Introduction

Child abuse 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.

The objective of this policy is to ensure that Plan Australia takes all possible steps to ensure the protection of children against all forms of child abuse. This policy gives an overview of the responsibilities of each Plan Participant that are outlined in the partner implementation procedures document "Ensuring Child Protection – Plan in Australia Child Protection 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 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 Australia's work both locally and internationally. All Plan 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 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 Plan in any way and take stringent measures against any Plan Staff and/or Associate 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 Australia Participants.

Purpose

This policy will demonstrate Plan 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 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:

  1. Plan Australia staff
  2. Plan 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 Plan Australia has a formal working relationship, and anyone who has been brought into contact with children while working for or with Plan.
  3. Plan visitors – these include people such as journalists, media, researchers, celebrities etc who may come in contact with children through Plan are also bound by this policy. All of whom are referred to collectively as 'Plan Participants'.
Definitions

A Child: A child means every human being below the age of eighteen years. National law and guidance or local customs may be based on different definitions/notions of age of childhood/adulthood, but the standard for Plan is that children should receive equal protection as far as possible, regardless of local age limits.

Child Protection: Child Protection within the scope of this policy is defined as the responsibilities, measures and activities that Plan Australia undertakes to safeguard children from both intentional and unintentional harm.

Child Abuse: Child Abuse is defined as all forms of physical abuse, emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse and exploitation, neglect or negligent treatment, commercial or other exploitation of a child and includes any actions that results in actual or potential harm to a child.

Child abuse may be a deliberate act or it may be failing to act to prevent harm. Child abuse consists of anything which individuals, institutions or processes do or fail to do, intentionally or unintentionally which harms a child or damages their prospect of safe and healthy development into adulthood.

Code of Conduct

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

Risk identification and management

Plan Australia 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. Plan 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 in our sponsorship, marketing and communications, information, systems and technology (IST) and human resource (HR) operations
  • Implementing new preventative measures when gaps are identified

As an organisation Plan Australia is to always be aware, vigilant and uncompromising when implementing our Child Protection 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 Protection – Plan Australia Child Protection Procedures" was developed after undertaking a risk analysis of all Plan Australia activities and functions and is reviewed and updated regularly. This implementation document provides specific child protection guidelines for the following working areas of Plan Australia:

  • Management and supervision
  • HR - recruitment of staff, contractors,consultants and volunteers, induction and training
  • Information safeguarding and IST
  • Programming (including youth participation)
  • Media and Communications
  • Marketing (including fundraising and sponsorship)
  • Reporting and responding
  • Responsibilities under this policy

It is the responsibility of the Board and Chief Executive Officer - through department directors to ensure that all Plan Australia Participants in their area of responsibility are aware of, sign onto and agree to abide by the the Plan International Code of Conduct and or Plan in 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 Protection - Plan in Australia Child Protection Procedures".

Plan Australia staff, Associates and Visitors must:
  • Sign onto and agree to abide by this policy and the procedures relevant to them as outlined in the "Ensuring Child Protection - Plan Australia Child Protection Procedures" document.
  • Sign onto the Plan International Code of Conduct and or the Plan in Australia Working with Children 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
Reporting

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

Plan 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 Protection – Plan in Australia Child Protection 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 so 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. Plan will take appropriate legal or other action against other Plan Participants who makes false and malicious accusations of child abuse.

Review of policy

This policy will be reviewed every three years. The Child Protection 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