Child Safety in Church Organisations: What’s Changing in 2023?March 6, 2023 - 5 minutes read
Organisations found in breach of child safety standards could face extra site inspections and stiffer penalties from January 2023. Find out about these changes and what you should do next.
In 2022, the Victorian government updated the state-wide child safety standards to further strengthen child safety within organisations.
11 new standards were implemented. These changes brought the state standards into greater alignment with the Australia-wide principles for child-safe organisations.
Victorian organisations working with children and subject to the Reportable Conduct Scheme were obligated to comply with the new standards by the start of July 2022.
For more detail on the updated standards, see our previous post.
What types of conduct are reportable under the Scheme?
There are five types of conduct that you must respond to under the Reportable Conduct Scheme. These are – sexual offences, sexual misconduct, physical violence, behaviours that cause psychological harm or distress, and significant child neglect.
If a complaint or allegation of misconduct is received, you must do the following:
- Thoroughly investigate the complaint.
- Notify the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) of the allegation within 3 business days of becoming aware of it.
- Report the event to the Victoria Police if you suspect a criminal offence.
- Provide detailed information about the allegation to the CCYP within 30 days.
- Notify the CCYP of investigation findings.
Changes for the new year
From January 2023, organisations could face stronger penalties for non-compliance with the standards or for failing to report than before.
The CCYP also now has extra powers to inspect organisations, check for non-compliance, and take action if deemed necessary.
What penalties could you face?
This depends on the situation, but it may involve civil or criminal proceedings and/or fines of over $20,000.
In addition, new criminal offences were introduced in January regarding misleading information or failure to provide assistance to authorised officers.
CCYP’s enhanced powers
Under the Reportable Conduct Scheme, the CCYP has a number of existing powers around receiving allegations, assessing and monitoring an organisation, and investigating complaints.
However, additional powers have been granted from 2023. This includes new enforcement actions, and authority to enter premises without notice and search for and seize information or documents. Entering premises may require consent or a warrant in some instances but not in others, depending on the case.
What your church should do to improve child safety in 2023
1. Determine who is the head of the organisation
This is likely to be the CEO or principal officer, or in some cases another nominated person.
The organisational head is responsible for responding to and reporting allegations, investigating complaints, reporting findings, and ensuring systems are in place for abuse prevention.
2. Continue implementing the 11 child safe standards
Our previous article provides more information on how to do this along with some practical examples.
3. Learn when and how to report allegations
Get to know and understand the types of misconduct that are reportable. If you do need to lodge a report, use the online form provided by the CCYP as soon as you become aware of an allegation or complaint.
The CCYP has a number of resources to guide you in these matters. See under ‘Links and Resources’ below.
Note: if you are uncertain whether a particular behaviour that has occurred is reportable or not, contact the CCYP.
4. Join ChildSafe
ChildSafe provides help and support to churches for managing all aspects of child safety. Find out more about the ChildSafe organisation here. Note that ChildSafe membership is free for all our CCI-insured members.
5. Keep your insurance cover up to date
For financial protection, your liability insurance should be continuously maintained.
Got questions? Get in touch!
For more info on child safety risk management or to discuss your insurance policy, please get in touch with our insurance team.
Links and Resources
- Summary of the Reportable Conduct Scheme
- 2023 changes – stronger penalties for non-compliance
- What is Reportable Conduct? – information sheet
- Responsibilities of the organisational head – information sheet
- Online form for reporting
- Link to our articles on child and youth safety
Written by Tess OliverTags: children, childsafe