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Go Above And Beyond Current Law To Keep Children Safe

Reports this week that a convicted sex offender acted as Santa Claus at a daycare Christmas party are yet another startling reminder that the current vetting laws for those working with children are simply not enough, says Child Matters CEO, Jane Searle.

“Just following legal requirements, instead of best practice, can still put children and young people at risk,” says Ms Searle.

“Even though it is not legally required at this stage, any group that works with or provides services for children must take responsibility for having a Child Protection Policy.

“It is also vital that these same organisations take a commonsense approach to managing risk. Police checks should not just be considered for those who are legally required to have them. It should also include volunteers.”

Currently, vetting is not compulsory unless the organisation falls under the Children’s Act, which includes Government departments or those with Government contracts, including education and health.

“The current requirements do not go far enough for organisations outside this remit. We will continue to lobby and support calls for changes to the legislation, but in the meantime, child and youth businesses and organisations must take this onus on themselves.

“If they fail to do so, quite simply, they could be putting children and young people in harm’s way,” says Ms Searle.

She says this onus of responsibility relates to private businesses, not-for-profits, community groups, sports clubs, cultural and service groups, volunteers and more.

“When our children and young people go into a childcare, sporting or cultural environment, they need to be safe and protected. And as parents, we want to have the confidence that they will be so.

“Following the current requirements of the law is simply not enough. Every organisation needs a child protection policy and should follow best practice regarding the recruitment and vetting of all employees or volunteers.”

As part of a Child Protection Policy, Ms Searle says organisations need to identify potential risks in any situation where someone interacts with children.

“It is also important organisations understand that just because a person has passed vetting, that does not mean they are safe. Good policy and processes governing how people can interact with children in a safe way, monitored by others, is always the best safeguard.”

Child Matters is an independent organisation which works to stop child abuse through advocacy, training and practical partnerships.

Child Matters was formed in 1994 to meet this need by upskilling those working and interacting with children, young people and their families and whānau so they are able to identify risks concerning vulnerability and abuse and have the knowledge and confidence to take appropriate action.

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