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Resource to ensure sex offenders cannot work in our schools

28 February 2012

Resource readily available to ensure sex offenders cannot work in our schools

The announcement by the Education Minister of a convicted sex offender working in schools has disappointed but not surprised child abuse prevention organisation Child Matters.

CEO of Child Matters, Anthea Simcock says “I believe that there is still work that should be done in schools to ensure they are taking every precaution possible to ensure that all the people they employ; teachers; non teaching staff; and volunteers, are safe people to be working with children.”

“The single most effective point at which an organisation can minimise the possibility of abuse to children in its care, is the appointment of new staff. Time, care and patience devoted to checking every applicant will reduce the likelihood of pain and trauma later on.” she says.

Mrs Simcock is pleased that a ministerial enquiry will be undertaken as a result of this case. She says she is looking forward to discussions with Education Minister, Hekia Parata over this particular case, as well as the broader issue of ensuring that all the people that children come in contact with while in the care of schools, have been through a robust selection process.

Mrs Simcock continues “Child Matters has a publication called ‘Safe not Sorry’ which is a step by step handbook for selecting and employing safe people to work with children. This handbook is available from the Child Matters website.”

This handbook was published in 2000. Ironically this is the same year the sex offender announced today by the Education Minister, received their teacher registration.

Safe not Sorry is a very comprehensive guide, providing advice as well as the necessary forms, check lists, letters and referee phone scripts to ensure that schools can do everything possible to minimise the risk of employing someone who is ‘unsafe’.” Says Mrs Simcock, who would like to see a copy of Safe not Sorry in every school in New Zealand.

It takes so much more than just a Police check to be sure that potential staff are safe. For every convicted sex offender there will be numerous others who are either not convicted or have never come to the attention of authorities. This is why it is so important to have a comprehensive safety check process.

Currently the New Zealand Teachers Council has a responsibility to establish whether a teacher is ‘of good character and fit to be a teacher’. Included in their brief is to ensure that the teacher has a satisfactory police vet, nurtures the safety of learners within his or her care; and is reliable and trustworthy in carrying out duties.

Mrs Simcock commends the Teachers Council for their intent, although she is concerned under the current circumstances about how well the systems and policies to uphold their responsibility are working.

She emphasises “Schools cannot rely solely on the fact that a teacher is registered. It is also critical that every single school takes personal responsibility for doing their own checks and having processes to satisfy themselves that the person is safe. It is great to have an ‘umbrella’ organisation charged with this responsibility, but that does not negate the need for the individual schools to still follow a robust process.”

About Child Matters:

• Child Matters is the only organisation in New Zealand solely focused on child abuse prevention.
• It works to prevent child abuse by 1) speaking up for New Zealand children; and 2) educating adults to identify child abuse and take the appropriate action.
• Child Matters is a catalyst in communities, working to connect organisations and build leaders who are making positive impacts on child abuse prevention.
• Child Matters is an independent charitable trust with a cross sector view and influence around child abuse in New Zealand. It has links to all organisations who work with children and enables them to tackle the issue of child abuse in their local communities.
• Every adult in New Zealand is affected in some way by child abuse and, therefore, Child Matters believes every adult has a role to play in protecting children. Its child abuse prevention educational programmes are a powerful solution.
• Child Matters believes child abuse prevention education must be made compulsory for all key organisations working with children.
• Child Matters works with a range of organisations to educate their staff to identify child abuse and take the appropriate action. It encourages organisations to adopt a child abuse prevention education and staff wellness programme to demonstrate they take child abuse prevention seriously.
• Child Matters operates nationally.
• For more information, visit: www.childmatters.org.nz

ENDS

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