Providing a child safe environment
The approved provider of an ECEC service must ensure that the service has in place policies and procedures relating to providing a child safe environment (regulation 168) and that they are kept available and followed (regulations 170-171).
From 1 October 2023, changes were introduced to bring closer alignment between the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and the National Quality Framework (NQF). Some of these changes included requirements for the service’s child safe environment policies and procedures to also include information on how a child safe culture is promoted within the service and the safe use of online environments.
Child protection is also an important part of the National Quality Standard under the NQF. Element 2.2.3 aims to ensure that management, educators and staff are aware of their roles and responsibilities to identify and respond to every child at risk of abuse or neglect.
As Mandatory Reporters, educators are required to report concerns they have about a child’s wellbeing or safety. If you have concerns that a child may be at risk, use the NSW Mandatory Reporter Guide to determine whether a report to the Department of Communities and Justice is needed. You should complete this guide on each occasion that you have concerns as every circumstance is different.
Refer to reporting obligations to understand who and when to report to relevant authorities and reach out to counselling and support services when required.
As an educator:
- Stay up-to-date and informed about your role and the mandatory reporting requirements.
- If you have concerns about a child’s safety, talk to your manager or supervisor. If you can’t talk to your manager or supervisor, or you are concerned inadequate action has been taken in response to your concerns, contact a relevant agency for more information.
- Ensure children know who they can go to for help or with a concern when they need to, and that they won’t get in trouble for doing so.
- Actively engage in reviews of your service’s policies and procedures, and consider them from a child safe perspective to find ways to improve processes.
As a leader in a service:
- Ensure the team knows and understands the service’s policies and procedures, their role and responsibilities in providing a child safe environment, and their mandatory reporting obligations.
- Regularly communicate about the service’s commitment and collective responsibility for child safety.
- Consider how recruitment strategies and induction processes ensure all staff understand what is expected of them in providing a child safe environment.
- Use the Office of the Children’s Guardian’s resources to develop a child safe Code of Conduct
- Provide regular training on mandatory reporting, child safe practice, cultural safety, and practical ways to respond to disclosure.
- Ensure complaints handling policies and procedures are accessible and available in a variety of formats so that staff, families, community members and children know how to raise concerns. The service’s complaints handling policies must also include information on how complaints alleging a child is exhibiting harmful sexualised behaviours will be managed.
Read Contacts for support.