Introduction

Violence against children is a global problem that affects both boys and girls. It has existed since the beginning of time and is deeply rooted in cultural, economic and social practices. Children are abused physically, sexually, emotionally and through neglect. Children are forced to endure the most hazardous forms of child labour including sweat shops and prostitution. In some countries boys are kidnapped and forced into armed conflict as soldiers. In many countries children experience severe corporal punishment in schools. Children living in poverty are more at risk of child abuse and exploitation.

Whilst most child abuse occurs within families and communities, children also experience abuse and exploitation in organisations which provide them with support and services. Experience has found that physical, emotional abuse and neglect in child focussed organisations and institutions are less systematic and usually un-planned. It is usually the result of poor conditions, bad work practices and negligent management. However child sexual abuse in organisations is often planned and premeditated. Child sex offenders target organisations working with children. They will seek work in organisations inadequate recruitment practices and supervision that provide an environment where their abuse may go undetected. They also seek work in countries with inadequate child protection laws and law enforcement as well as countries where children and their families are vulnerable to exploitation.

This policy supports Plan International Australia’s (PIA’s) commitment to protect girls, boys, young women, and young men from harm. It has been developed to provide a practical guide to prevent violence against children and young people as a result of PIA’s work. This policy gives an overview of the responsibilities of each PIA Participant that are outlined in the policy implementation procedures document "Ensuring Child Safeguarding – Plan International Australia Child Safeguarding Procedures", which offers specific guidelines for implementing this policy.

Vision

We aim to create 'child safe' environments, both internally and externally, where children are respected, protected, empowered and active in their own protection, and where staff are skilled, confident and competent and well supported in meeting their protection responsibilities'.

Policy Statement

Plan International Australia believes every child and young person has the right to live a life free from any form of violence, and deserves to grow up in a safe, peaceful, nurturing and enabling environment where they can fully exercise their rights .

Plan International Australia considers child abuse unacceptable in all circumstances and takes its duty of care seriously and will aim at all times to provide the safest possible programs and environments for children. This will be achieved by identifying and managing risks that may lead to harm.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) provides a foundation for Plan International Australia's work both locally and internationally. All Plan International Australia (PIA) Participants have the responsibility to protect children"…from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse".

Plan International Australia is committed to ensuring that all possible and necessary steps are taken to realise the rights of children and to actively safeguard all children that we work with both in Australia and overseas from harm.

We take seriously our responsibility to promote child safe practices and protect children from harm, abuse, neglect and exploitation in any form. We will take positive action to prevent child abusers becoming involved in PIA in any way and take stringent measures against any PIA Staff and/or Associate or Visitor who abuses a child. Our decisions and actions in response to child protection concerns will be guided by the principle of 'the best interests of the child'.

Adherence to this policy is a mandatory requirement for Plan International Australia Participants.

Purpose

This policy will demonstrate Plan International Australia’s commitment to protect children from harm and abuse. This policy and its accompanying implementation procedures have been developed to provide a practical guide to prevent child abuse as a result of Plan Australia’s work. It aims to create an open and aware environment where concerns for the safety and wellbeing of a child can be raised and managed in a fair and just manner, which protects the rights of all.

Guiding Principles

  • Plan International Australia believes that all children have a right to be safe at all times and we have an obligation to provide child safe and child friendly environments and programs
  • All children have equal rights to protection from abuse and exploitation regardless of their gender, race, religious or political beliefs, age, physical or mental health, sexual orientation, family and social background and culture, economic status or criminal background.
  • As part of an international non-government child centred community development organisation, Plan Australia has a duty of care to all children that we work both in Australia and overseas in program and other national office countries.
  • All decisions regarding the welfare and protection of children are made based on the best interests of the child.

Scope of Policy

This policy applies to Plan International Australia (PIA) Participants, which includes:

  1. Plan International Australia staff
  2. Plan International Australia Associates – these include board members, volunteers, interns, consultants and contractors, suppliers, supporters (including donors, sponsors, advocates, ambassadors). Also the staff and representatives of partner organisations/government with whom PIA has a formal working relationship, and anyone who has been brought into contact with children while working for or with PIA.
  3. Plan International Australia visitors – these include people such as journalists, media, researchers, celebrities etc who may come in contact with children through PIA are also bound by this policy. 

Definitions

A Child: in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is defined as any person – girl, boy, young woman, young man, and children of other gender identities - under the age of 18 years

Young Person/People or Youth: in line with United Nations definitions, include individuals – young women, young men, and young persons of other gender identities - aged 15 years to 24 years old. This group spans the categories of ‘children’, ‘adolescents’ and ‘adults’ but regards young people as having particular safeguarding needs and requiring distinct consideration aside from younger children and older adults.

Safeguarding children and young people:  is the responsibilities, preventative, responsive and referral measures that we undertake to protect children and young people, ensuring that no child or young person is subject to any form of harm as a result of their association with the organisation.

Violence against a child or young person: includes all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, emotional ill-treatment or psychological violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, harassment, and commercial or other exploitation of a child or young person. Acts of violence can also take place online through, for example, the web, social media or mobile phones. It may be an intentional act involving the use of physical force or power or it may be failing to act to prevent violence against a child or young person. Violence consists of anything which individuals, groups, institutions or organisations do or fail to do, intentionally or unintentionally, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in actual or potential harm to the child or young person’s wellbeing, dignity and survival and development.

Code of Conduct

A set of behavioural guidelines for working with children are outlined in the Plan International Code of Conduct and the Plan International Australia Working with Children Code of Conduct

Risk identification and management

Plan International Australia (PIA) recognises that by the nature of its work it is at risk of being targeted by those wanting to exploit or harm children and that there are a number of potential risks to children in the delivery of our programs. We understand that the effects of abuse on children are both devastating and long term. PIA will not permit a person to work with children if they pose an unacceptable risk to children’s safety or wellbeing. Therefore we undertake the following preventative measures:

  • Proactively assessing and managing risks to children in our programs (and in the communities in which we work) to reduce the risk of harm. This is achieved by examining each stage of the project management cycle and its potential impact on children.
  • Proactively assessing and managing risks to children across every department of PIA
  • Implementing new preventative measures when gaps are identified
  • Additionally, child safeguarding and protection risks are assessed by the organisational Risk Assessment Team, included in our organisational risk register and monitored by the leadership and governing body.

As an organisation Plan International Australia is to always be aware, vigilant and uncompromising when implementing our Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy. Staff and others should continually be aware of risks, and be actively minimising opportunities and situations where children can be harmed. The "Ensuring Child Safeguarding – Plan International Australia Child Safeguarding Procedures" was developed after undertaking a risk analysis of all Plan International Australia activities and functions and is reviewed and updated regularly. This implementation document provides specific child safeguarding guidelines for all areas of Plan International Australia.

It is the responsibility of the Board and Chief Executive Officer - through department directors to ensure that all PIA Participants in their area of responsibility are aware of, sign onto and agree to abide by the Plan International Code of Conduct and the Plan International Australia Working with Children Code of Conduct, this policy and applicable local procedures. In the first instance, this includes Plan in Australia’s "Ensuring Child Safeguarding – Plan International Australia Child Safeguarding Procedures".

Plan International Australia Participants must:

  • Sign onto and agree to abide by this policy and the procedures relevant to them as outlined in the "Ensuring Child Safeguarding - Plan International Australia Child Safeguarding Procedures" document.
  • Sign onto the Plan International Australia Working with Children Code of Conduct and the Plan International Code of Conduct
  • Report any child abuse and protection concerns. This is a mandatory requirement and failure to do so may result in disciplinary action
  • Respond to a child who may have been abused or exploited in accordance with applicable local office procedures
  • Cooperate fully and confidentially in any investigation of concerns or allegations
  • Contribute to an environment where children are respected and encouraged to discuss their concerns and rights
  • Always treat children and young people in a manner which is respectful of their rights, integrity and dignity, considers their best interests and does not expose them to, or place them at risk of, harm

Reporting

It is mandatory for all PIA Participants to report concerns or allegations of child abuse that relate to a child or Participant involved with Plan Australia to the Child Safeguarding Advisor or a Senior Manager as outlined in "Ensuring Child Safeguarding – Plan International Australia Child Safeguarding Procedures"

Plan International Australia considers the abuse and exploitation of children to be completely unacceptable. We will take all concerns and reports of child abuse seriously and investigate and act on these reports immediately, with the highest priority, according to the reporting and complaints mechanisms outlined in "Ensuring Child Safeguarding – Plan International Australia Child Safeguarding Procedures"

An allegation of child abuse is a serious issue. In following this policy and local procedures, it is essential that all parties maintain confidentiality. Sharing of information, which could identify a child, an alleged perpetrator or the informant/reporter could put them at harm so should be done strictly on a 'need to know’ basis. Unless abuse has actually been proved to have occurred, one must always refer to "alleged abuse".

If an employee raises a legitimate concern about suspected child abuse, which proves to be unfounded on investigation, no action will be taken against the employee.

Any employee who makes false and malicious accusations, however, will face disciplinary action. PIA will take appropriate legal or other action against other PIA Participants who makes false and malicious accusations of child abuse.

Review of policy

This policy will be reviewed every three years. The Child Safeguarding Advisor will manage the review, and staff will be consulted in this process

Policy Implementation Documents

The following documents are referred to and are to be used when implementing this policy:

References

  1. Plan International 2010: Child Protection Say YES! To Keeping Children Safe Policy
  2. Plan International 2010: ’Say No to Abuse’ Practice Guidance and Standards for Keeping Children Safe in Plan
  3. Plan Australia Code of Conduct
  4. ACFID Code of Conduct Guidance document: Code Guidelines on Producing a Child Protection
  5. ACFID Code of Conduct