You may have heard about the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework, but aren’t yet sure about how it may apply to your organisation. In this edition of the Child Wise blog, we will explore the key elements of the Framework and what your organisation can do to demonstrate best practice in child safety.
What is the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework?
The Commonwealth Child Safe Framework (the Framework) was introduced in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Framework has been defined as “a whole-of-government policy that sets minimum standards for creating and embedding a child safe culture and practice in Commonwealth entities.”
Does the Framework apply to your organisation?
If you are not part of a Commonwealth entity, the first thing you are probably wondering is if the Framework applies to you at all. If your organisation provides activities, services or facilities to children, it is likely that you will be affected. If your organisation receives federal government funding through grants and procurements, you may be required to demonstrate compliance with the Framework in order to remain eligible for future funding.
What’s involved in implementing the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework?
The Framework sets out three core requirements:
The deadline for Commonwealth entities to implement the Framework is 1 February 2020 – one year since the National Principles were endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
As Commonwealth entities work towards the implementation of the Framework, organisations that work or engage with children and young people are encouraged to start the year with a plan to position child safety as a top priority and map out their journey to becoming a truly child safe environment beyond the tick of a box.
Not sure where to start? Here are our top 5 suggestions to kick start your child safe journey:
1. Start with a child safety review against the National Principles.
A child safety review is a good way to identify what you are already doing well, any potential gaps in child safeguarding, and to also establish a baseline against which you can measure future progress. We recommend having an external body perform the initial review/audit to ensure objectivity and minimise any conflict of interest.
2. Get your leadership team on board.
A commitment to child safety must be visible across all levels of the organisation – from the boardroom to the basement. The board and the executive team must prioritise child safeguarding in the governance of the organisation and lead by example in order to drive cultural change. Embedding child safeguarding in governance arrangements will ensure that the safety of children is top of mind.
3. Build the capacity of child safety champions.
Create a culture of child safety by identifying and building the capacity of key staff to be child safety champions. Depending on the size and complexity of your organisation, you may wish to create a child safeguarding position or assign the child safeguarding portfolio to an existing staff member/s with knowledge and skills in this area. Ensure these staff members are visible across the organisation and that all staff know to talk to them if they are concerned about a child.
Although having a designated child safety officer will help channel queries from across the organisation and lead child protection reports and investigations, it’s important to remember that the safety of children and young people in your organisation is everyone’s responsibility.
4. Create opportunities for children and young people to participate and provide feedback.
Research shows that children experience safety differently to adults and that they are well placed to contribute in organisations where they spend time. What safety looks and feels like to children and young people may be very different to what we as adults tend to assume. Encouraging children and young people to speak up and provide feedback during the initial child safety review, as well as continuously, is crucial in order to ensure your organisation is a safe space for them. Children are more likely to feel valued and speak up in environments where they are empowered and are taken seriously.
5. Upskill your staff to be able to recognise and respond appropriately to incidences or allegations of abuse.
Child abuse is a confronting subject and most people aren’t equipped to respond to a disclosure of abuse by a child, or have the knowledge and confidence to make a report if they suspect a child is in danger. Making sure that frontline staff that engage with children directly have those skills is paramount to ensuring the safety of children in their care. Of course, not everyone in your organisation requires the same level of knowledge and skill and therefore it is important to find training that suits you and the needs of your team.