National Child Safe Policy Framework Implementation Plan

What is the Child Safe Policy Framework?

The National Child Safe Policy Framework (the Framework) is a document that provides a framework within which the child safe policies of Uniting Church entities are to be developed or further evolved. The second iteration of the Framework takes into account the guidance of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, including its Creating Child Safe Institutions document, the report it commissioned from the University of NSW on the Key Elements of Child Safe Organisations and learnings from its published case studies and research. It also takes account of the experience of Uniting Church agencies in implementing the first framework and findings of recent inquiries.

The Framework has been endorsed by the Uniting Church Assembly Standing Committee.

To whom does it apply?

The policy Framework applies to all entities and individuals (staff and volunteers) associated with the Uniting Church in Australia who engage in child related services or activities. Entities of the Church include but are not limited to Congregations, Presbyteries, Synods, the Assembly, Agencies, Parish Missions, Institutions, childcare services, health services, camps and schools. The Framework will also be implemented by specific groups that are established to deliver programs which involve children. It will be implemented by board/council members, employees, volunteers, children, parents, carers, Presbytery members, Church council members, elders, congregation members, people in the specified ministries of the Church, and any other person with responsibility for the care of children.

‘Staff and volunteers’ refers to all relevant (according to the context in which it appears) persons, and may include board/council members, employees, volunteers, parents, carers, presbytery members, Church council members, elders, congregation members, people in the specified ministries of the Church, and any other person with responsibility for the care of children.

How does the Framework relate to existing policies in my organisation?

Most Uniting Church entities, including the Assembly, Synods, Presbyteries and Congregations, currently have in place or are subject to, policies, procedures, practices, auditing programs and training modules regarding child protection and safety. Agencies and schools also have mandated or legislated provisions under their accreditation and registration requirements.

It is expected that all Uniting Church entities will review their policies, practices, auditing programs and training modules for alignment with this Framework and to make the appropriate adjustments should those policies fall short of the expectations and standards set out in the Framework. This is particularly important as the revision of the Framework has been guided by the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Agencies and schools are expected or required to alter any policy or procedure that has been developed to comply with legislative, regulatory or contractual requirements, where the Church’s policy framework exceeds the legislative or other requirements.

Implementation

Implementation of the Framework will have several phases:

  • National launch – President and General Secretary
  • Establishment of National Child Safe Policy Framework Network to be chaired by Executive Officer
  • National dissemination – via General Secretaries, Chief Executive Officers and Principals
  • (TBD) Framework training seminars – to be conducted in by each Synod, agency and school – supported by the Executive Officer
  • Policy alignment and review – all Synods, Presbyteries, congregations and agencies to review existing policies against Framework
  • Policy adjustment – policies and procedures to be adjusted as necessary to align with Framework
  • Establishment of processes to involve children and families in policy consultation and review – if not already in place
  • Implementation confirmation – implementation checklist to be completed and submitted to Executive Officer
  • Ongoing training and awareness – an ongoing training schedule to be developed, if not already in place
  • Audit – the National Assembly will conduct annual self-audits of implementation
  • Evaluation – the National Assembly will evaluate the implementation process and incorporate any learnings

The tools to support implementation will include:

  • an Implementation Guide and Checklist
  • a Best Practice Guide to Involving Children and Families in Child Safe Policy Development
  • a National Child Safe Policy Framework website/intranet
  • the National Child Safe Policy Framework Network

There is also a list of supporting links to assist in implementing the Framework.

In addition, the results of audits and evaluations will be communicated nationally and will inform annual reviews of the Framework.

Ideally, in the longer term, there will be a national software program to support implementation, training and review.

National Child Safe Policy Framework Network

A Framework Network should be established to help keep the Framework ‘live’ across the Church. Its membership should comprise staff responsible for child safety or safe church policies and procedures from Synods. The group would collaborate with the CYPF (UnitingCare Australia) network and other stakeholders as appropriate. It should be chaired by the NTG Executive Officer and should serve as both a review body and an information sharing forum to share implementation insights, challenges and opportunities. The Network should report to the NTG.

Framework website/intranet

A Framework intranet should be established to include the Framework, training materials, information updates, advice from the Royal Commission and messages from the President, General Secretary, Network and Executive Officer. It should include live streaming and a downloadable training video.

Policy review and adjustment

The Assembly, all Synods, Presbyteries, congregations, agencies and schools should review their policies for alignment with the Framework and make any necessary adjustments. Any changes should be advised to the Executive Officer as part of the implementation checklist.

Establishment of processes to involve children and families in policy design and review

The National Assembly will produce and disseminate a best practice guide to engaging children and families in policy consultation and review. The involvement of children and families in decisions that affect them was a key element of the Royal Commission’s Creating Child Safe Institutions, and audits and surveys to date indicate that not all Uniting Church organisations have policies and procedures in place to achieve this.

Implementation confirmation

The National Assembly has developed an implementation checklist to be completed by all Synods, Presbyteries, congregations, agencies and schools and submitted to the Executive Officer.

Audit

The National Assembly will conduct annual self-audits of implementation and will use the results to guide the further development of the Framework.

Evaluation

The National Assembly will evaluate the implementation process and incorporate any learnings in Framework updates, the website/intranet and implementation guides for future roll-outs.