Mandatory Reporting Policy and Procedures

Date: September, 2017

 

DEFINITION:

 

 The Victorian Government is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all children and young people. As part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Betrayal of Trust report, which found that more must be done to prevent and respond to child abuse in our community, there is a new regulatory landscape surrounding child safety, underpinned by the new PROTECT Child Safe Standards.

The Child Safe Standards are compulsory minimum standards for all Victorian early childhood services and schools, to ensure they are well prepared to protect children from abuse and neglect.

Rationale:

 

To thrive, children need a safe and supportive environment at school, at home and in the broader community; no exceptions.  At Merriang SDS, we believe meeting the physical and emotional needs of our student is paramount in laying the foundations for a fulfilling future.  We pledge to provide an environment that has zero tolerance of child abuse and will strive to work in partnership with our parents and community members to keep our students safe every day in every way.

Ministerial Order No. 870 – “Child Safe Standards – Managing the risk of child abuse in schools” outlines minimum child safety standards, which all schools must adopt I their commitment to zero tolerance of child abuse. 

Child abuse, in its broadest form includes:

  • Any act committed against a child involving:

- A sexual offence; or

- An offence under section 49B(2) of the Crimes Act 1958 (grooming): and

  • The infliction, on a child of:
  • - Physical violence; or
  • - Serious emotional or psychological harm; and
  • Serious neglect of a child.

 

 

Aims:

To define the roles and responsibilities of school staff in protecting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people and are able to:

  • identify indicators that a child or young person who may be in need of protection
  • make a report of a child or young person who may be in need of protection.
  • Comply with reporting obligations under child protection law and criminal law.

 

Implementation:

Mandatory reporters, who believe on reasonable grounds that a child or young person is in need of protection from physical injury or sexual abuse, must report their concerns to Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Protection.

All other school staff who believe on reasonable grounds that a child or young person is in need of:

  • protection, are encouraged to report their concerns to DHS Child Protection or Victoria Police.
  • therapeutic treatment are encouraged to report their concerns to DHS Child Protection.
  • If staff have significant concerns for the wellbeing of a child or young person they are encouraged to report their concerns to DHS Child Protection or Child FIRST.

 

In cases where staff have concerns about a child or young person, they should discuss their concerns with the principal or a member of the school leadership team.

 

Reporting criminal child abuse

Any staff member who forms a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child under 16 must disclose that information to police. Failure to disclose the information to police is a criminal offence, except in limited circumstances such as where the information has already been reported to DHS Child Protection.

 

The offence applies to all adults in Victoria, not just professionals who work with children. To read more information about the ‘failure to disclose’ offence, see: Department of Justice – Failure to disclose offence

 

Duty of care

All staff have a duty of care to protect the safety, health and wellbeing of children in their care. If a staff member has concerns about the safety, health and wellbeing of children in their care it is important to take immediate action.

In the case of a child who may be in need of protection or therapeutic treatment, or where there are significant concerns about the wellbeing of a child, school staff can discharge this duty of care by taking action, which includes the following:

• reporting their concerns to the DHS Child Protection or another appropriate agency (as identified above)

• notifying the principal or a member of the school leadership team of their concerns and the reasons for those concerns.

 

Forming a 'reasonable belief’

A ‘reasonable belief’ or a ‘belief on reasonable grounds’ is not the same as having proof but is more than mere rumour or speculation.

A ‘reasonable belief’ is formed if a reasonable person in the same position would have formed the belief on the same grounds. For example, a ‘reasonable belief’ might be formed if:

• a child states that they have been physically or sexually abused

• a child states that they know someone who has been physically or sexually abused (sometimes the child may be talking about themselves)

• someone who knows a child states that the child has been physically or sexually abused

• professional observations of the child’s behaviour or development leads a professional to form a belief that the child has been physically or sexually abused or is likely to be abused

• signs of abuse lead to a belief that the child has been physically or sexually abused.

 

 

When to Report

The following table sets out when to report a concern that a child or a young person has been abused,

or is in need of protection.

 

The following table sets out when to report a concern that a child or a young person has been abused,

 or is in need of protection.

 

 

 

Type of Reporting

By Whom

To Whom

 

Mandatory Reporting - DHS Child Protection

 

Mandatory reporters must make a report as soon as practicable if, in the course of practising their profession or carrying out their duties, they form a belief on reasonable grounds that a child or young person is in need of protection, as a result of physical injury or sexual abuse, and the child’s parents are unable or unwilling to protect the child.

 

 

 

Mandatory reporters

Teachers registered to teach or who have permission to teach pursuant to the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic)

Principals of government and non-government schools

Registered medical practitioners

Nurses

All members of the police force

 

 

 

DHS Child Protection

 

 

Child in need of protection

 

Any person may make a report if they believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection for any of the following reasons:

The child has been abandoned and there is no other suitable person who is willing and able to care for the child.

The child’s parents are dead or incapacitated and there is no other suitable person who is willing and able to care for the child.

The child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of physical injury and the parents are unable or unwilling to protect the child.

The child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of sexual abuse and their parents are unable or unwilling to protect the child.

The child has suffered or is likely to suffer emotional or psychological harm and the parents are unable or unwilling to protect the child.

The child’s physical development or health has been, or is likely to be significantly harmed and the parents are unable or unwilling to provide basic care, or effective medical or other remedial care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DHS Child Protection

Victoria Police

 

Child in need of therapeutic treatment

 

Any person may make a report if they believe on reasonable grounds that a child who is 10 years of age or over, but under 15 years of age, is in need of therapeutic treatment because he or she has exhibited sexually-abusive behaviours.

 

 

 

 

Any person

 

 

 

DHS Child Protection

 

Leadership team

 

Significant concerns about wellbeing of a child

 

Any person may make a report if they have significant concerns for the wellbeing of a child.

 

 

Any person

 

 

DHS Child Protection

 

Child FIRST

 

Leadership team

 

Reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed by an adult against a child under 16.

 

Any adult who forms a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child under 16 must report that information to police.

You will not be guilty of an offence if you do not report in the following circumstances:

The victim is 16 years of age or older

and does not have an intellectual disability that limits his/her capacity to make an informed decision; and he/she does not want the information reported to the police.

 

The victim has disclosed the information in confidence in the course of a therapeutic relationship with you as a registered medical practitioner or counsellor.

 

The victim turned 16 years of age before 27 October 2014

 

Reasonable excuses for failing to comply with the requirement include:

 

a reasonable belief that the information has already been reported to police or DHS Child Protection disclosing all of the information.

 a reasonable fear that the disclosure will place someone (other than the alleged perpetrator) at risk of harm.

 

 

 

 

 

Any person aged 18 or over

 

 

 

 

Victoria Police

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making a report

 

This table describes how to make a mandatory report, to report child abuse or child protection concerns.

 

Step

Description

 

1

In case of emergency or if a child is in immediate danger contact Triple Zero (000) or the local police station.

Alternatively, to report concerns about the immediate safety of a child within their family unit to DHS Child Protection, call the Child Protection Crisis Line on 13 12 78 (24 hours 7 days, toll free)

 

2

Keep comprehensive notes that are dated and include the following information:

• a description of the concerns (e.g. physical injuries, student behaviour)

• the source of those concerns (e.g. observation, report from child or another person)

• the actions taken as a result of the concerns (e.g. consultation with principal, report to DHS Child Protection etc.).

 

 

3

Discuss any concerns about the safety and wellbeing of students with the principal or a member of the school leadership team. The individual staff member should then make their own assessment about whether they should make a report about the child or young person and to whom the report should be made.

 

4

Gather the relevant information necessary to make the report. This should include the following information:

• full name, date of birth, and residential address of the child or young person

• the details of the concerns and the reasons for those concerns

• the individual staff member’s involvement with the child and young person

• details of any other agencies who may be involved with the child or young person.

 

5

Make a report to the relevant agency

To report concerns that are life threatening phone 000 or the local police station.

To find the nearest Victoria Police Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team contact your local police station or click here

To report concerns about the immediate safety of a child within their family unit to DHS Child Protection, call the Child Protection Crisis Line on 13 12 78 (24 hrs 7 days, toll free)

To report concerns to DHS Child Protection, contact your local child protection office

6

Make a written record of the report which includes the following information:

• the date and time of the report and a summary of what was reported

• the name and position of the person who made the report and the person who received the report.

 

7

Notify relevant staff and/or Department staff of a report to DHS Child Protection or Child FIRST.  Staff should advise the principal or a member of the leadership team if they have made a report.

In the case of international students, the principal must notify the Department's International Education Division on (03) 9637 2990 to ensure that appropriate support is arranged for the student.

In the case of Koorie students, the principal must notify the Regional Office to ensure that the regional Koorie support officer can arrange appropriate support for the student.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potential consequences of making a report

 

This table describes the potential consequences of making a report.

 

Potential consequence

 

Description

Confidentiality

The identity of a reporter must remain confidential unless:

• the reporter chooses to inform the child, young person or parent of the report.

• the reporter consents in writing to their identity being disclosed.

• a Court or Tribunal decides that it necessary for the identity of the reporter to be disclosed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child.

• a Court or Tribunal decides that, in the interests of justice, the reporter is required to provide evidence.

 

 

Professional Protection

If a report is made in good faith:

• it does not constitute unprofessional conduct or a breach of professional ethics on the part of the reporter.

• the reporter cannot be held legally liable in respect of the report.

 

Interviews

DHS Child Protection and/or Victoria Police may conduct interviews of children and young people at the school without the parent’s knowledge or consent.

Interviewing children and young people at school should only occur in exceptional circumstances and if it is in the best interests of the child to proceed in this manner.

 

DHS Child Protection and/or Victoria Police will notify the principal or a member of the leadership team of their intention to interview the child or young person on the school premises.

When DHS Child Protection practitioners/Victoria Police officers come to the school premises, the principal or a member of the leadership team should request to see identification before permitting them to have access to the child or young person

.

When a child or young person is being interviewed by DHS Child Protection and/or Victoria Police, school staff must arrange to have a supportive adult present with the child or young person.

For more information on these requests and school responsibilities, see: Police and DHS Interviews

 

Support for the child or young person.

The roles and responsibilities of staff members in supporting children who are involved with DHS Child

Protection may include the following:

• acting as a support person for the child or young person

• attending DHS Child Protection case planning meetings

• observing and monitoring the child’s behaviour

• liaising with professionals.

 

Requests for information.

DHS Child Protection and/or Child FIRST and/or Victoria Police may request information about the child or family for the purpose of investigating a report and assessing the risk to the child or young person.

 

In certain circumstances, DHS Child Protection can also direct school staff and Department staff to provide information or documents about the protection or development of the child.

Such directions should be in writing and only be made by authorised persons within DHS Child Protection, see: Requests for Information About Students

Witness Summons

If DHS Child Protection makes a Protection Application in the Children’s Court of Victoria, any party to the application may issue a Witness Summons to produce documents and/or to give evidence in the proceedings, see: Subpoenas and Witness Summonses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources/Guidelines

 

 Related policies

Duty of care

Police and DHS Interviews

Responding to Student Sexual Assault

Requests for Information about Students

Subpoenas and Witness Summonses

 

Related legislation

• Children, Youth and Families Act 2005

• Crimes Act 1958

• Education and Training Reform Act 2006

• Victorian Institute of Teaching Act 2001

 

Department resources

 PROTECT – Child Safe Standards

• Flowchart: A step-by-step guide to making a report to Child Protection or Child FIRST (PDF - 270Kb)

Protecting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people

Mandatory Reporting eLearning Module

 

Department of Human Services:

o Child Protection

o Child FIRST

Victoria Police Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCIT)

 

Department of Justice:

o Failure to disclose offence

 

Mandated staff members

A broad range of professional groups are identified in the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA) as mandatory reporters. Mandated staff members must make a report to Child Protection as soon as practicable after forming a belief on reasonable grounds that a child or young person is in need of protection from significant harm as a result of physical injury or sexual abuse, and the child’s parents are unable or unwilling to protect the child.

 

Non-mandated staff members

Section 183 of the CYFA states that any person, who believes on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection, may report their concerns to Child Protection. This means that any person, including non-mandated school staff, is able to make a report to Child Protection when they believe that a child or young person is at risk of harm and in need of protection, and the child’s parents are unable or unwilling to protect the child.

•ESO’s are NOT REQUIRED by law to report to the DHS regarding disclosures of abuse.

•ESO’s are ETHICALLY REQUIRED to report if they have a concern regarding a student.

•ESO’s are REQUIRED to report to the class teacher of the student who disclosed.

•ESO’s are REQUIRED to report to a member of leadership or wellbeing of their concerns.

•ESO’s are REQUIRED to speak to a member of staff rather than email. Staff are not to leave the campus until the concern has been followed up.

 

Forming a belief on reasonable grounds

A person may form a belief on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection after becoming aware that a child or young person’s health, safety or wellbeing is at risk and the child’s parents are unwilling or unable to protect the child.

There may be reasonable grounds for forming such a belief if:

• a child or young person states that they have been physically or sexually abused

• a child or young person states that they know someone who has been physically or sexually abused (sometimes the child may be talking about themselves)

• someone who knows the child or young person states that the child or young person has been physically or sexually abused

• a child shows signs of being physically or sexually abused.

• the staff member is aware of persistent family violence or parental substance misuse, psychiatric illness or intellectual disability that is impacting on the child or young person’s safety, stability or development

• the staff member observes signs or indicators of abuse, including non-accidental or unexplained injury, persistent neglect, poor care or lack of appropriate supervision

• a child’s actions or behaviour may place them at risk of significant harm and the child’s

• parents are unwilling or unable to protect the child.

 

 Protecting the identity of the reporter

Confidentiality is provided for reporters under the CYFA. The CYFA prevents disclosure of the name or any information likely to lead to the identification of a person who has made a report in accordance with legislation, except in specific circumstances.

The identity of a reporter must remain confidential unless:

• the reporter chooses to inform the child, young person or family of the report

• the reporter consents in writing to their identity being disclosed

• a court or tribunal decides that it is necessary for the identity of the reporter to be disclosed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child

• a court or tribunal decides that, in the interests of justice, the reporter is required to attend court to provide evidence.

 

Evaluation:

 

 

This policy to be reviewed as part of the school’s three year review cycle, or more often if necessary due to changes in regulations or guidelines.

 

 

Ratified School Council:          September 2017

Review date:                           September 2020