Catholic Schools Office Lismore Essential Child Protection Information
I NTRODUCTION This presentation explains the following key aspects relating to child protection in NSW schools: 1.Allegations involving employees under the Ombudsman Act 1974 - Process - Outcomes - Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP). 2.Reporting Risk of Significant Harm to Community Services (CS) under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.
1.A LLEGATIONS I NVOLVING E MPLOYEES What you need to know…
Allegations involving employees cont’d The Ombudsman Act 1974 is the relevant legislation ‘Employee’ is any person who is employed or engaged by the school or Catholic Schools Office paid or unpaid The legislation is ‘allegations based’ i.e. any allegation must be followed up on its “face value” Allegations fall into two categories - reportable allegations to the Ombudsman - exempt allegations, not reportable to Ombudsman Types of allegations, physical, neglect, sexual, psychological harm and conduct that may be reportable conduct.
Who is an employee A person is employed by the school, if the school provides a group certificate for taxation purposes. A person is engaged if the school: provides the person with work provides the person with general directions about the services to be provided and is able to terminate the contract or involvement if work unsatisfactory or for any other reason.
Face value allegation Any allegation against an employee that involves a child (person under 18 years of age) must be taken on its face value, i.e. without investigation The allegation can come from any person within the school or external to the school and can be anonymous.
What is a reportable allegation A reportable allegation is: an allegation of reportable conduct against a person, or an allegation of misconduct that may involve reportable conduct.
What is a reportable allegation cont’d Reportable allegations: a.any sexual offence, sexual misconduct, committed against, with or in the presence of a child (including a child pornography offence), or b.any assault, ill-treatment or neglect of a child, or c.any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child, or d.conduct that may be reportable conduct whether or not in any case, with the consent of the child.
Ombudsman Act 1974 – Sexual Misconduct Range of behaviours/pattern of behaviour which may be aimed at the involvement of a child in sexual acts: inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature unwarranted and inappropriate touching sexual exhibitionism personal correspondence of a sexual nature grooming behaviour – special relationship testing of boundaries – usually pattern of behaviour. With or without child’s consent
Ombudsman Act 1974 – Sexual Allegations Sexual allegations include (not limited to): acts of indecency (contrary to community standards) indecent assault (assault with sexual connotations) sexual intercourse and sexual assault exposing oneself possession of child pornography.
Ombudsman Act 1974 – Physical Assault Physical assault includes an application of force or an act that causes the child to think that immediate force will be used: the act is either hostile or reckless no physical harm/injury is required intention of employee is not relevant. Examples: pushing, hitting, shaking, smacking, kicking, threatening to hit, unreasonable restraint.
Ombudsman Act 1974 – Neglect and Ill-Treatment Neglect is usually a failure to take action to provide basic physical and emotional necessities of life to a child. Example: failure to provide medical attention. Ill-treatment is where the employee exceeds what is reasonable or appropriate for the situation – focus is on the alleged conduct not whether harm is caused to the child. Examples: locking a child in a cupboard; taping a child to a chair.
Ombudsman Act 1974 – Psychological Harm Any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child, whether or not in any case with the consent of the child. Examples: degrading, isolating, intimidating, exploitation, humiliating. For a sustained finding the investigation must demonstrate three elements: i. inappropriate conduct of an employee (usually a pattern/repetitive) ii. harm caused to a targeted child or group of children iii.a casual link between the conduct and the harm.
Ombudsman Act 1974 – Misconduct that may Involve Reportable Conduct This is where the behaviour indicates there: may be misconduct which poses a risk to children, or may be a pattern of behaviour. Examples: breach of boundaries, such as taking children home in employee’s car; giving gifts to child.
Exempt allegations An allegation is not reportable to the Ombudsman if: a.the allegation on ‘face value’ is reasonable for the care and discipline and management of a child and consistent with the code of conduct/professional standards, or b.the allegation is one where the use of physical force is of a trivial and negligible nature in all the circumstances AND the employer is going to investigate the complaint and record the finding, or
Exempt allegations cont’d c.there is an allegation of conduct that falls within a Class or Kind Determination. (This means the Ombudsman has determined that certain classes or kinds of employee conduct are exempt from reporting – further information is available from the Human Resources Consultant.) However the Catholic Schools Office Lismore is required to investigate the allegation and record the finding.
Exempt allegations cont’d In summary, allegations in categories a, b and c do not require reporting to the Ombudsman Office but are investigated according to CSO protocols. Note: Investigation files of exempt allegations are audited by the Ombudsman.
Allegations that must be reported to the Ombudsman Require a current “employee” (at the time the allegation was made) Require a child to be under the age of 18 years at time of alleged incident Require an allegation of “reportable conduct”.
Role of the NSW Ombudsman’s Office The NSW Ombudsman’s role in child protection was established following the Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service Oversighting Catholic schools in NSW in how they respond to allegations and make employment decisions involving employees Handles complaints about the investigation process Catholic schools in NSW are oversighted and required by law to report to the Ombudsman Office.
The employer has a duty to investigate all allegations The Catholic Schools Office Lismore has established protocols for investigating allegations against employees (contained within the Diocesan Child Protection Policy found at http://intranet.lism.catholic.edu.au/pages/policies.php http://intranet.lism.catholic.edu.au/pages/policies.php
What happens after an allegation has been made Exempt allegations are usually investigated by the Human Resources Consultant (following a protocol) Allegations that are reportable to Ombudsman are usually investigated by the Human Resources Consultant (following a protocol) Matters may also be reported to Community Services or the Police and may also be investigated by the Human Resources Consultant (following a protocol).
What happens after an allegation has been made cont’d Responding to and managing an allegation involves the following steps: allegation assessed by the Human Resources Consultant to determine if it is an exempt allegation risk assessment evidence is gathered from relevant sources (this may include interviews, statements and a response from the employee) a finding is determined appropriate action is taken. Detailed information describing the procedure is found in the Diocesan Child Protection Policy
Findings At the completion of the investigation the Catholic Schools Office may find that the allegation is: sustained not sustained (due to insufficient evidence) not sustained (lack of evidence of weight) false not reportable conduct (only applies to matters initially reported to Ombudsman).
Findings cont’d The standard of proof required for a finding is the “balance of probabilities” This means that for a sustained finding Catholic Schools Office Lismore need only be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to support that the alleged conduct occurred. Detailed information describing findings is found in the Diocesan Child Protection Policy.
Critical information only relating to allegations that are reportable to the Ombudsman If a reportable allegation is found to be: sustained the matter will be notified to the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) as a Category One matter, or not sustained due to insufficient evidence it will be notified to CCYP as a Category Two matter the employee will be informed of either of these findings prior to notifying CCYP. Note: a Category One matter may trigger a risk assessment if a person applies for child related work in the future.
Critical information only relating to allegations that are reportable to the Ombudsman cont’d If an allegation is found to be false or not sustained – lack of evidence of weight it is not notifiable to CCYP If an allegation was initially reported to the Ombudsman but found to be not reportable conduct the matter is not notifiable to CCYP.
Investigations principles The following principles apply to all child protection investigations: Transparency – including clear documentation Confidentiality Support to all parties The level of investigation corresponds to the level of seriousness of the allegation Procedural fairness - inform employee of allegation and provide an opportunity to respond - make reasonable inquiries before reaching a finding - consider all relevant available evidence - act fairly and without bias/conflict of interest - conduct investigation without undue delay.
What you need to know… 2.R EPORTING R ISK OF S IGNIFICANT H ARM TO C OMMUNITY S ERVICES
The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 Provides the statutory basis for Community Services to provide care and protection services for children and young persons, including the assessment and investigation of reported cases of children and young persons suspected of being at risk of harm. An employee who works in child related employment must report to Community Services if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the child is at risk of harm. Note: Catholic Schools Office Lismore requires that Risk of Significant Harm concerns extend to young people (16-17 year olds).
Legal obligations Defining Risk of Significant Harm (Section 23) Mandatory obligations of employees (Section 27) Protection under the Act (Section 29)
Definitions “Child” is defined as meaning a person who is under the age of 16 years “Young person” is defined as meaning a person who is aged 16 years or above but who is under the age of 18 years.
Categories of risk of harm (section 23) Neglect – child or young person’s (y/p) basic physical and or psychological needs not met Failure to provide medical care – parent or carer unable or unwilling to provide medical care Child is habitually absent or not enrolled at school Physical abuse or ill-treatment Sexual abuse or ill-treatment
Categories of risk of harm (section 23) cont’d Domestic violence (DV) – child or y/p living in house with DV and as a result is at risk of serious physical or psychological harm Emotional harm Note: physical or sexual abuse may include an assault and can exist even if the child or young person has given consent.
What is reasonable belief A person may come to the belief that a child or y/p is at risk of significant harm based on information from any one of a number of sources including: the child the family other people your own observations.
What then If a child disclosures to you remember the three “Rs” - reassure - record - report You must inform your supervisor who will the make the report to Community Services Information relating to Keep Them Safe can be found at http://www.lism.catholic.edu.au/media/Documents/Policies/Keep %20Them%20Safe%20-%20A%20Shared%20Approach.pdf http://www.lism.catholic.edu.au/media/Documents/Policies/Keep %20Them%20Safe%20-%20A%20Shared%20Approach.pdf
ROSH report – what to report Name, age, DOB, address etc of child, y/p, family, significant others The immediate safety of child or y/p The urgency of the information Details of why you believe there is a ROSH report to be made: - what is the reason for the call - circumstances for the child or y/p.
Relevant information Staff have access to valuable contextual information – it is often not easy for Community Services to gain this information from families Staff can ask contextual questions : - How are things at home? - How do you get on with …? - What happened? - What do you mean by…? Staff should not ask investigative questions particular after concerns about risk of significant harm are established eg.“Who?” ‘Where?” “When?” “How many times?” questions.
The role of the school Staff have a role: to provide ongoing support to the student within the role of the school/after school setting to monitor the situation for more information about risk of significant harm and make a new report if there are further concerns to follow up reports if concerns about the student continue.
Where concerns continue If the case has been referred to the local CS centre and there has been no response, phone and ask: - has the case been allocated? - what follow up can be expected? If you believe this response compromises the safety of the student, phone the Manager Caseworker (identified in the feedback letter) or the Manager Client Services If there is still no action, liaise with the Head of System Performance.
Where concerns continue cont’d Research shows that the support most valued by children and young people is when they believe that their teachers: - care about them - would treat them fairly and - would give them active and practical support if they were faced with a problem. (Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) Report on Children Who Have No one to Turn To, 2002 )
Where do I find information about child protection All relevant information can be found on the CSO Intranet http://intranet.lism.catholic.edu.au/pages/policies.php