Child Safety for DSS funded organisations
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) highlighted the necessity for a national response to child safety and the need for organisations to provide an environment where children feel (and are) safe, protected and respected.
In response to the findings, the Australian Government introduced the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework (Framework). The Framework sets out the minimum standards for creating and embedding a child safe culture and practices in Commonwealth entities. This includes an expectation that entities apply child safe measures to Commonwealth funded third parties, engaged through a grant or procurement arrangement. The Framework has several requirements, which includes:
- appropriate screening of staff
- mandatory reporting
- adoption of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (National Principles).
These efforts will help foster more child safe organisations across Australia. They will also help to improve the ongoing safety and wellbeing of Australia’s children now and into the future.
National Principles for Child Safe Organisations
Creating a child safe culture in an organisation reduces the risk of incidents of harm to children. Children and adults may not feel confident identifying or raising child safety concerns, which could lead incidents being under-reported.
The National Principles are ten high level principles that set out a nationally consistent approach.
The National Principles:
- guide creation of child safe cultures and practices in organisations to promote the safety and wellbeing of children
- give effect to the child safe standards recommended by the Royal Commission
- provide guidance on how each principle can be implemented in practice, with key actions and performance measures.
The National Principles are designed for flexible implementation in organisations of all sizes and sectors that engage with children.
This is an important step towards:
- creating safe and secure environments throughout Australia
- ensuring that no child or young person is exposed to the trauma that were heard in the testimonies of the Royal Commission.
Statement of Compliance – Due Annually
The Department of Social Services (DSS) is seeking confirmation from grant recipients that their organisation and any staff engaging with children as part of their DSS grant agreement, comply with Commonwealth, state and/or territory requirements relating to working with children in the jurisdiction in which the activities are delivered. This includes mandated police checks, working with children checks and working with vulnerable people checks and if relevant, the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.
The Statement of Compliance email, with a link to the template, access code information and contact details for assistance, will be sent to DSS grant recipients in March. The completed Statement of Compliance is due within 4 weeks of the date it is requested and must be signed by the head of the organisation, CEO or an authorised person in an equivalent position. No evidence of compliance or any attachments are required.
The Statement of Compliance requires confirmation that the organisation itself, and all Child-Related Personnel who may incidentally interact with children on behalf of the organisation in the provision of grant activities under the DSS grant agreement:
- comply with all relevant legislation relating to requirements for working with children in the jurisdiction in which the activities are delivered; and
- comply with all relevant legislation in jurisdictions including any child-related schemes and mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect as required or otherwise defined by State or Territory legislation.
It also declares that the organisation has imposed the same child safety obligations on subcontractors and secondary subcontractors, if relevant and that all staff will continue to comply for the duration of any funding arrangements the organisation holds with DSS.
For those organisations with a higher level child safety clause in their DSS grant agreement, additional confirmation is required that the organisation has:
- implemented the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations;
- ensured that all Child-Related Personnel implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations;
- completed a risk assessment to identify the level of responsibility for children and the level of risk of harm or abuse to children (and will update this risk assessment at least annually);
- put into place an appropriate risk management strategy to manage risks identified through the risk assessment required (and will update this risk management strategy at least annually); and
- provided training and established a compliance regime to ensure that all Child-Related Personnel who may interact with children in their provision of grant activities, are aware of, and comply with:
- the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations;
- the organisation’s risk management strategy;
- all relevant legislation relating to requirements for working with children, including Working With Children Checks; and
- all relevant legislation relating to mandatory reporting of suspected abuse or neglect.
Please note that if an organisation receives funding from more than one Australian Government entity, a similar statement might be sought from those entities and each request must be responded to separately.
Commonwealth Child Safe Framework - DSS Annual Statement - October 2021
The Department of Social Services (the department) is committed to the safety of children in all aspects of its work including in the delivery of the services it provides on behalf of the Australian Government. The Commonwealth Child Safe Framework (the framework) sets minimum standards for creating and maintaining child safe culture and practices across Australian Government entities.
The department’s direct contact with children is limited and largely occurs through interaction with funded third party organisations, this forms much of our focus in this area. A number of internally focused actions are in place for our staff including appropriate policies, training and reporting on progress by business areas into a central governance team in the department.
Continuous improvements in how the department prioritises the safety of children is actioned through child safe clauses in third party grant funding, contracts and procurement, where appropriate, and ensuring staff remain aware of, and compliant with the framework.
Adherence and improvement to the framework will continue through reviews of the department’s compliance and an annual risk assessment. Strategies to strengthen implementation include:
- ensuring all staff in relevant positions hold and maintain a current Working with Vulnerable People (WWVP) or Working with Children checks
- an annual internal communication campaign on child safety – including framework awareness and relevant training/policies
- annual checks of key policies, including the department’s WWVP Policy, Child Safety Policy and Child Safety Policy - DSS Funded Third Parties.
The department is dedicated to the ongoing improvement of child safe practices and processes for staff and funded third parties. An updated risk management policy for grants and a suite of documents on grants and procurement for staff has been released. The department’s website also covers frequently asked questions for grant recipients.
The department extends its commitment to child safety through:
- targeted tiered structures for training and awareness raising for staff
- promotion of the framework through the department’s Family Safety Champion and an internal communications plan
- the dissemination of updated guidance materials and templates to include child safety considerations, including third party compliance obligations
- assurance processes such as WWVP check registers for areas who do work with children, regular reporting against the completion of activities identified in the department and updating to internal governance committees.
Need more information
- National Office for Child Safety
- Australian Human Rights Commission
- Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
- Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse | Department of Social Services, Australian Government (dss.gov.au)
- Keeping our kids safe - SNAICC