From 1 July 2017, a new reportable conduct scheme will commence in Victoria. It will require prescribed organisations to centrally report allegations of child abuse and misconduct towards children, which have been made against their employees or volunteers, to the Commission for Children and Young People.
If you are interested in further information, we will be conducting a 1.5-hour training session at our Melbourne Worklogic office to explore the requirements of the new scheme, with a focus on:
- What these changes mean for you: risk, compliance, culture and response
- Tips and traps for ensuring you cover off on this new law
- Stepping through a hypothetical: and what lessons you can learn now
Who does the scheme cover?
In its first year, it will apply to the following organisations, which have been identified as having a high level of responsibility for children:
- Government and non-government schools.
- Organisations registered or accredited to provide senior secondary education and training.
- Registered overseas student exchange organisations.
- Registered schools and senior secondary providers that provide approved education and training courses to students from overseas.
- Disability service providers that provides residential services for children with a disability.
- Mental health service providers that provides in-patient beds for children and young people.
- Drug or alcohol treatment services that provide in-patient beds for children and young people.
- Housing or homelessness services that provides overnight beds for children and young people, such as youth refuges.
- Child protection services.
- Out-of-home care services.
- Government departments providing services to children (including youth justice and corrective services).
The scope of the scheme will be expanded to cover further organisations working with children over the next 2 years.
What does the scheme require your organisation to do?
You must have appropriate processes in place to report allegations against workers or volunteers which involve child abuse of misconduct against children.
This means that if your organisation becomes aware of allegations of reportable conduct you must ensure that:
- A person in a relevant position of authority is made aware of the allegations.
- You have procedures in place to report the allegations to the Commission for Children and Young People.
- There is an appropriate investigation of the allegations.
- Any findings and reasons for the outcome of an investigation is reported to the Commission for Children and Young People.
These requirements are in addition to your existing obligations to report criminal conduct to Victoria Police and participate in police investigations.
Practical tips to ensure you’re prepared
- Review your existing policies and procedures
The introduction of the new scheme provides a timely reminder to review your existing misconduct and employee behavioural policies to ensure that there are clear and accessible processes in place for staff, volunteers, children, carers and anyone else with concerns about inappropriate conduct involving children to raise these. It’s also an excellent time to review your complaints processes more broadly to ensure these are current and effective.
- Ensure your staff have a strong understanding of how to conduct an effective procedurally fair and legally sound investigation
The requirement to report on the outcome and findings of the investigation into any reportable conduct highlights the fundamental importance of having the means to conduct robust and defensible investigations.
You should review your internal capacity to undertake investigations into the type of sensitive matters covered by the scheme and consider whether your staff require training on how to undertake this work to ensure that all investigations are procedurally fair and legally sound.
You should also think about the circumstances in which it may be to appoint an external investigator.
- Communicate the commencement of the scheme with your staff.
The commencement of the scheme needs to be communicated to your staff and volunteers. Think about how best to make your staff aware of it. Depending on the size and nature of your organisation, an email bulletin, followed by a discussion at team meetings may be best. Alternatively, you could use briefings on the scheme as an opportunity to provide your staff and volunteers with more extensive refresher training on their general obligations to report and respond to inappropriate and unlawful behaviour in the workplace.