Child Protection Policy: Reporting Concerns to Family and Community Services and Police

Classification

Policy Number: HR201619-1.1 | Version/Last Updated: 1.1 December 2016 | Audience: Public | Commencement: November 2016

Implementation Resources

1.0 Rationale

Pope Francis – “We need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected.”

Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) is committed to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of each student. Our dual obligation to the education and faith formation of each child is of the utmost importance. To facilitate this educational and spiritual development it is important that every student is safe while at school, and protected from any concern arising outside of school which may impact their capacity to engage fully in their studies and faith formation. SCS employees have significant obligations as mandatory reporters, for the safety of children and young people. This policy outlines the process of reporting, which a staff member should follow if a concern should be raised about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person.

2.0 Guiding Principles
2.1

SCS is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all students.

2.2

SCS Employees are expected to report any concern regarding the safety of a child or young person.

2.3

To support the safety of students, it is critical that all staff and students are aware of protocols in relation to reporting concerns related to student safety.

2.4

Where a concern arises in relation to the safety of a student, appropriate supports will be provided to the student.

2.5

Parents, carers and families agree to work collaboratively and constructively with SCS in supporting the safety and wellbeing of students.

2.6

Parents and carers enrolling their children with SCS accept on enrolment, that SCS has reporting obligations for the safety and wellbeing of students, and agree to respect and support SCS in meeting these obligations.

3.0 Policy
3.1

Process in relation to Mandatory Reporting to Family and Community Services (FACS)

3.1.1

A report must be made to FACS when a mandatory reporter has current concerns about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child for any of the following reasons:

  • the basic physical or psychological needs of the child or young person are not being met (neglect)
  • the parents or caregivers have not arranged necessary medical care for the child or young person (unwilling or unable to do so)
  • the parents or caregivers have not arranged for the child or young person to receive an education in accordance with the Education Act 1990 (NSW) (unwilling or unable to do so)
  • risk of physical or sexual abuse, or ill-treatment (physical or sexual abuse)
  • parent or caregiver’s behaviour towards the child causes or risks serious psychological harm (emotional abuse)
  • incidents of domestic violence and, as a consequence, a child or young person is at risk of serious physical or psychological harm (domestic or family violence)
  • the child was the subject in a prenatal report and the birth mother did not engage successfully with support services.
3.1.2

Mandatory reporters are required by law to report to FACS if they suspect that a child is at Risk of Significant Harm (RoSH). SCS requires mandatory reporters to also make reports in relation to concerns around young people (aged 16-17 years) as an aspect of their duty of care obligations to all students.

3.1.3

If a staff member identifies a concern in relation to the safety, welfare and/or wellbeing of a child or young person, they are required to immediately report the concern to the school Principal/Director or the most senior person on site, for instance, the Assistant Principal.

3.1.4

The Principal/Director, in determining whether a concern necessitates mandatory reporting to FACS, may seek the support of one or more of the following:

  • the FACS Mandatory Reporter Guide
  • the Sydney Catholic Schools’ Child Protection & Professional Services Team on 9568 8473 or 9569 6111
  • the Regional Student Wellbeing Team
  • the school’s Regional Consultant.
3.1.5

All concerns which require mandatory reporting will be reported to FACS by the Principal/Director (or the most senior person on site), using the online form or by phone to 132 111.

3.1.6

The Principal/Director making the report must email a copy of the RoSH Report to the SCS Child Protection & Professional Services Team as soon as practicable at child.protection@syd.catholic.edu.au.

3.2

Process in relation to Mandatory Reporting to NSW Police

3.2.1

If a staff member identifies a concern in relation to the safety, welfare and/or wellbeing of a child or young person, they are required to immediately report the concern to the school Principal/Director or the most senior person on site, for instance, the Assistant Principal.

3.2.2

The Principal/Director may determine that it is necessary to report the concern to the NSW Police in addition to FACS.

3.2.3

The NSW Police should be contacted prior to FACS where there is an imminent threat, danger or risk of immediate harm to any person, including to the child or young person, or to a school staff member.

3.2.4

The circumstances in which a report to NSW Police should be made, include but are not limited to:

  • where a concern may constitute or involve a criminal offence; and/or
  • where there is an imminent threat, danger or risk of immediate harm to any person including to the child or young person or to a school staff member.
3.2.5

In circumstances where a report to NSW Police is to be made:

  • in the case of an imminent threat, danger or risk of immediate harm, the Principal/Director would make the report to emergency services 000 where police attendance is required, as a matter of urgency
  • where there is no imminent threat to any person, the Principal/Director would contact and report the matter through the school’s allocated police liaison officer.
  • where the police liaison officer is not available, the Principal/Director would contact the Police Local Area Command to make the report.
3.2.6

In determining whether a report should be made to NSW Police, the Principal/Director may wish to:

  • contact the Sydney Catholic Schools’ Child Protection & Professional Services Team on 9568 8473 or 9569 6111
  • contact the school’s Regional Consultant.
3.2.7

The Principal/Director making the report should email the police report number and details of the report to the SCS Child Protection & Professional Services Team as soon as practicable at child.protection@syd.catholic.edu.au.

3.3

Confidentiality of concerns

3.3.1

Any concern raised in relation to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child and/or young person is confidential. No staff member is to disclose any concern to any person outside of the school Principal/Director or in their absence, to the most senior person available on site.

3.3.2

Reports made by mandatory reports to FACS or by a Principal/Director to NSW Police are confidential and should not be disclosed to any person outside of SCS Central and Regional Wellbeing, Child Protection and other relevant personnel.

3.3.3

SCS staff are not permitted to disclose the making of, the nature, or contents of a report to FACS or NSW Police, to any person outside of SCS Central and Regional Wellbeing, Child Protection and other relevant office personnel, without the permission of FACS and/or the NSW Police respectively.

3.3.4

To avoid any doubt, any reports to FACS or NSW Police are not to be disclosed in any circumstance to any student or parent. This includes the parents of the child about whom the concern has been raised. Any concerns around what, if any, information can be given to families involved must be discussed with FACS and/or the NSW Police prior to disclosure.

3.3.5

Ordinarily a staff member who raises a concern and a Principal/Director who reports the concern will maintain confidentiality and will not disclose the concern to any other staff member at the local level. The Principal/Director may determine that a concern needs to be disclosed to a particular school staff member in order to support the needs of the student at school (i.e. informing the class teacher or school counsellor). This disclosure will occur in consultation with the Student Wellbeing Team and/or the Child Protection & Professional Services Team.

3.4

Support for students

3.4.1

If a staff member identifies a concern in relation to the safety, welfare and/or wellbeing of a student, the student will be provided with access to appropriate supports which may include, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:

  • school level counselling where a local school counsellor is employed
  • regional Student Wellbeing Team support
  • referral to appropriate external support agencies for the student and/or family
  • risk assessment and/or
  • return to school plan, counselling support plan, or individual adjustment plan.

4.0 Procedures
4.1

Responsibilities of Principals/Managers/PGiA Leaders

4.1.1

Ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to protect student safety, welfare and wellbeing.

4.1.2

Notify NSW Police appropriately, of any concern raised in relation to a criminal offence or of any immediate threat.

4.1.3

Notify FACS appropriately, of any concern raised in relation to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a child or young person.

4.1.4

Ensure the school and staff comply with all mandatory reporting obligations.

4.1.5

Maintain appropriate records of any RoSH or police reports made.

4.1.6

Submit relevant records of ROSH and police reports to the SCS Child Protection & Professional Services Team.

4.1.7

Identify appropriate supports for students about whom concerns have been raised with regard to their safety, welfare and wellbeing.

4.2

Responsibilities of Parents

4.2.1

Parents must communicate fully with the school around any matters which pose a risk to the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a student.

4.2.2

Parents must not seek information from the school around any report to FACS or Police, but will instead communicate directly with those agencies.

4.2.3

Parents will engage positively with school, regional and central SCS staff to support a student, following any concern being raised around their safety, welfare and wellbeing, including in the development of individual student plans, medical and other assessments, counselling support and other recommendations.

4.2.4

Parents have a responsibility to work collaboratively and constructively with SCS in supporting the safety, welfare and wellbeing of all students.

4.2.5

Parents and carers enrolling their children with SCS accept on enrolment that SCS has reporting obligations for the safety and wellbeing of students and agree to respect and support SCS in meeting these obligations.

4.3

Responsibilities of Employees

4.3.1

Employees must report any concerns in relation to the safety, welfare and/or wellbeing of a child or young person to their Principal/Director or the most senior person on site.

4.3.2

Employees must keep all matters in relation to the safety, welfare and/or wellbeing of a child or young person confidential, with the exception of disclosing to their Principal/Director (or their delegate such as the Regional Consultant). Unreasonable disclosure of information to parents, students or other colleagues may have performance implications.

4.3.3

Employees must abide by this policy in relation to the immediate notification to the Principal/Director or appropriate delegate.

5.0 Bases of Discretion
5.1

Principals/Directors will determine whether a mandatory report needs to be made to FACS in relation to a concern consistent with this policy and the Mandatory Reporter Guide.

5.2

Principals/Directors will determine whether a report to the NSW Police needs to be made in relation to a concern consistent with this policy.

6.0 Explanatory Notes and Definitions
6.1

Child

Under the Children and Young Person (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW) a child is a person under the age of 16 years.

6.2

Young Person

Under the Children and Young Person (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW) a young person is a person aged 16 years of above but who is under the age of 18 years.

6.3

Child Abuse

Child Abuse includes, but is not limited to, the following:

6.3.1

Neglect

Child neglect is the continued failure by a parent or caregiver to provide a child with the basic things needed for his or her proper growth and development, such as food, clothing, shelter, education, medical and dental care and adequate supervision.

6.3.2

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is when someone involves a child or young person in a sexual activity by using their power over them or taking advantage of their trust.

Children or young people may be bribed or threatened physically and psychologically to make them participate in the activity.

6.3.3

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is a non-accidental injury or pattern of injuries to a child or young person caused by a parent, caregiver, or any other person.

It includes, but is not limited to, injuries which are caused by excessive discipline, severe beatings or shakings, cigarette burns, attempted strangulation and female genital mutilation.

Hitting a child or young person around the head or neck and/or using a stick, belt or other object to discipline or punish a child or young person (in a non-trivial way).

Injuries include bruising, lacerations or welts, burns, fractures or dislocation of joints.

6.3.4

Emotional abuse or psychological harm

Serious psychological harm can occur where the behaviour of a parent or caregiver damages the confidence and self-esteem of a child or young person, resulting in serious emotional disturbance or psychological trauma.

Although it is possible for ‘one-off’ incidents to cause serious harm, in general, it is the frequency, persistence and duration of the parental or carer behaviour that is instrumental in defining the consequences for the child or young person.

This can include a range of behaviours such as excessive criticism, withholding affection, exposure to domestic violence, intimidation or threatening behaviour.

6.4

Mandatory Reporters

Mandatory Reporters are defined under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW) to be persons who deliver services directly to children and young people. This includes all staff employed by SCS including those engaged in schools, central and regional offices, both lay staff and members of religious orders.

6.5

Significant Harm

Significant Harm can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • circumstances causing concern to a significant extent
  • sufficiently serious for statutory response
  • not minor or trivial
  • reasonable expectation of a substantial and demonstrably adverse impact on a child or young person’s safety, welfare or wellbeing.

‘Significance’ can relate to single act or omission or an accumulation, of the matters that require reporting. For example, a single act could be a report of a “one off” black eye from being punched in the face. Accumulation may be a report being made because there has been a number of unexplained bruising observed on a child who is also away a lot from school.

7.0 Supporting Documents
7.1

Related policies

7.2

Supporting documents

7.3

Legislation

8.0 Appendices

NIL

9.0 Classification
9.1

Policy Number:HR201619-1.1

9.2

Version: 1.1

Last modified: December 2016

This policy supersedes all previous policies relating to matters contained therein. In so much as any aspect of this policy may appear to be in conflict with another Archdiocesan system or school-based policy, then precedence is to be given to this policy.

9.3

Audience: Public

9.4

Review by: December 2018

9.5

Approved by Leadership Team: 3 November 2016

9.6

Endorsed by SACS Board: 30 November 2016

9.7

Approved by Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools: 9 December 2016

9.8

Commencement Date: 1 November 2016

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