FINDING THE PROVIDER WHO WILL PROVIDE A SAFE AND POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR YOUR CHILD.

UNDERSTANDING POLICIES, LAWS THAT KEEP CHILDREN SAFE

Providers’ that endorse safety will have policies and procedures that:

  • promote child safety,
  • reduce risk
  • ensure appropriate actions are taken when concerns are raised.

They must also provide clear and accessible information about these policies and procedures.

We know that you probably expect that providers do have checks and balances in place. Most do have checks and balances in place, but some may not.

It is not your role to educate providers about these policies but it is your right to ask them which ones they have, and how they are actively using them.

Minimum required policies

The minimum required policies include:

  • a child safe policy,
  • a code of conduct
  • complaints/reporting procedures.

In addition all providers need to be aware of their legal obligations in providing the safest environment for children in their care, including mandatory reporting.

Mandatory reporting

Mandatory reporting means that some professionals such as doctors, nurses, police and school teachers are legally obliged to report suspected child abuse.

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In addition, any person who believes on reasonable grounds that a child needs protection can make a report to the Victorian Child Protection Service. The child protection worker will assess and, if necessary, investigate further.

Find out more about mandatory reporting on the DHHS website: http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au/for-individuals/children,-families-and-young-people/child-protection.

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Failure to disclose

Failure to disclose means not reporting a reasonable belief that an adult has committed a sexual offence against a child under 16. It is a legal concept that should be referred to in the provider’s child safe policy.

Reporting child abuse is everyone’s 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 police.

Find out more about failure to disclose here: www.justice.vic.gov.au/home/safer+communities/protecting+children+and+families/failure+to+disclose+offence.

Failure to protect

Failure to protect means not protecting a child from sexual abuse. It is a legal concept that should be referred to in the provider’s child safe policy.

People of authority in an organisation commit an offence if they know of a substantial risk of child sexual abuse and have the power or responsibility to reduce or remove the risk, but negligently fail to do so.

Find out more about failure to protect: www.justice.vic.gov.au/home/safer+communities/protecting+children+and+families/failure+to+protect+offence.

Code of Conduct

A Code of Conduct is a document that describes standards of practice that employees and volunteers should follow when working with children. You should ask to see the provider’s code of conduct.

Complaints Procedures

Another important area to be aware of is about complaints procedures.  Complaints procedures describe what you can do if you are not happy with any aspect of the services your child receives from a provider.  You have the right to make a complaint if you have any concerns about the provider.

All organisations and individual providers must have a complaint procedure.  They must let you know what their complaints procedure is.

If they haven’t done this, ask them to provide you with this information.

Usually complaints procedure will let you know:

  • who you should speak to  first
  • how to lodge a complaint with the provider if you’re not satisfied with their first response
  • how to lodge a complaint with an external body if you’re not satisfied with the provider’s response.
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External bodies who can help resolve a complaint

If you’re still not happy with the outcome or you feel uncomfortable discussing the issue directly with the service provider, you can contact an external body for help. These include:

Privacy policy and practice

Another important policy area is the providers’ views and practices about privacy.

Providers must have a privacy policy. This is required by law. It is important to find out the provider’s privacy policy.

Use of restraints

Use of restraints means any physical or chemical methods that are used to control another person to protect their safety or that of other people.

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  • Physical restraints involve the sustained or prolonged use of a part of a person’s body to prevent, restrict, or subdue the movement of another person.
  • Chemical restraints means using medication (tablets) to control or subdue someone’s behaviour
  • Seclusion means placing someone in an area away of others.

There may be times when a provider must use one or more of these methods to protect the safety of the child or other people.

You should talk to the provider about when they might use these strategies. You should tell them your views about the use of restraints with your child.

What questions you could ask to find out more about policies and laws:
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  • What policies do you have? (These should include a child safe policy, code of conduct for staff and volunteers and complaints reporting procedures.)
  • Could I have a copy of your policies? (Even if the provider is an independent contractor, they still need to show you how they put their child safe policy or statement of commitment into practice. They also need to show you how they follow a code of conduct, address privacy issues and what complaints procedures can be followed.)
  • Do you have a process for managing concerns and what is it? If I am not happy with what has happened who else do I contact?
  • What training is provided to staff and volunteers about how to use these policies?

How do you address privacy issues? Do you have a specific policy? (This is a very important area for children with disability.   You may want to ask other questions such as):

  • Can you provide a choice of female or male staff regarding the intimate care of children and young people?
  • Are toilet and bathroom facilities fully accessible and do they provide privacy