Child Protection Policy - Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is a Child Protection Policy?
A child protection policy is a guide for organisations and their staff to know how to keep children in their care safe.
It is a tool that protects both children and staff by clearly defining what action is required in order to keep children safe, and ensuring a consistency of behaviour so that all staff follow the same process. It provides a structure of responsibility and identifies the action that staff should take if they have concerns. It is a source of information that staff can refer to and be reassured by - protecting both children and staff.
A child protection policy also demonstrates an organisation's commitment to children and ensures public confidence in it's safe practices.
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 states that all government-funded or contracted organisations must have a child protection policy.
Q. Why is it important to have a Child Protection Policy?
Keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility. Organisations and professionals who work with children are required to ensure that their policies and practices reflect this responsibility.
Organisations without an effective child protection policy are very vulnerable should an incident occur without clear guidelines on how to respond. Children, staff and organisations are all at risk when there is no consistency of behaviour, no clear way of identifying concerns, and a lack of clear guidance on what should happen next.
Without the guidelines of a child protection policy, staff may unintentionally put themselves in situations where they respond to concerns for a child with good intent, but may make unsafe decisions that put the safety and wellbeing of the child at risk.
Q. What should a Child Protection Policy cover?
The Vulnerable Children Act stipulates that child protection policies must be in written form and include information on the identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect.
As a basic guide, an organisation's child protection policy should include:
- Clearly defined requirements to keep children and staff safe
- Clear ways of identifying concerns
- Appropriate procedures should a concern arise
- Guidelines for reporting and recording concerns
- Recruitment guidelines including screening and vetting procedures for both paid and unpaid staff
- Safe working practices and agreed staff behaviours
- Child protection training for all adults working with children
Q. What guidance and resources are available to support organisations?
The Child Matters' publication 'Creating a Safe Organisation' provides an in-depth, step-by-step approach to reviewing, developing and implementing an effective child protection policy.
Further information is also available on the Children's Action Plan website
Q. Who is responsible for Child Protection within an organisation?
It is recommended that each school, organisation and service has a Designated Person for Child Protection or a Child Protection Champion who has the responsibility for child protection.
For more information see the 'Designated Person for Child Protection' factsheet.
Q. What training should be included in a Child Protection Policy?
Organisations should ensure their members of staff, paid and voluntary, are trained to recognise child abuse. Training should enable staff to:
• Identify when children are at risk
• Take effective preventive action
• Respond in the most appropriate way to children who are suspected of being abused
• Report their concerns appropriately
• Support children, staff and family members or whānau
• Recognise their responsibilities about suspected unsafe practice or possible abuse.
It is recommended that all staff who work with children should have a basic awareness of how to recognise and respond to vulnerability and abuse
The Designated Person for Child Protection, as a source of guidance and support for staff, should have a deeper knowledge of child protection. Suitable training may be the Child Protection Studies Programme or Diploma.
Q. What does the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 say about Child Protection Policies?
Selected Government agencies including Ministries of Education, Health, Justice, Social Development and NZ Police are now jointly accountable for working together to protect vulnerable children and improve their wellbeing.
These agencies (and all providers they contract to deliver children’s services) must have child protection policies that guide staff to identify and report child abuse and neglect. The new policies will directly affect frontline staff in the way that they work, and must be reviewed every three years.
Further information is also available on the Children's Action Plan website
Q. Who does the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 apply to?
This Act covers all government agencies from the Ministries of Business, Innovation and Employment; Justice; Health; Education; Police; Social Development; and Te Puni Kokiri. Also included under the Act are District Health Boards and School Boards.
Other than those agencies identified above, the requirement to comply with this legislation by any other NGO, business, community or volunteer organisation is voluntary, unless they are contracted or funded by one of the above agencies to deliver children’s services. It is expected that many will take part so that they are seen to hold the same high standards.
Q. How long do schools or organisations have to become compliant with the Act?
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 became legislation on 1st July 2014. Agencies are expected to become compliant ‘as soon as is practicable’. The one exception to this is in regard to schools which have two years to become compliant with the Act.
Q. Who is a 'Childrens Worker'? What is a 'Core Worker' and a 'Non-Core Worker'
Core children’s workers work alone with children, or have primary responsibility for, or control over, them. Examples of roles that may meet this definition are doctors, teachers, nurses, paediatricians, youth counsellors and social workers.
Non-core children’s workers are workers who have regular or overnight contact with children, without a parent or guardian being present. Examples of roles that may meet this definition are: non-teaching school workers, general hospital workers and many social and health workers.
Q. When do safety checks need to be completed?
- From 1 July 2015 new core children’s workers starting a job or contract must be safety checked before they start work.
- From 1 July 2016 new non-core children’s workers starting a job or contract must have been safety checked before they start work.
- By 1 July 2018 existing children’s core workers (i.e., those currently employed or contracted) must have been safety checked.
- By 1 July 2019 all existing non-core children’s workers must have been safety checked.
Q. Who does not need to be safety checked?
The new requirements don’t apply to volunteers, unless the volunteering is part of an educational or vocational training course (e.g. a student teacher at a school as part of an education qualification).
Businesses, unfunded non-government organisations, and voluntary organisations are encouraged to adopt the new standards voluntarily.
Q. What about self-employed Children's Workers?
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 applies to some, but not all, self-employed persons or sole practitioners:
- If they are contracted by a State service, then they will need to be safety checked by that State service if they fall within the definition of a children’s worker.
- Similarly, if they are contracted by an organisation that receives funding from a State service to provide regulated activities, the funded organisation will be required to ensure that safety checking is done.
Q. What are workforce restrictions?
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 includes the Workforce Restriction, which prohibits the employment of people with certain serious criminal convictions as core children’s workers, unless they hold a Core Worker Exemption.
Q. What is a Core Worker Exemption?
The Core Worker Exemption lifts the prohibition set out in the workforce restriction. Holding a Core Worker Exemption means it is no longer against the law to employ that person as a core children’s worker.
Child Protection Policy - Fact Sheets
Vulnerable Children Act 2014 - read the Vulnerable Children Act in full
'Creating a Safe Organisation' - Child Matters' guide to developing child protection policies and safe working practices
Sharing personal information of families and vulnerable children - a guide developed by the Privacy Commission
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