Department of Human Services

Working with Children and Young People Code of Conduct

Summary

This code of conduct outlines the requirements of staff to provide a safe environment for all children and young people.

Table 1: Document Details

File Number A24511057
Applies to All DHS personnel
Issued by People, Strategy and Systems
Delegated Authority Executive Director, Performance and People
Standard Custodian Executive Director, Performance and People
Content author Project Business Partner, Strategic Reform Programs
Version Implementation December 2020
Version Approval December 2020
Review Date December 2023
Confidentiality Official

Title

Working with Children and Young People Code of Conduct

Purpose

This document serves as the Working with Children and Young People Code of Conduct for DHS meeting the requirements of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 and the Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 to ensure safe environments for children and young people (under 18 years of age).

Aboriginal Impact Statement Declaration

The needs and interests of Aboriginal people have been considered in the development of this policy. DHS acknowledges outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in care have historically been, and continue to be, poor. DHS firmly believe that it is unacceptable for the outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people to be any different to those for children and young people in care generally. Through recognition of the history and wisdom of Aboriginal peoples, DHS is working to create Aboriginal lead systems and services that support self-determination and safeguard these approaches.

Cultural considerations are a crucial part of the risk assessment process in providing a safe environment to children and young people and when responding to feedback.

Scope

This policy applies to all DHS staff, contractors, students on placement and volunteers, including consumer advisors, (personnel) working with children and young people across all settings and activities.

Definitions

This policy uses critical definitions drawn from the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017.

Legislative definition of child or young person

A person who is under 18 years of age.

s16(1) Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017

Legislative definition of Harm

Physical harm or psychological harm (whether caused by an act or omission) and, without limiting the generality of this subsection, includes such harm caused by sexual, physical, mental or emotional abuse or neglect.

Psychological harm does not include emotional reactions such as distress, grief, fear or anger that are a response to the ordinary vicissitudes of life.

s17 Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017

Legislative definition of ‘At Risk’

Refer to s18 Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 for the full definition, which includes:

  • The child or young person has suffered harm.
  • There is a likelihood that the child or young person will suffer harm.
  • There is a likelihood that the child or young person will be removed from the state for an unlawful act or procedure to be undertaken.
  • The parents or guardian of the child or young person are unable or unwilling to care for them.
  • The child or young person is of compulsory school age but has been persistently absent from school without satisfactory explanation of the absence.
  • The child or young person is of no fixed address.

Legal definition of parent

includes—

  1. a step-parent of the child or young person; and
  2. a person who stands in loco parentis to the child or young person;

s16 Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017

Legal definition of guardian

Guardian or guardians of the child or young person pursuant to an order of the Court under the Safety Act. s16 Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017

Legal definition of employee

  1. is a self-employed person; or
  2. carries out work under a contract for services; or
  3. carries out work as a minister of religion or as part of the duties of a religious or spiritual vocation; or
  4. undertakes practical training as part of an educational or vocational course; or
  5. carries out work as a volunteer,

and a reference to something occurring in the course of the person's employment is to be construed accordingly.

s30(4) Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017

Mandated Notifier

The general term applied to all employees who are legally required to report reasonable suspicion of risk of harm to a child or young person.

Mandatory Reporting/Notification

The general term applied to the process of reporting reasonable suspicion of risk of harm to a child or young person.

Code of Conduct Detail

Expectations of Management

DHS management includes all Executive Directors, Directors, General and Regional Managers, and similar roles.

Management will:

  • ensure risk assessments are undertaken to identify and mitigate risks to child safety within business units and DHS;
  • implement and demonstrate supportive communication practices between themselves, children, young people, families and other stakeholders that encourage honesty and feedback;
  • empower staff to listen to and act upon any concerns raised by children, young people, or their families or carers;
  • ensure that the needs and perspectives of the diverse groups of children and young people in South Australia are considered when designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating programs and services; and
  • Investigate when the Code of Conduct is not upheld.

When collaborating and sharing information about children and young people, DHS management will:

  • adhere to the Information Sharing Guidelines;
  • work with relevant statutory authorities, other state government agencies and non-government organisations to promote and protect the safety of children and young people;
  • undertake consultation with PEAK bodies to ensure the sharing of information is provided in a culturally safe and appropriate manner; and
  • ensure cultural authorities are engaged where relevant to assist with understanding and decision making.

Expectations of Personnel

All DHS personnel will:

  • comply with the conditions set out under Chapter 8 of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act;
  • demonstrate the highest standards of behaviour in their professional and personal lives;
  • report any actual or suspected incident or risk of harm to a child or young person in accordance with the department’s Mandatory Notification Policy and associated Procedure;
  • implement, monitor and report on recommendations made by the Incident Management Unit, Internal Audit or any other relevant assessment in to the provision of safe environments for children and young people;
  • value and respect the contributions of children and young people in continuous improvement activities and service development;
  • ensure every decision is made in the best interests of the child;
  • participate in training and ongoing professional development activities to obtain and maintain the necessary skills and knowledge to meet the mandatory requirements of their role as it relates to their interaction with children and young people;
  • promote the safety of children and young people, working with statutory authorities, other state government agencies and non-government organisations as required; and
  • promote the sharing of information about child safety and wellbeing when working with children, young people, families and community.

As part of contract establishment and management processes, DHS personnel will:

  • ensure partner organisations, suppliers, grant recipients and other contracted organisations have adequate child safety capabilities and practices to confirm their representatives are suitable and comply with the provisions set out in the Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 and the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017; and
  • report any suspected breaches of the agreement by the partner organisation, supplier, grant recipient or other contracted organisation so appropriate action can be taken, which may include the suspension or termination of the agreement.

When engaging with children and young people, DHS personnel will:

  • provide information to children, young people, families and carers about program/service activities, their rights and responsibilities;
  • ensure children, young people, families and carers have access to appropriate support and feedback mechanisms, including confidential complaint procedures and professional counselling;
  • apply the voice of children and young people when designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating programs and services;
  • consider the needs and perspectives of the diverse groups of children and young people in South Australia when designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating programs and services;
  • listen to and act upon any concerns raised by children, young people, or their families or carers;
  • provide feedback to children, young people and families on the actions being taken to address concerns raised; and
  • demonstrate understanding and valuing of diversity, being aware of their own biases and taking steps to ensure this does not influence their actions and behaviours.

Expectations of the Incident Management Unit

The department’s Incident Management Unit will:

  • assess and investigate alleged breaches of this policy;
  • ensure investigation processes are conducted in a culturally safe manner and seek advice from cultural authorities within or available to DHS, and
  • make recommendations based on their assessments and investigations.

Expectations of HR Business Partners

HR Business Partners will:

  • support personnel and management to understand their obligations;
  • assist with the management of breaches.

Breaches of the Working with Children and Young People Code of Conduct

Unacceptable behaviour, which may be deemed to be a breach of this code, includes:

  • undertaking unlawful activity with or in relation to a child;
  • engaging in an activity likely to cause any physical, sexual or emotional harm to a child;
  • abusing the trust that comes with being engaged by DHS;
  • being alone with a child unnecessarily;
  • arranging personal contact, including online contact, with children or young people they work with for a purpose unrelated to their work activities;
  • discriminating against any child or their family members;
  • disclosing personal or sensitive information about a child, including images of a child, without the consent of the child or young person and/or the consent of their parent or legal guardian (except where this is required for mandatory reporting or other legal requirements);
  • using inappropriate language in the presence of children or young people;
  • showing or providing children or young people with access to inappropriate images or material;
  • undertaking work activities with children or young people when under the influence of alcohol or prohibited drugs; and
  • ignoring or disregarding any suspected or disclosed risk of harm to a child or young person.

Breaches of this code may be considered a breach of the Code of Ethics, which may result in disciplinary action, including possible dismissal. Breaches may also lead to criminal proceedings.

Code of Conduct Review

This code will be reviewed on an as needs basis, or every three years, whichever is the earlier. The Executive Director, Performance and People will be responsible for initiating the process.

Reference documents

Directive documents

  • Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017
  • Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016
  • Disclosing Critical Client Incidents Policy
  • Managing Critical Client Incidents Policy
  • Mandatory Notification Policy
  • Child Safeguarding Policy
  • Information Sharing Guidelines

Supporting documents

  • Mandatory Notification Procedure
  • Managing Misconduct Guideline

Related documents and Resources

Trust is a Must: South Australian Commissioner for Children and Young People - Sept 2020 (PDF 2.4MB)

Child Safe Environments - Principles of Good Practice (DHS)

National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (PDF 1.9MB)

What matters to Aboriginal Children and Young People, their families and communities: South Australia’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People Inaugural Report - Dec 2019 (PDF 2.7MB)

Approval

Content Author

Business Unit: Strategic Reform Programs

Page last updated : 15 Dec 2023

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