Plan International Australia (including Plan International Australia in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji) (PIA) is a global independent development and humanitarian organisation. We strive for a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls, work that is underpinned by a commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
PIA 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 rights1.
This policy supports 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.
The policy and code of conduct aims to ensure that PIA takes all possible steps to ensure the safeguarding of children and young people against all forms of violence and creates an open and aware environment where concerns for the safety and wellbeing of a child or young person can be raised and managed in a fair and just manner, which protects the rights of all. This will be achieved by identifying and managing risks at all levels of our operations2 that may lead to harm. This policy gives an overview of the responsibilities of each PIA Participant3 that are outlined in the policy implementation procedures document Ensuring Child Protection – Plan in Australia Child Protection Policy Procedures (PDF 200KB), which offers specific guidelines for implementing this policy.
The PIA Safeguarding Children and Young People Policy applies to all Staff, Managers, Directors, Volunteers, Associates and Visitors, all of whom are referred to collectively as ‘PIA Participants’ who must comply with its requirements and understand the sanctions that may be applied for breaches of the policy.
PIA is fully committed to the gender responsive safeguarding of all children and young people from all forms of violence. We take very seriously our responsibility and duty to ensure that we, as an organisation, and anyone who represents us, does not in any way harm, abuse or commit any other act of violence against children and young people or place them at risk of the same.
We promote child and youth safe practices, approaches, interventions and environments which respects, recognises and responds to the specific safeguarding needs and addresses the protection risks of the differing gender and other identities. We take a zero tolerance approach to all forms of violence against children and young people. We will challenge and do not tolerate inequality, discrimination or exclusion.
We respond to a child or young person who may be in need of protection and or psycho-social support and intend that their welfare and best interests will at all times be of paramount consideration. In the event that a child or young person has been harmed, PIA will do all that is legally and practically feasible to provide follow up support to that child or young person, particularly through referral to appropriate agencies, and at the very minimum will ensure the child is at no further risk of experiencing that same harm.
We ensure that all who work with, and engage with us, understand and are supported in their responsibilities to meet our safeguarding roles and responsibilities. We take positive action to prevent anyone who might be a risk to children and young people from any association or involvement with us and take stringent measures against PIA participants who perpetrate an act of violence against a child and/or young person. We promote the active involvement of children and young people in their own gender responsive protection.
This policy is underpinned by the following set of principles (and values) that guides its implementation:
- Rights of the child
All children aged under 18 years have equal rights to protection from all forms of violence as declared in Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises fundamental human rights, the dignity, worth and equal rights of people at any age, thus including young people aged 18 to 24 years old.
- Justice, Equality and non-discrimination
The human rights of children and young people will be respected and applied to all, irrespective of age, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnic origin, colour, race, language, religious or political beliefs, marital status, disability, physical or mental health, family, socio-economic or cultural background, class, any history of conflict with the law or any other aspect of their background or identity. Inequality, exclusion, and discrimination will be challenged and will not be tolerated.
Our safeguarding approach recognises and responds to the specific safeguarding risks and needs of differing gender and other identities. It takes appropriate measures to address gender bias and other forms of discrimination and violence which may arise as a result of these. It supports the empowerment and fosters the inclusion of girls in the safeguarding process, in a manner that promotes equality, equity and ultimately their increased safety and protection.
- Inclusive and empowering
All children and young people should be empowered and encouraged to fulfil their potential. Decisions made about children and young people will be made as far as possible with their participation and in their best interest, giving full consideration to how such decisions will affect them. Children will be encouraged to express their views and this will be given ‘due weight’ in accordance with their age and level of maturity.
- Shared responsibility (We work well together)
Everybody has a responsibility to support the care and protection of children and young people and must take their safeguarding responsibilities seriously and uphold the principles of the policy. These particular responsibilities extend to those individuals or organisations that are associated with PIA. Therefore, everyone working for, or associated with PIA’s work, must be aware of and adhere to the provisions of this policy.
- Best interests of the child
All decisions regarding the welfare, safeguarding and protection of children, and our decisions and actions in response to child protection concerns and breaches of this policy will be guided by the principle of ‘the best interests of the child’.
- Open and accountable
We are open and transparent, and will hold ourselves to account for our commitment to safeguard children and young people. Safeguarding concerns can be raised and discussed, poor practice and inappropriate behaviours can be challenged and addressed, and our safeguarding measures will be regularly reviewed and strengthened to ensure we remain accountable to children, young people, and their families.
We have a responsibility to inform and empower children and young people so that they learn about and are better able to exercise their rights to protection. We will work with children, young people and their families, ensuring they understand the essence of this policy, our safeguarding commitment, and their rights, and the means via which they can report policy breaches. We will also involve them in the development of safeguarding measures within PIA in accordance with their age, gender, abilities, and evolving capacities.
- Do no harm
We have a responsibility to care for, safeguard and protect children and young people, especially those that are vulnerable, and make sure they are not harmed as a result of their engagement with PIA participants and programs. In instances where a breach of the policy is reported, we will ensure that investigation, follow-up and support is focussed upon the best interests and needs of the child.
We have particular responsibilities to children and young people with whom we come into contact. No child or young person must suffer harm, intentionally or unintentionally, as a result of their engagement, association or contact with us whether as a sponsored child, a participant in our programmes, projects, events, processes, or youth advisory panels or as part of a fundraising or influencing campaign. We also commit to a physical and online environment which promotes the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, and minimises their risk of harm.
- Zero tolerance of child abuse and exploitation
Plan International Australia believes that any form of child abuse and exploitation is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. PIA will act on safeguarding concerns, ensuring that our actions are timely, appropriate, and centred on the best interest of the child or young person, taking into account their age, gender and other specific safeguarding needs and vulnerabilities.
- We strive for lasting impact
This policy aims to ensure that PIA participants, as appropriate to their engagement with Plan, are skilled, confident, understand, accept and are well supported in meeting their Child Safeguarding responsibilities and engage positively with children, young people and communities in ways that enhance the achievement of PIA’s Purpose, and overall program goals and commitments.
Risk identification and management
PIA recognises that many of its participants have the best intentions towards children and young people, and work (with PIA) to promote their wellbeing and safety. PIA also recognises that unfortunately, by the nature of its work, it is at risk of being targeted by those wanting to exploit or harm children and young people and that there are a number of potential risks to children and young people in the delivery of our programs. We understand that the effects of abuse on children and young people are both devastating and long term.
Plan International Australia will not permit a person to work with children or young people if they pose an unacceptable risk to children and young people’s safety or wellbeing.
PIA will seek to ensure it creates safe environments for children and young people and prevent those who intend to harm children or young people from becoming engaged with the organisation, by proactively assessing and managing risks to children and young people in all of our operations, activities, projects, programmes, partnerships, and actively monitoring them on a regular basis.
PIA ensures gender responsive safeguarding measures are integrated into all areas of our work and all PIA participants (as relevant to their engagement with the organisation) are trained in recognising, assessing, mitigating, systematically reviewing and ultimately managing risks at all levels of the organisation. 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.
It is the responsibility of all managers to ensure that these preventative measures are communicated and implemented– as guided by the documents Ensuring Child Protection – Plan International Australia Child Protection Policy Procedures and Plan International Global Child Protection Standards and Implementation Manual.
Roles and Responsibilities
Everyone who works with, and engages with Plan, has a responsibility to ensure that children and young people are safeguarded and protected. The responsibilities detailed below are mandatory for those who fall within the scope of the policy.
Plan International Australia Staff, Managers, Directors, Volunteers, Associates, and Visitors must:
- Never abuse and/or exploit a child or young person or act/behave in any way that places a child or young person at risk of harm
- Sign onto and agree to abide by this policy, code of conduct and the procedures relevant to them as outlined in Ensuring Child Protection- Plan International Australia Child Protection Policy Procedures (PDF 200KB).
- Immediately report any safeguarding concerns and breaches of the policy and code of conduct in line with applicable local office procedures and this policy. PIA participants may also use Plan International Australia’s Whistle Blowing policy in this event. Please note, reporting is mandatory.
- Respond to a child or young person who may have been harmed, abused or exploited in accordance with their age, gender, abilities, applicable local office procedures and this policy.
- Cooperate fully and confidentially in any investigation of concerns or allegations of harm to children or young people
- Participate in child protection/safeguarding induction and training as relevant to their relationship with PIA
- Commit and contribute to building an environment where children and young people feel respected, supported, safe and protected and encouraged to discuss (and voice) their concerns
- 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. For example: when taking images/pictures during visits, interacting with children or generating stories of children, ensure that this is done in a manner consistent with the appropriate Plan policies, procedures and standards.
Managers will ensure that:
- PIA participants working in their area of responsibility are aware of, sign onto and agree to abide by this policy, code of conduct, PIA procedures and the Safeguarding Implementation Standards applicable to their role or engagement
- They hold accountability for ensuring that the policy is fully embedded within their areas of responsibility in accordance with the Safeguarding Implementation Standards and PIA procedures
- Children, young people and communities, who are direct beneficiaries of PIA, are made aware of the provisions of this policy and code to ensure they have the confidence and ability to report any incidents occurring against children and young people
- They support and develop systems which maintains an environment which is safe for, and prevents violence against children and young people; and
- All PIA Participants, who have reported child protection concerns or are accused of harming a child are given appropriate care, support and protection in dealing with all aspects of the case including any safety concerns and potential reprisals which may arise from the incident or from the reporting of such concerns.
Directors will ensure that:
- The local procedures in place are consistent with this ‘Safeguarding Children and Young People’ policy and with the global document Reporting and Responding to Child Protection Issues in Plan, to respond to incidents of child abuse.
- PIA implements the PIA Policy, Procedures and Safeguarding Implementation Standards as they apply to our context, people (PIA Participants), children and young people with whom we engage, as well as the processes, programmes, projects, events and activities we undertake.
It is mandatory for all PIA participants to confidentially report all concerns, suspicions or allegations of harm to a child or young person and/or breaches of the PIA ‘Safeguarding Children and Young People’ policy or Code of Conduct immediately (or at least within 24 hours) to the Child Safeguarding Advisor, Child Safeguarding Focal Point or Senior Manager as outlined in Ensuring Child Protection – Plan in Australia Child Protection Policy Procedures. If the report constitutes a criminal offence, this will be immediately reported to the relevant authorities, including the police and any statutory agencies. If the report pertains to a DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade) funded project, it will be immediately reported to DFAT by the Child Safeguarding Advisor.
Plan will take all concerns and reports of harm and violence to children and young people seriously and investigate and act on these reports immediately, with the highest priority, and in accordance with the reporting and complaints mechanisms outlined in Ensuring Child Protection – Plan in Australia Child Protection Policy Procedures and the Guidelines for Carrying out Administrative Investigations Guidelines
Breaches of this policy will be investigated in accordance with disciplinary procedures and contractual agreements, or a referral may be made to statutory authorities for criminal investigation. Breaches may incur sanctions including disciplinary action leading to possible dismissal, termination of all relations including contractual and partnership agreements, and where relevant, appropriate legal or other such actions.
If a legitimate concern about the suspected abuse of a child or young person is raised but proves to be unfounded on investigation, no action will be taken against the reporter. However, appropriate sanctions will be applied in cases of false and malicious accusations.
Review of policy
This policy will be reviewed every three years. The Child Safeguarding Advisor will manage the review in consultation with staff, Executive Team and the Board. The policy review will be approved by the Executive Team and the Board.
Policy implementation documents:
The following documents are referred to and are to be used when implementing this policy:
- Ensuring Child Safeguarding – Plan International Australia Child Safeguarding Policy Procedures (PDF)
- Plan International Global Child Protection Standards and Implementation Manual (PDF)
- Plan International Australia Whistle Blowers Policy (PDF)