The NZ government has launched a new set of guidelines for people working with children as part of its Children’s Action Plan.
The plan has been developed to protect and safeguard the future of children, particularly those who are vulnerable and is linked to the Vulnerable Children Act, which came into being in 2014.
The guidelines involve new checks for people working with children, but these will not apply to early childhood education workers in the first instance.
In the beginning, the new checks will be carried out on people who work for government agencies and the providers they contract to or fund. Government departments that fall under the new scheme are Health, Education, Justice and Social Development as well as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and New Zealand Police. The Ministries will also be required to ensure they have child protection policies in place to help staff identify and report child abuse or neglect.
The first checks will be carried out on core workers - people who work alone with children or have authority over their care, such as doctors and social workers. It will then be widened to include other children’s workers such as hospital staff and non-teaching school staff.
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said the guidelines would help to develop consistency.
“Every child has the right to be safe from abuse and neglect and these guidelines will help us build a stronger culture of child protection across New Zealand where the safety and security of children is paramount. By far the majority of our children’s workforce is safe and conscientious but we know predators target opportunities to be around children – these guidelines provide practical steps to help organisations to manage against that risk”.
The checks, which will be standardised across all organisations, would include verification of identity, collection of behaviour history and police vetting and a judgement based assessment of risk, which is still to be designed. Checks will be reviewed and updated every three years and will only be conducted on new staff in the beginning before being rolled out to existing staff.
While private businesses and organisations such as early childhood education centres are not directly under obligation to implement the new checks unless they are contracted to one of the government departments, it is hoped that many organisations will voluntarily introduce the new procedures in order to improve standards. Advice and information will be available for any business or group that wants to know more about using the new checking system.
The Ministry of Education is keen to ensure services comply with the new Act as it (partly) funds ECE services through child funding and other grants. It says it will be reviewing ECE Licensing Criteria and changing and adding to the list of Criteria to align with the new requirements.
Information you need to know about current education requirements for ECE services is available from the My ECE website. The link is: http://www.myece.org.nz/law/117-minimising-risk-of-child-abuse
One way services try to reduce risk for children is by meeting the legal requirement for Human Resource practices to ensure all employees and contractors who have contact with children are police vetted.
Under the present Licensing Criteria the Ministry require early childhood services to have documents that are consistent with Child, Youth and Family or NZ Police guidelines
Also currently ECE services are not required to prominently display, verbally inform parents, or give a copy of its child protection process and procedure document to parents. For more information on the documentation a centre must have, go to this link: http://www.myece.org.nz/law/108-overview-of-all-documentation-a-centre-is-required-to-have
Food for thought
Should early childhood workers and staff be permitted to use their mobile phones and other recording devices while they are with children? Read about how one trusted and liked crèche worker shared indecent pictures of children, including bathroom pics online, by clicking here to go to the article.
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