Child Safe Principles

The Synod of NSW and The ACT have a commitment to child safety and to implementing the Child Safe Principles across all entities within NSW and the ACT. We have a zero tolerance for all forms of child abuse and will do everything in our power to safeguard children from abuse.

The Synod Commitment to Child Safety Statement can be found here. It is important that Church Councils and leaders understand their responsibilities with respect to child protection and the creation and maintenance of a child safe culture and to compliance with the Synod Safe church policies and guidelines.

The UCA Child Safe Principles were developed by the UCA National Safe Church Unit as a response to recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual abuse. Similar Standards are likely to become law in NSW in 2021. The Synod of NSW and the ACT has adopted the National Child Safe Framework which includes implementation of the 10 Child Safe Principles by all entities within the UCA.

Synod bodies with their own specific-child safe policies should work to meet the relevant Child Safe Principles or Standards applicable to their organisation. The following information has been put together to assist congregations to address the Child Safe Principles.

The purpose of the principles (or the standards) is for Synod entities to establish systems and to create a culture which promotes child well-being and prevents harm. This includes measures to;

  • create an environment where children’s safety and wellbeing is the centre of thought, values and actions
  • place emphasis on genuine engagement with, and valuing of children
  • create conditions that reduce the likelihood of harm to children and young people
  • create conditions that increase the likelihood of identifying any harm
  • Respond effectively to any concerns, disclosures, allegations or suspicions.

UCA Child Safe Principles Video

 A message from the National Children’s Commissioner

The following Child Safe Principles should be considered carefully by each council  of the church. Each congregation must be able to demonstrate that they have implemented ( or have a plan to implement) each principle within their congregation. 

Congregations are encouraged to use these resources to assist with their planning process and work towards the principles. This includes a self-audit template which is available for download Key indicators of success for congregations to consider are included to illustrate how each principle helps us build a child safe organisation.

UCA National Child Safe Principles Poster

The below video explains the 10 National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and what they might look like through an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural lens

Why is this standard important?

Having a church leadership team that is committed to providing safe environments means that children are less likely to be exposed to harm and abuse. A safe leadership culture is demonstrated by personal behaviour, good governance,  training and education being prioritised as well as having a culture of continuous improvement of child safety.

Indicators of success

  • Child safety is embedded in day-to-day church practices and activities
  • Church leaders, staff and volunteers follow the appropriate UCA codes of conduct, Child Safe policies and guidelines, and local church child safe procedures
  • Decision-making prioritises the needs and welfare of children
  • Church leaders, staff, volunteers, children and young people have a sound knowledge of children’s rights, including the rights to feel safe and be heard
  • The culture of the church creates an environment where it is difficult for abuse to occur
  • There is an appropriate response to, and reporting of child abuse by church leaders, staff and volunteers
  • Children feel safer knowing they have input into church decisions involving them.

Why is this principle important?

A child safe church values children and identifies opportunities for them to participate in decisions that affect them. This makes children safer because they can have confidence to speak up if they are being harmed or abused, or feel unsafe.

Indicators of success

  • Children know how adults should behave
  • Children understand that they are worth listening to and respected
  • Children speak up about their safety and the safety of their friends to adults
  • Children are aware they can access support services when needed and are confident to do so
  • The church has programs and resources to educate children and young people on their rights and has appropriate platforms to regularly seek feedback and encourage people in decision-making.
  • Children participate in decision-making in the church.

Why is this principle important?

Families have the primary responsibility for raising their children. Therefore child safe churches involve families, carers and community members in decisions that affect children in their care.

Indicators of success

  • Families and carers feel welcome and heard
  • Families, carers and the community support the church to be safer for children
  • Families and carers are comfortable asking questions about how the church prioritises child safety.
  • The church creates opportunities for families and communities to be involved in the operation of the church
  • The church seeks feedback from families and the community regarding their practices.

Why is this principle important?

Churches need to adapt to the diverse needs of children so they have equal opportunity to feel welcome and participate in activities and programs. We all have different needs which may stem from such things as our culture, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, physical, mental and emotional capacity as well as our life experiences. Promoting equity in diversity, can help to prevent abuse and empower children to speak up. As well, this fosters a culture of inclusivity and openness.

Indicators of success

  • Children with diverse needs speak up about concerns about their safety and that of their friends, and adults take them seriously
  • No children are disadvantaged by accessing or engaging with church programs and activities
  • The culture of the church allows children with diverse needs to feel valued and important
  • The church community recognises, values and promotes diversity and inclusivity
  • Church leaders and volunteers feel confident in working with all children irrespective of their differing needs
  • There is an increased participation of children with diverse needs in all activities

The church produces child friendly material in accessible language and formats that promote inclusion and informs all children and young people about the complaints process

Why is this principle important?

The screening and ongoing supervision of leaders and volunteers who work with children in our churches prevents unsuitable people from having access to children and young people. Robust recruitment and supervisory practices ensure all leaders, both paid and voluntary, receive ongoing support and education to effectively perform their roles.

Indicators of success

  • Procedures for recruitment of church leaders, staff and volunteers incorporate child safe practices including the appropriate screening checks.
  • Children feel safe and are safe around church leaders
  • Staff and volunteers have suitable skills and experience to work with children
  • The values, attitude and behaviour of church leaders, staff and volunteers who work with children, promote and maintain a child safe culture
  • The church maintains an appropriate record keeping systems and protocols for all staff and volunteers through the appointment of a Safe Church contact person.

Why is this principle important?

A child focused complaint process empowers children and their families to make a complaint. Implementation of a child focused complaints process ensures the appropriate response to a complaint regarding child safety, is made by all staff and leaders. Children are safer when complaints are addressed quickly and appropriately.

Indicators of success.

  • The church culture is one where complaints are taken seriously and acted upon
  • Leaders, staff and volunteers feel supported to raise concerns about child safety
  • Children feel empowered to raise concerns about themselves and their friends and they know who to talk to if they are feeling unsafe
  • Leaders, staff and volunteers are well informed about their roles, responsibilities and obligations under child protection legislation
  • Leaders, staff and volunteers have a good knowledge of the different ways children and young people express concerns or distress and disclose harm
  • Appropriate records are kept regarding complaints

Why is this principle important?

Training and education supports staff in understanding what abuse looks like and how to play their part in creating environments which can either enable or deter abuse from occurring. Training also gives church leaders and volunteers the tools to report and respond to concerns regarding child safety and helps to build a culture of child safety.

Indicators of success

  • Church leaders, staff and volunteers feel confident in their ability to identify, respond to and report child safety issues
  • The church has a culture of continuing education and compliance with Synod Safe Church Awareness training requirements
  • The church can demonstrate that it has processes which enable it to stay up to date with Synod policies and guidelines as changes occur

Why is this principle important?

Safe physical and online environments play a significant role in reducing opportunities for child abuse to occur by reducing the opportunity for perpetrators to have access to children. Perpetrators exploit situations where lack of physical and behavioural expectations allow them inappropriate access to children for the purposes of abuse and grooming.

Indicators of success

  • Opportunities to harm children are reduced or removed by addressing the physical environment and by implementing online protocols. (eg line of sight, no adult to be alone with a child in person or online, codes of conduct, management of online environment etc)
  • Children speak up about risks in the church and online environments
  • Children’s privacy is balanced with the need to keep them safe
  • Children feel safe when engaging with church activities
  • Leaders, staff and volunteers who work with children access and use online platforms in line with church online protocols.
  • Third party contractors for the provision of facilities and services have appropriate measures in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people.

Why is this principle important?

Child safe policies and procedures provide guidance and clarity to all church members, leaders, staff and volunteers about child safety issues. This enables a consistent approach to child safety in congregations and throughout the Synod.

Indicators of success

  • Church members, leaders, staff and volunteers understand the Synod’s approach to child safety and how this is implemented in their congregation
  • Both those who participate in the life of the church and the wider community know that the church takes child safety seriously
  • Leaders, volunteers, staff and parents or carers know where to find the church’s child safe policies and procedures
  • Leaders, volunteers, staff, parents and the community can use the policies and procedures to hold the church to account.

Why is this principle important?

Being a child safe church is an evolving process that requires ongoing efforts to keep children safe. Processes and practices become more robust when they are continuously reviewed and updated based on learnings from past mistakes.

Indicators of success

  • Leaders, staff and volunteers are open to change
  • Leaders, staff and volunteers reflect on critical incidents
  • The church culture creates and environment of openness and transparency with regard to ongoing learning and improvement
  • Church leadership seeks the participation of children and young people, parents, church members and adherents and the community in regular reviews of child safety and wellbeing procedures and practices.
  • Undertake a self-audit using the Child Safe Principle self-audit template
  • Develop a plan to implement the principles
  • Build awareness in your congregation – refer to the Resources section of this webpage for a tools and resources that can be used by congregations
  • Review progress against your plan
  • Contact the Safe Church Unit if you require guidance or support.

 

safechurch@nswact.uca.org.au

Uniting Church in Australia
PO Box A2178, Sydney South NSW 1235
(02) 8267 4351