This information is as applicable to the ACT.
The Procedure for Responding to Child Protection Concerns (Procedure) sets out a procedure to follow when a complaint or information about any form of child protection concern is received. In the ACT this includes a Sexual Offence Committed against a Child or Young Person, Sexual Misconduct Involving a Child, Child Sexual Abuse and/or Non-Accidental Physical Injury.
The Church and its staff and volunteers have legal obligations to report certain information to government authorities, this includes duties under the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT), Children and Young People Act 2008 (ACT), and the Ombudsman Act 1989 (ACT)
Some of these duties apply to the church as an organisation or to church leaders, some of the duties apply to individuals. In some circumstances, failing to report knowledge of child abuse incidents to ACT Police may be a criminal offence. Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT have developed this Procedure to address various relevant duties in a way that is both thorough and practical.
This Procedure applies to all staff and volunteers of the Church.
If you have any doubt as to whether a complaint or information would fall within the scope of this Procedure, or about any of the steps set out in this Procedure, contact the Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT
Ministry Standards Hotline on 1300 647 780.
Note: if reporting an incident which occurred in NSW, care should be taken to comply with NSW legislation.
The Procedure should be read in conjunction with the Safe Church Policy and:
1. Receiving a complaint or identifying a child protection concern
A child protection concern may include concerns regarding:
- a Sexual Offence Committed Against a Child or Young Person
- Sexual Misconduct involving a Child
- Child Sexual Abuse
- Non-Accidental Physical Injury
- Serious neglect of a child
- Behaviour which may psychologically harm the child
- Inappropriate discipline
- Inappropriately personal or intimate communication and/or behaviours which may constitute grooming
- Exposure of a child to Domestic and Family Violence
- or any other reason for concern
A child protection concern may be received:
- from a child who has been directly involved;
- from an adult who has been directly involved (including personal disclosures of wrongdoing);
- from another person with information about a child or adult;
- from another organisation with information about a child or adult;
- from staff or volunteers who have concerns based on their observations and interactions with one or more children or adults.
If someone raises a concern or reports an allegation:
- DON’T promise not to report the information
- DON’T ask leading questions
- DON’T attempt to assess the validity of the concern, or seek to investigate any allegation yourself
- DO clarify information reported to you if appropriate (for example, ‘Can you tell me more about that?’)
- DO assure the person that appropriate action will be taken
- if a child, DO reassure them that they are not at fault and that they will not be in trouble for sharing this information.
If a staff member or volunteer has a concern about a child’s wellbeing but have not received any specific information they may report the concern, using the Safe Church Concerns Form.
2. Consider whether there is an immediate danger to a child
Where there is an immediate danger to a child
- contact Police immediately on (131 444 or 000) and report the information;
- follow any instructions given by Police;
- address any immediate safety needs of others present; and
- organise support for the person who has disclosed the complaint or information.
3. Internal Reporting
a) Complete Safe Church Concern Form
If a staff member or volunteer has or is notified of a child protection concern they should complete a Safe Church Concerns Form as soon as possible. This form should include relevant details of the concern, contact information, and the signature of the person completing the form.
b) Notify the Safe Church Team
- If a staff member or volunteer has or is notified of a child protection concern they must inform the Safe Church Team as soon as possible. The Safe Church Team is responsible for ensuring the church fulfils its legal obligations and ensuring that all concerns are managed appropriately.
- If there is any delay before the Safe Church Team can be contacted, the individual should consider whether it is necessary to report their concerns to external government agencies as outlined in step 4 below. They may contact the Ministry Standards Hotline on 1300 647 780 for advice.
- Staff and volunteers should ensure they do not discuss any concerns raised with the accused person at this point in time. Doing so may impede future investigation processes.
- If the concern raised would create a conflict of interest for a member of the Safe Church Team consider contacting the Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT Ministry Standards Hotline on 1300 647 780 for advice.
4. External Reporting to Government Agencies
a) Safe Church Team responsibilities
The Safe Church Team should:
- ensure all necessary reports are made. Reports to different government agencies is required for different purposes and therefore multiple reports may be required.
- keep detailed contemporaneous notes of all information and steps taken.
- Where necessary, also follow all relevant steps outlined in the Procedures for Handling Complaints against Staff and Volunteers.
b) Mandatory Reporting to the Child and Youth Protection Service (CYPS)
If a pastoral staff member believes, on reasonable grounds, that a child or young person is being or has been sexually abused, or is experiencing or has experienced non-accidental physical injury (physical abuse) AND the reasons for the belief arise from information obtained during the course of, or because of, that person’s work then they must make a Mandatory Child Concern Report as soon as possible to the CYPS via:
- CYPS Mandated Reporters Line on 1300 556 728, or
- by email email@example.com, or
- by using the online form at https://form.act.gov.au/smartforms/csd/child-concern-report/
c) Voluntary Reporting to the Child and Youth Protection Service (CYPS) regarding risk to the safety and wellbeing of a child
If the Safe Church Team considers that there is a serious risk to the safety and wellbeing of a child or young person then they should make a voluntary report to the CYPS on 1300 556 729 as soon as possible.
If there is any doubt whether a concern would be considered a serious risk to the safety and wellbeing of a child or young person then the Safe Church Team should call CYPS on 1300 556 729 to receive advice.
d) Report Child Abuse Offences to Police
- If the Safe Church Team obtains information that leads to a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed against a child then they must report this to an ACT Police officer, regardless of whether the victim of the alleged abuse wants this report to be made
- The requirement to report to ACT Police includes both recent incidents and allegations of historic abuse. The Safe Church Team should notify the Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT Ministry Standards Hotline (1300 647 780) of any allegations of a Child Abuse Offence.
- Failure to Report a Child Sexual Offence to ACT Police is a criminal offence and may be punishable by up to two years imprisonment.
e) Report Allegations of Reportable Conduct to the ACT Ombudsman
Under the Reportable Conduct Legislation churches are required to nominate a Head of Designated Entity for the purposes of the Reportable Conduct Scheme. The Head of Designated Entity would typically be either the paid senior pastor or the chair of the church governance body.
In the event of receiving any allegations that any staff or volunteer has engaged in Reportable Conduct, whether or not the conduct was in the course of employment, the Head of Designated Entity must
- notify the Reportable Conduct Scheme (administered by the ACT Ombudsman) as soon as practicable, but within a maximum of 30 days from receiving the complaint or information, in accordance with s 17G of the Ombudsman Act 1989 (ACT). The Safe Church Team should also follow section 2.2 of the Procedure for Handling Complaints Against Staff and Volunteers.
- As soon as practicable, conduct an investigation or appoint a suitable person to conduct an investigation regarding the reportable allegation (see section 6 of the Procedure for Handling Complaints Against Staff and Volunteers)
- Provide a written ”s17J final report” to the Ombudsman in the form outlined in http://www.ombudsman.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/81005/No.-7-17J-final-report.pdf (see section 11(e) of the Procedure for Handling Complaints Against Staff and Volunteers)
5. Accountability Measures
a) Report back to person making initial notification
- As soon as is practicable (no longer than 48 hours), the Safe Church Team must inform the person completing the initial Safe Church Concerns Form of what action they have taken including any reports made and the ‘report number’ for reports to ACT Police or CYPS.
- If the Safe Church Team determines that it is not necessary to make a report to the ACT Police, or CYPS, the person who made the initial Safe Church Concerns Form may choose to make a report themselves in order to ensure that they have not breached s66AA of the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT), or obligations under the Mandatory Reporting legislation.
b) Report to Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT
If a Child Protection Concern has been reported to any government agency the Safe Church Team should advise the Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT Ministry Standards Manager via email on firstname.lastname@example.org of the matter for the Association’s confidential records, and to seek confirmation that the matter has been managed appropriately.
The Safe Church Concerns Form and detailed notes of action taken in relation to any Child Protection Concern must be kept secure for a minimum of 45 years.
7. Advice and Support
If you have questions about whether a report should be made please contact the Baptist Churches of NSW & ACT Ministry Standards Manager on 1300 647 780 for advice, guidance and support.
Procedure for Responding to Child Protection Concerns Download