Understanding processes and procedures to follow to respond to concerns.

The next stage in providing a safe environment relates to organisations and individual contractors having clear processes and procedures for responding to concerns, complaints and grievances about children’s safety and care. This will also include a clear and accessible reporting procedure to make a formal complaint in relation to address complaints and grievances.

The complaints procedure needs to be publicly available, clearly outlined within the documentation provided to prospective service users and/on their website. It is preferable that there is a designated person that parents can speak to whose responsibility is to manage this process.

Some helpful strategies- what you can do to support this aspect:

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  • If you are not clear it is important that you ask the provider what is your reporting procedure for complaints and concerns and where can I access it.
  • It is likely that the way that you have found out that something is wrong is from your child. This is very important – to always listen to your child and take seriously any examples of when they have felt unsafe, may have experienced harm or abuse.
  • You need to tell your child they did the right thing by telling you and that you will do everything you can to make sure they are safe.
  • You need to ensure they are safe and not in further contact with the person who has caused the harm to occur.
  • Your action will be influenced by the nature of the harm and the immediacy of the situation – if you are not sure you can ask someone to help you know what needs to happen. There are a number of helplines you can contact and use when you are concerned that your child may be sexually abused or hurt in some way. The helplines can provide you with immediate protection or counselling services, or they may refer you to other services at which you will receive the best support.
  • Child Protection Services can be very helpful to advise you as to what action needs to happen – Department of Human Services (DHS) The Child Protection Crisis Line: 13 12 78
  • You can also directly contact the police – if it is an emergency you contact 000, or you can telephone your local police station or attend there. Police should be contacted in an emergency. Allegations of child sexual abuse must be reported to police and/or Child Protection. Police are unlikely to be involved in other matters.
  • If there are any physical injuries that need to be attended to you may want to take your child to your doctor or the local hospital.
  • You need to inform the manager or contact person from the organisation if you are worried about the standard of care being provided or about an incident that has occurred.

  • If you are unsure there are helplines you can contact. There are also other resources/ supports you can contact for support/advice for yourself including: counselling services in Victoria –
    www.casa.org.au, Victoria – Counselling services for domestic and family violence and sexual assault | 1800RESPECT, Women’s Information Referral Exchange, WIRE on 1300 134 130, www.relationshipsvictoria.com.au, Lifeline 13 11 14,
  • Child Wise (one of Australia’s leading not-for-profit child abuse prevention organizations. The Child Wise National Child Abuse Helplines is a toll-free number: 1800 99 10 99, Website: childwise.org.au
  • Centre’s Against Sexual Assault (CASA’s) provide crisis response and services for people who are victims/survivors of sexual assault. They are also excellent in providing other resources e.g. recommended counsellors. Phone 1800 806 292 or email ahcasa@thewomens.org.au. Their website www.casa.org.au also provides useful information.
  • National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline is a telephone service for reporting cases of neglect and abuse of people with a disability. Phone 1800 880 052 (free call from land lines) or email hotline@workfocus.com Post PO Box Q687, Sydney NW 1230 Fax 02 8417 2697
  • Sexual Assault Crisis Line is a state-wide, confidential, telephone crisis counselling service for victim/survivors of both past and recent sexual assault. SACL operates between 5pm weeknights through to 9am the next day and throughout weekends and public holidays. Phone 1800 806 292 (free call from land lines)
  • Kids Helpline: a free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service especially for young people about a wide range of issues including child abuse. 1800 55 1800
  • Bravehearts provides specialist therapeutic services and support to children and young people, adults and non-offending family members affected by child sexual assault bravehearts.org.au
  • In all these situations you may want someone to be there with you – a family member, friend, advocate, professional.
  • You may want to write down notes that they could refer to when speaking with authorities.

It is understandable and to be expected that parents will feel a range of emotions related to discovering that their child has not been kept safe and free from harm. Common responses are to feel extremely angry, distressed and frightened, to feel ill-equipped to deal with the situation, think it won’t be taken seriously or will make things worse for the child and their family if they bring the issue into the open. These are concerns held in relation to all children, and are even more pronounced when it comes to children with disability. These are understandable concerns but it is also very important that your child is adequately protected and therefore all incidents are addressed. It does not help them, other children or you to remain silent.

For some parents hearing about your child’s experience may also raise issues and painful memories from your own childhood and background. In this situation it may be advisable to seek support and counselling for yourself. It is very important that you look after yourself and that you receive the support you need.  Please go to our Helpful Resources section to find suggestions for who you may want to contact to receive help for yourself.

What to do if providers do not have these strategies in place:

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The areas we have covered in our resources include the requirements of the mandatory Child Safe Standards and features of a safe environment. However you may find that some of the providers you are involved with do not have these features, policies, procedures in place or are working towards them.

You may decide that if the provider has not introduced them or isn’t working towards introducing them that you will not consider accessing their services. Or you may decide that even though they are not present, due to other factors you will still access this provider. Even if services have policies in place or don’t, it is still your choice who you choose to become involved with and that is okay.

This is your decision but we strongly encourage you to make this decision carefully and to inform providers of the minimum areas that you require them to provide and what areas you want evidence of that they will work towards to ensure they are providing a safe environment for your child.