Type: Policy
Classification: Operational
Policy Number: SCS2023024
Version: 1.0
Released:  31 July 2023
Rescinds/Replaces: SPG202003

Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) is committed to provide a safe and supportive environment for all students in our care.

The purpose of this policy is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and to comply with our legislative responsibilities, while supporting our staff working with children (0-15 years) and young people (16-17 years) and students over 18 years in our educational context.

This policy sets out the process to be followed in response to child protection complaints and/or allegations being made against SCS staff, having regard to the particular facts of each individual case.

For the purposes of this policy, a complaint or allegation is considered to be any issue raised regarding the conduct of an SCS staff member in relation to children or young people, where such conduct is considered to be of a nature which may constitute reportable conduct in accordance with the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 (NSW) (the Act).

This policy applies to all SCS staff.All SCS staff are deemed to be engaged in child related work and this policy applies to:

  • all employees of SCS, whether or not they are employed in connection with work or activities that relate to children in a paid or volunteer capacity
  • any person engaged by SCS to provide services to children and young people
  • all Religious and clergy, whether employed, on stipend, or in a volunteer capacity, who are engaged in the workplace or engaged in activities that relate to children.

The following principles guide the way in which the investigation process is conducted:

3.1  All investigations into complaints about SCS staff must be handled carefully and sensitively

3.2  Independence, objectivity and impartiality during the investigation process must be ensured.

3.3  Care and support should be provided for all parties to a complaint, including children and young people, SCS staff, the subject of the complaint, family members or carers, and potentially any witnesses called upon to participate in an investigation process.

3.4  SCS staff who are subject of a complaint have the right to know what has been alleged in sufficient detail for them to respond, and the right to respond to any complaint or adverse comments made against them.

3.5  Any conflicts of interests, be they actual, potential or perceived, must be identified and managed appropriately, in accordance with the SCS Conflict of Interest Policy, to reduce any adverse impacts on an investigation, or on the parties involved in the investigation of a complaint.

3.6  All parties to a complaint have a right to confidentiality and will be informed of the restrictions on sharing information that is required for the investigation. Confidentiality does not restrict SCS staff from obtaining professional advice, as required.

3.7  The investigation process must incorporate ongoing risk assessment to ensure the safety of children is paramount throughout the investigation. Initial assessment of risk is conducted with information known at the time and adjusted as necessary when new information is received.

3.8  A report made to the NSW Police and/or NSW Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) does not remove the requirement for an internal investigation to be undertaken at the appropriate time.

4.1 Assessment

The first step in an investigation is to assess the nature of the complaint and undertake an initial Risk Assessment. A determination is to be made by SCS Child Safety team as to whether the alleged conduct amounts to ‘Reportable Conduct’ in accordance with the Act or may be a breach of SCS policies and procedures.

Reportable Conduct is defined as:

  • any sexual offence or sexual misconduct committed against, with, or in the presence of a child (including child pornography offences) whether or not, in any case, with the consent of the child.
  • any assault, ill-treatment, or neglect of a child
  • any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child.

An exempt allegation refers to conduct involving low level physical contact that is not required to be reported to the Office of Children’s Guardian (OCG), including:

  • conduct that is reasonable for the purposes of the discipline, management or care of children, having regard to the age, maturity, health or other characteristics of the child, and to any relevant codes of conduct or professional standards (such as the SCS Code of Professional Conduct)
  • the use of physical force that is trivial and negligible, but only if the matter is to be investigated and the result of the investigation recorded under workplace employment procedures.

The outcome of the Initial Risk Assessment will determine whether a recommendation is made by the Manager, Child Safety to the Director, People and Culture to approve that an employee who is subject of the complaint be stood down or restricted in duties while the investigation process takes place.

4.2 Notification to OCG

All allegations of Reportable Conduct are to be notified to the OCG within 7 days of SCS becoming aware of the complaint. The OCG will oversee the investigation and a Final Report will be provided on the process and findings. The OCG will review the file and advise SCS whether or not it is satisfied with the process prior to closing the matter.

4.3 Investigation

The investigation process will involve SCS making reasonable inquiries into the allegation/s by an impartial and appropriately trained investigator. Where appropriate, and at the discretion of the Director, Governance & Legal, the process will include:

  • the child or young person subject of the complaint is interviewed and relevant parent/carer consent is obtained
  • the SCS staff member who is the subject of the complaint is given reasonable notice of the complaint and its nature
  • relevant witnesses are interviewed
  • relevant documents, e-communications or other items of evidence are obtained
  • full details of the allegation(s) are put to the staff member who is the subject of the complaint, in writing, and the staff member is given an opportunity to respond (in writing and/or in person).

4.4 Outcome

At the conclusion of the process, the investigator will make findings for each of the allegations arising from the complaint. The findings are based on the Civil Standard of Proof – ie an allegation is considered sustained if the investigator is satisfied that it has been proven on the balance of probabilities, and supported by evidence.

Acceptance of the investigator’s findings will be determined by the relevant SCS staff in consultation with the Manager: Child Safety.

The Child Safety Team will ensure that all appropriate action is taken in relation to findings, including referring matters to the People and Culture directorate where sustained findings may lead to disciplinary action for misconduct.

5.1 Child Safety Team

5.1.1  Manage investigations into all allegations of a child protection nature, specifically related to the actions of SCS staff, and ensure that all appropriate action is taken in relation to findings.

5.1.2   Assess the risks associated with the alleged conduct. Following a risk assessment an assessment and recommendation may be made to the Director: People & Culture in relation to changes to an SCS staff member’s work status and/or arrangements.

5.1.3  Advise SCS staff under investigation for a child protection allegation of support options available to them.

5.1.4  Ensure that a fair and transparent process for managing all complaints or allegations is in place, operating with procedural fairness in situations where a decision made could have a detrimental impact on the rights and interests of an individual.

5.1.5  Make a report to:

  • NSW Police (or appropriate alternative if allegation arises in another State, Territory or jurisdiction), if the child protection allegation is of a criminal
  • DCJ regarding allegations where a child or young person is at Risk
    of Significant Harm (ROSH) in accordance with the Child Protection
    Policy:Mandatory Reporting Obligations.

5.1.6  Make a report to the OCG regarding certain allegations or convictions of a child protection nature made against employees under the Reportable Conduct Scheme. SCS is required to notify the OCG of reportable conduct within 7 business days from the Head of Entity (SCS Executive Director) receiving the information and submit an interim or final report on the subsequent investigation within 30 business days.

5.1.7  Make a report to OCG on the names of SCS staff for whom it has completed relevant employment proceedings.

5.1.8  Retain investigation records of all child protection related incidents and allegations for a minimum of 45 years.

5.1.9  Submit a monthly report to the SCS Executive Director as Head of Entity,of all matters falling within the OCG jurisdiction.

5.2  SCS staff

5.2.1  Maintain the care and protection of children and young people as paramount.

5.2.2  Support the right of students, parents and other employees to bring forward complaints or allegations and to be heard without fear of reprisal.

5.2.3  Maintain their understanding and awareness of their child safety obligations including to report inappropriate conduct involving a child or young person, the required standards of behaviour and the correct procedure for managing complaints.

5.2.4  Complete all mandatory training requirements on a timely basis.

5.2.5  School leaders are required to provide support and guidance to SCS staff in maintaining professional standards related to relationships with students.

If you have any questions about this enquiries about the requirements above, please contact the Child Safety Team via on (02) 9568 8298 or via email: child.protection@syd.catholic.edu.au.

• Policy Number: SCS2023024
• Document Rescinds / Replaces: SPG202003
• Date Released: 31 July 2023
• Review Date: 31 July 2025
• Policy Type: Operational
• Audience: Public
• Approved by: Executive Director
• Document Owner: Director: Governance & Legal