|In mid-2021, the Victorian Government announced it was updating the seven (7) Child Safe Standards (Standards) and replacing them with eleven (11) new Standards. Organisations were given 12 months to prepare and comply with the new Standards.
If your organisation is already covered by the mandatory Child Safety scheme, it is likely you will have to make some changes in order to be compliant when the new Standards commence. The Child Safe Standards apply to organisations and businesses, including but not limited to educational institutions and organisations that provide services specifically for, or facilities that are used by, children. The standards also apply to organisations that engage children as employees, contractors or volunteers.
By now, many relevant organisations will have completed their planning and be familiar with the new Standards as they embed compliance in their everyday functions. The new Standards come into effect on 1 July 2022 and compliance is mandatory for relevant organisations.
What has changed?
Notable updates to the Standards include a requirement for organisations to involve families and communities in their efforts to keep children and young people safe. A specific focus is placed on identifying and providing an environment that is culturally safe for Aboriginal children and young people. The new Standards also require organisations to identify and mitigate the risks that online child abuse poses to the wellbeing of children and young people. The new Standards provide organisations with guidance on the systems, processes and overall governance to keep children and young people safe.
Further details of some of the changes in the new Child Safe Standards (CSS) are set out below:
CSS 1 States that organisations are required to provide a culturally safe environment for Aboriginal children, regardless of whether or not they know that there are Aboriginal children and young people using their service or facilities. This Standard requires ongoing effort, not just a once-off change.
CSS 2 Requires organisations to embed the management of risks to children and young people throughout their organisational leadership, governance, and culture.
CSS 3 States that organisations are required to inform children and young people of their rights. Friends and peers should be encouraged to support each other to help children and young people feel safe and connected. Sexual abuse protection programs should also be offered where relevant.
CSS 4 Provides that organisations must seek the input of families and communities in decisions impacting children and young people. They must communicate regarding how to raise child safety concerns, and act to reduce barriers to inclusion for diverse families.
CSS 5 Requires organisations to understand the diverse backgrounds of children and young people, and pay particular attention to the needs of Aboriginal children, children with disabilities and those from diverse backgrounds, non-binary and gender diverse children, as well as those identified as vulnerable.
CSS 6 Establishes a new obligation for organisations to inform workers about record keeping processes and information sharing and reporting obligations.
CSS 7 Emphasises the importance of complaints processes being child-focused and understood by children and young people.
CSS 8 Requires organisations to provide workers with ongoing education and training to create a child-safe environment and respond to allegations of abuse.
CSS 9 Obliges organisations to consider the online environment in addition to physical environment when considering child safety and to adopt measures to remove risks of child abuse.
CSS 10 Requires organisations to report on the findings of relevant reviews of child safe practices to workers and its community (including the children and young people it works with).
CSS 11 Calls for stakeholder consultation to inform the development of policies and procedures.
For more information regarding what is new or changing in the New Child Safe Standards, view the Commission for Children and Young People’s overview, linked here.
What do organisations need to do now?
Organisations that are covered by the Child Safe Standards should be familiarising themselves with the new standards, and reviewing current policies, procedures and practices to identify what changes are required to ensure compliance. Consider what training is required for officers, employees, contractors, and volunteers within your organisation.
If you are not sure whether your organisation is required to comply with the Child Safety Standards, you can contact the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) directly, and they may provide you with advice. The team at Justitia can also assist with understanding your obligations and what actions need to be taken in order to be compliant with the new Standards. This article was written by Madeleine Jones, who can provide with you advice on your compliance. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org