Child Safety Policy

Baw Baw Shire Council has unanimously adopted a Child Safety Policy 2017 (Print Version)(PDF, 115KB) solidifying the organisations commitment to uphold, endorse and promote the Victorian Government’s seven principle-based Child Safe Standards.


Purpose of the Policy

Baw Baw Shire Council is committed to the safety of all children, and recognises it’s legal and moral obligations to contact authorities when we are concerned about a child’s safety.

Baw Baw Shire Council is committed to creating a child safe organisation where protecting children and preventing and responding to child abuse is embedded in the everyday thinking and practice of all Councillors, employees, volunteers, contractors, Council committees and tenants.

This policy reflects Council’s legislative responsibility in meeting the requirements of the Child Safe Standards. Council has specific policies, procedures and training in place that support our leadership team, staff and volunteers to achieve the Child Safe Standards.


Baw Baw Shire Council Statement of Commitment to Child Safety

Baw Baw Shire Council is committed to providing and actively promoting a safe environment for children. Council has zero tolerance towards child abuse, and is committed to protecting the physical, emotional, cultural and social wellbeing of all children. Council has policies and systems to protect children, and all allegations and safety concerns will be treated seriously. Baw Baw Shire Council acknowledges that children’s safety is a whole of community responsibility and is everyone’s business.


Background

On 17 April 2012, the Victorian Government initiated the Family and Community Development Committee's Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations (Betrayal of Trust Inquiry).

The Betrayal of Trust report was tabled in Parliament on 13 November 2013 and made 15 recommendations including compulsory minimum standards for creating child-safe environments. Baw Baw Shire Council recognises that child safety requires a whole of organisation response. All Council officers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of children.

On 26 November 2015, the Victorian Parliament passed the Child Wellbeing and Safety Amendment (Child Safe Standards) Act 2015 (The Act) to introduce Child Safe Standards.

The seven Child Safe Standards support organisations that provide services to children to prevent child abuse, encourage reporting of abuse and increase the effectiveness of responses to allegations of child abuse.


Responsibility and Organisational Context

Council will support the embedding of the Child Safe Standards within the organisation through the review of the following Policy documents and their supporting documentation:


Our Children

Our strategies will empower children in our organisation and community to ensure that they feel safe and comfortable in reporting concerns of allegations of abuse.

We promote diversity and tolerance in our organisation, and people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds are welcome. In particular we:

  • Promote the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of Aboriginal children.
  • Promote the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • Ensure that children with a disability are safe and can participate equally.

We seek to engage and involve children when making decisions, especially about matters that directly affect them. We listen to their views and respect what they have to say.


Our People

This policy guides our Councillors, staff and volunteers on how to behave with children in our organisation. All must agree to abide by Councils Code of Conduct, which includes standards of conduct required when working with children. Baw Baw Shire Council is responsible for ensuring that appropriate behaviour with children is clearly defined and expectations are accessible and understood by all employees, volunteers, and others persons associated with Council.

Baw Baw Shire Council will implement screening tools during the recruitment process designed to identify suitable employees, volunteers, and others persons associated with Baw Baw Shire Council. This is intended to minimise the risk of inappropriate individuals from entering the organisation.


Legislative Responsibilities

Our organisation takes our legal responsibilities seriously, including:

  • Failure to disclose: Reporting child sexual abuse is a community-wide responsibility. All adults in Victoria who have a reasonable belief that an adult has committed a sexual offence against a child under 16 have an obligation to report that information to the police.
  • Failure to protect: People of authority within the Council will commit an offence if they have the power or responsibility to reduce or remove a substantial risk, where a child under the age of 16 years may become the victim of sexual abuse committed by an adult associated with the organisation; but negligently fail to do so.
  • Grooming: Grooming offence targets communication, including online communication, with a child under the age of 16 or their parents with the intent of committing child sexual abuse. This offence targets predatory conduct undertaken to prepare a child for sexual abuse at a later time with the groomer (aged 18 years old or over) or another adult.
  • Any personnel who are mandatory reporters (e.g. nurses, teachers, etc.) must report to child protection if they believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection from abuse.

Education and Training

Education and training is important to ensure that all people connected with Baw Baw Shire Council understand that child safety is everyone’s responsibility, and is vital to maintaining a child safe environment.

Our organisational culture aims for all staff and volunteers to feel confident and comfortable in discussing any allegations of child abuse or child safety concerns. We train our staff and volunteers to identify, assess, and minimise risks of child abuse and to detect potential signs of child abuse.

New employees and volunteers will be provided training and education to ensure they understand our organisation’s commitment to child safety. Any inappropriate behaviour will be reported through appropriate channels, including the Department of Health and Human Services and Victoria Police, depending on the severity and urgency of the matter.


Recruitment

Baw Baw Shire Council employs a range of best practice screening measures and applies these standards in the screening and recruitment of employees, contractors and volunteers.

Our organisation understands that when recruiting staff and volunteers we have ethical as well as legislative obligations. Council complies with all relevant regulatory and legal requirements when recruiting staff to ensure its employees and customers are not placed under unreasonable risk.

We carry out thorough reference checks and pre-employment screening, to ensure that we are recruiting with child safety in mind.


Privacy

While safety and wellbeing of children is our primary concern, Council is committed to protecting an individual’s right to privacy.

Unless there is a legislative requirement (for example, if there is a risk of self-harm or a risk to someone’s safety), all personal information considered during the process of a report or investigation, will be dealt with in accordance with Council’s Privacy Policy.


Risk Management

In Victoria, organisations are required to protect children when a risk is identified (see information about failure to protect above). In addition to general occupational health and safety risks, we proactively manage risks of abuse to our children.

We have risk management strategies in place to identify, assess, and take steps to minimise child abuse risks. Baw Baw Shire Council will review and further develop risk management policies to ensure they comply with the Child Safe Standards.


Reporting and Responding to a Child Safety Concern

Baw Baw Shire Council takes all allegations of child abuse seriously.

We all have a responsibility to report if we have formed a reasonable belief that abuse has occurred.

We work to ensure all children, families, staff and volunteers know what to do and who to tell if they suspect abuse or are a victim, or if they notice inappropriate behaviour.


Support

Where appropriate, following a child safety concern Council will:

  • Assist alleged victims and their families to access counselling and support services.
  • Provide support to affected staff through Council’s Employee Assistance Program.
  • Breaches
  • Breaches of this policy may lead to action in accordance with Council’s Code of Conduct and Performance Management policy and procedure, which may include termination of employment and/or referral to Victoria Police.

Review

This was approved by Council on 10 May 2017 and made effective 11 May 2017.

The policy will be reviewed annually, and following reportable incidents if they occur.

The first scheduled date for review is 11 May 2018.