a child in order to make a report where child abuse is suspected.

Investigating

If the appropriate child protection service (whether that is Child First or DHHS Child Protection) or the Victorian Police decide to conduct an investigation of this report, all Responsible People must cooperate fully with the investigation.

Where the Victorian police conduct an investigation and the alleged offender is a Responsible Person, the Executive Officer (or, if the Executive Officer is the alleged offender, the Child Safety Officer) must request that:

  • the police advise them outcome of the police investigation; and
  • seek clearance from the police to conduct an internal investigation, and once granted, lead an internal investigation in accordance with the Performance Management and Disciplinary Policy.

If the Victorian Police decide not to conduct an investigation (or have not been required to be notified of the incident according to the above procedures) but the incident still constitutes Reportable Conduct (refer definitions in Attachment 1), the Executive Officer (or, if the Executive Officer is the alleged offender, the Child Safety Officer) must lead an internal investigation. The Executive Officer (or, if the Executive Officer is the alleged offender, the Board) must provide updates to the Commission on the progress of the internal investigation within 30 days and advise the Commission of the findings of the investigation once complete.

Any internal investigations will be conducted professionally and fairly and the Executive Officer and Child Safety Officer will make every effort to keep any such investigation confidential. However, from time to time other Responsible People may need to be consulted in conjunction with the investigation.

Responding

If it is alleged that a Responsible Person may have committed an offence, Reportable Conduct or have breached the organisation’s policies or its Code of Conduct, the person concerned may be stood down (with pay, where applicable) while an internal and/or external investigation is conducted.

If an investigation concludes that on the balance of probabilities an offence (or a breach of the organisation’s policies or Code of Conduct) has occurred then disciplinary action may follow up to and including termination of employment or cessation of involvement with the organisation.

Upon completion of any internal investigation, the Executive Officer (or, if the Executive Officer is the alleged offender, the Child Safety Officer) must lead an internal risk assessment review and ensure any necessary policy or procedure changes identified as a result are implemented in a timely manner.