What do the Child Safe Standards mean for you and your service?
The Office of the Children’s Guardian share their insights on how the Child Safe Standards relate to the National Quality Framework, and advice for ensuring child safe practices at your service.
22 July 2022
The Child Safe Scheme
The Child Safe Scheme, regulated by the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) was introduced in NSW February 2022. This scheme embeds the Child Safe Standards recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 to guide child safe practice in NSW.
Our role at the Office of the Children’s Guardian is to help you implement the Child Safe Standards, with a strong focus on education and capability building.
The Child Safe Standards are designed to drive cultural change to create, maintain and improve child safe practices. When organisations implement the Child Safe Standards, they build a culture where abuse of children is prevented, responded to and reported.
We may not like to think that child abuse and harm to children may happen under our watch but when we recognise and accept that it can happen, and learn more about how it happens, we can put in place measures that reduce its likelihood.
The Child Safe Standards and the National Quality Framework
Many elements of the Child Safe Standards overlap with the National Quality Framework (NQF) so Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services are already in a great position to meet the Child Safe Standards. While the NQF provides a sound educational and safety framework, the Child Safe Standards add safety practices in relation to preventing organisational abuse. That is, preventing or minimising harm and abuse to children in ECEC services by educators, staff or other children.
ECEC services already have a strong child and family centred approach and are knowledgeable about child protection and risk assessments in relation to the physical environment and medical conditions. These are solid foundations for implementing the Child Safe Standards.
For many ECEC services, implementing the Child Safe Standards will only require a shift in the way they think about risk (including organisational risk of harm and abuse) and extending on existing child safe practices and risk management.
When we talk about the NQF’s Quality Area 2 – Children’s Health and Safety, there is significant overlap across every Child Safe Standard, but it is closely aligned with Child Safe Standard 8.
Child Safe Standard 8: Physical and online environments minimise the opportunity for abuse to occur
Organisations that work with children have a responsibility to keep them safe from harm and abuse. All child-related organisations will have some element of risk of harm. The risks will be unique to the service based on the culture, nature of the service (in terms of how they support and interact with children), the community they serve and the workforce.
ECEC services are already required to supervise children and ensure the physical environment is safe. A child safe lens over this means being aware and observing educator and staff interactions with children. Keeping this eye out during your usual supervision duties ensures any concerning or inappropriate behaviour can be witnessed, documented and reported. Child safe supervision also includes supervision of child-to-child interactions to ensure the risk of peer-to-peer harm or abuse is seen and managed.
Online risks of harm to children are increasing. Children as young as 2 are accessing internet enabled devices at home even more since COVID and increasingly, ECEC services are using devices for learning.
Online risks to children need to be identified and managed. These risk management strategies will be very different across service types.
For example, a preschool would ideally supervise and support the use of a device for learning with safeguard timers/locks and only have educational apps on the device. An Outside of School Hours Care (OSHC) service manages very different risks, with many children having access to their personal devices. These risks should be accounted for in policies and children should be supported to use their devices respectfully and safely. Some OSHC services have policies that ban personal devices and only have service devices available to control online risks and prevent bullying.
Child safe practice review
Review your current supervision practices across your services (inside, outside and online).
- When educators are supervising, where are they standing? Do they have line of sight of children and other educators? Are there barriers to your line of sight (trees, cubby houses, large spaces to supervise)? Do any educators have their backs to children?
- When children are using devices, how are you supporting safe use of online activities? Are children using their personal devices? Do you have codes of conduct for children about what is acceptable use of their devices while at the service? How could you identify bullying online? Are educators aware it is not appropriate for them to interact with children online via any social media?
- When supporting children with nappy changes and toileting, what child safe practices do you implement? Do you have additional practices in place with children who have support needs with toileting that is different to their age equivalent peers?
- When children at OSHC go to the bathrooms, do they go alone, with other children, how long are they expected to be gone before an educator would go to check? How do educators check on children in the bathroom in an appropriate, child safe way?
These questions and practices relate to Quality Area 2 Standard 2.2 Each child is protected – 2.2.1 Supervision. These questions may help extend your current child safe practices or affirm your existing practices.
Quality Area 2 Children’s health and safety also relates to Child Safe Standards 7 and 9 where educators and staff should be well trained to be knowledgeable and confidently able to identify and respond to harm or abuse of children. This training needs to be ongoing (not just one-off training) to ensure services remain up to date with evolving child safe practices.
Child Safe Standard 6 also relates to child protection (Element 2.2.3) in that children should be able to voice their worries, concerns, or experiences of harm to educators. It has been shown that ongoing training impacts the support children feel in voicing concerns and improves how well educators respond.
Upcoming risk workshops for ECEC services
These workshops have been designed to cover everything you need to know about child safe risk management within an early childhood education and care service. They are suitable for area managers, directors, managers and experienced educators. There is some assumed knowledge that will not be covered in the workshops.
The risk workshops include:
- child safe policies and Code of Conduct
- reporting and conflicts of interest
- recruitment and staff training.
Please register here if you are interested in attending the workshops.
Additional child safe resources from the Office of the Children’s Guardian that will help extend your current child health and safety practices include:
- Risk management handbooks to inform and manage organisational risk
- Risk Management and the Child Safe Standards Part 1 Responding to risk: A resource for child related organisations
- Risk Management and the Child Safe Standards Part 2 Identifying risk: A resource for child related organisations
- Educating staff and educators on risk of abuse:
- Induction video - Part 1 Recognising abuse
- Induction video – Part 2 Responding to abuse
- About grooming – information for child related organisations
- ELearning for staff and educators (register or log in to access):
- Child Safe eLearning
- Reportable Conduct eLearning
The eSafety Commissioner also has free online learning for educators and for children of different ages: