Department of Human Services

Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy

Summary

This policy outlines how DHS will provide a safe environment for all children and young people.

Table 1: Document Details

Policy Number PPD/020
Applies to All DHS personnel
Issued by People, Strategy and Systems
Delegated Authority Executive Director, Performance and People
Policy 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

Policy Title

Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy

Purpose

The intention of this policy is to ensure protective practices for children, young people (under 18 years of age) and families are implemented by DHS to keep them safe (inclusive of cultural safety) from deliberate or inadvertent risk of harm and provide them with an understanding of such protective practices. This policy provides all DHS personnel with an understanding of their responsibilities to keep children and young people safe, while fostering a culture of openness and respect of cultural diversity, recognising all children have a right to be safe from harm, regardless of age, culture, religion, gender, sexuality, identity or disability. It also sets out the responsibilities of managers and senior leaders across DHS.

Context

This policy represents the position of DHS as a prescribed organisation as defined in the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (Chapter 8, s114(7), and Chapter 5) and the duty DHS personnel have to ensure children and young people are kept safe from harm. DHS is also informed by the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People and the Training Centre Visitor. It is supported by the department’s Child Safe Code of Conduct, and the Mandatory Notification Policy and associated Procedure.

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, consumer advisors and volunteers (personnel) working with children and young people across all settings and activities.

Definitions

This policy uses many of the definitions 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

Personnel

All DHS staff, contractors, students on placement and volunteers.

Consumer advisors

Individuals who are engaged by DHS to provide feedback and collaborate on the design of programs, projects, documents and other matters. Also known as System Advisors.

Policy Detail

Principles

DHS recognises and acknowledges children and young people are valued citizens, and the future of South Australia is inextricably bound to their wellbeing. As a result, it is of vital importance to South Australia all children and young people are given the opportunity to thrive. As per s4(2) of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017, the outcomes for all children and young people are to be safe from harm; do well at all levels of learning and have skills for life; enjoy a healthy lifestyle; and be active citizens who have a voice and influence. DHS recognises it is the duty of every person in South Australia to safeguard and promote these outcomes for children and young people.

DHS values all children and young people and seeks to keep them safe from harm and provide opportunities to thrive. DHS provides children and young people with an environment in which they feel safe, valued, respected, and encouraged to reach their individual potential.

DHS will prioritise the execution and responsibility of powers relating to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people to provide early intervention in matters where there is a risk of harm.

As a key agency partner in the South Australian Government’s Child and Family Support System (CFSS) reform activities, DHS will continue to develop an organisational culture to embed the protection and support of children and young people through awareness of its responsibility at all levels. This is included in DHS screening processes and requirements at the point of recruitment and selection and as part of regular compliance reviews. These processes and requirements are in keeping with the provisions set out in the Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 and to support the provision of child safe environments.

DHS ensures personnel implement child safety and protection into all aspects of their work in a non-biased way.

Responsibilities

To minimise risk and provide safety to children and young people, DHS personnel have the following responsibilities.

The Chief Executive will:

  • comply with the requirements of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017, in particulars114 and s145;
  • ensure inclusive policies and procedures are created and maintained for the provision of safe environments for children and young people;
  • establish a governance framework for the protection, safety and wellbeing of children and young people through policies, procedures, training and support for staff;
  • ensure the governance framework is culturally inclusive;
  • ensure the needs of children and young people are reflected in DHS strategies and policies;
  • lodge a completed compliance statement with the Child Safe Environments program within DHS (when policy suite is first published and when subsequent versions are published) to ensure that a record of DHS meeting this requirement is maintained.
  • promote the shared responsibility of supporting the care and protection of children and young people to all DHS staff; and
  • ensure partner organisations are aware of their obligations as a prescribed organisation to maintain the care and protection of children and young people.

The Executive Director, Performance and People will:

  • ensure up to date policies and procedures regarding child safe environments and mandatory reporting are in place and communicated across DHS; and
  • ensure such policies and procedures are reviewed on a regular basis, every three years or as required, and there is active involvement from children, young people and families in the review process.

Management (Executive Directors, Directors, General and Regional Managers, and similar roles) will:

  • follow DHS recruitment policies and guidelines when recruiting personnel to ensure appropriate screening checks are conducted;
  • implement activities to recruit and maintain a workforce reflective our client groups, including non-biased interviews and utilisation of the Aboriginal Employment Register;
  • ensure child-related, and disability services if applicable, employment screening is completed and maintained for all personnel in DHS who work with children and young people;
  • ensure business area specific policies and procedures regarding child safe environments and mandatory reporting are maintained and support those that apply to all of DHS;
  • ensure business area specific policies and procedures maintained on a regular basis, every three years or as required, and there is active involvement from children, young people and families in the review process;
  • ensure all personnel are provided with information about their child safeguarding obligations at induction, which includes a copy of the relevant policies, procedure and code of conduct;
  • provide adequate training, supervision and support to personnel to ensure they understand their obligations and contribute to DHS’s organisational culture of protection and support of children and young people;
  • ensure training in the protection and support of children and young people includes cultural training, supervision and guidance;
  • ensure that all agencies funded by DHS and undertaking service delivery to children and young people comply with their responsibilities as a prescribed organisation.
  • ensure information about their rights and DHS feedback processes are provided to children and young people;
  • ensure that all alleged breaches of this policy are investigated and responded to; and
  • ensure investigations of breaches of this policy are child-focussed at all times.

Breaches

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

Mandatory Reporting

Obligations of DHS personnel to report a reasonable suspicion a child or young person is, or may be, at risk of harm are outlined in the department’s Mandatory Notification Policy and associated Procedure.

Code of Conduct

Expectations of DHS personnel are detailed in the department’s Child Safe Code of Conduct.

Policy Review

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

Review activities will ensure alignment with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and will also consider improvements that can be made to child safe policies and procedures across DHS.

Risk

The absence of a policy may result in harm to a child or young person, non-compliance with the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017, public dissatisfaction, criticism and loss of departmental reputation.

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 Safe Environments Code of Conduct
  • Information Sharing Guidelines
  • Child Safe Environments - Principles of Good Practice
  • National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

Supporting documents

  • Mandatory Notification Procedure
  • Managing Misconduct Guideline

Related documents and Resources

National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020

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

National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (PDF 1.9MB)

SNAICC Understanding and Applying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (PDF 850KB)

Policy Approval

Content Author

Business Unit: Strategic Reform Programs

Page last updated : 18 Dec 2020

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