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Frequently asked questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ page will be updated as and when the people of the Diocese ask questions about the Office of Safeguarding and what the Diocese is doing to ensure the safety and well being of children and vulnerable adults to whom the Diocese ministers and interacts with.

Q      What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

ADR is a collective term for processes in which an experienced and impartial person (ADR practitioner) assists the people involved in a concern to resolve the issues between them.

Q      Will all safeguarding concerns be eligible for ADR at the OOSG?

To be eligible for ADR at the OOSG a concern must involve a diocesan employee, and have an adverse impact on a child who is in receipt of a diocesan service. 

There is a class of concern that will not be eligible for ADR, for example an allegation that may amount to conduct defined in Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 of the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012.

Q      Is ADR at the OOSG confidential?

ADR at the OOSG is confidential in so far as legislation and diocesan safeguarding policy allows.  Each participant to ADR, and any support people, will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The informal and confidential nature of ADR allows each participant to make concessions, or consider options, that they may not if they were negotiating in a more official setting.

Q      Do I have to participate in ADR?

No.  There is no obligation to participate in ADR. 

Each of the people involved in a concern must provide their written consent to participate for the ADR pathway to be adopted. 

Q      What is ADR at the OOSG an alternative to?

ADR may be applied as an alternative to an investigation or formal inquiry into a concern. 

Q      What is the focus of ADR?

ADR is a new and innovative approach to the resolution of safeguarding concerns which is focused on relationship outcomes that are in the best interests of the child involved. 

ADR recognises that children do best when their supporters are confident in the abilities and intentions of the people around them.

Q      In general terms, how does ADR work?

ADR provides an opportunity for each of the participants to have their experience of a concern heard by the other.  A participant’s experience may not be limited to a particular incident in time, and may include what happened for them before and after a concern was raised.   

The experience of the child may also be heard in ADR, not as a witness, but by the ADR practitioner separately speaking with them.

After the participants have an opportunity to better understand each other they may be better placed to identify their shared interests. 

A recognition by the participants that they have common interests may enable them to work together towards a resolution that is child focused, and driven by outcomes they are able to commit to.

Q      If I agree to participate in ADR what may be expected of me?

When you provide your consent to participate in ADR you will be expected to:

  • put forward suggestions to resolve the concern;
  • be willing to listen to the experiences of the other participants;
  • remain cooperative and calm

Q      What happens at the conclusion of ADR?

At the conclusion of ADR a Report is generated to formalise the agreement reached.  This Report may also make recommendations on how the referring agency may manage any matters that the participants were unable to resolve at ADR.

A Report to make operational or systemic recommendations may also be submitted to the executive staff of the referring agency to enable continuous improvement.

Q      Does participation in ADR guarantee outcomes?

The ADR pathway does not guarantee that the participants will reach agreement.  Similarly, an investigation or formal inquiry does not guarantee that expectations will be met. 

Q      How could you describe ADR in one sentence?

ADR is an opportunity for the important adults in a child’s life to have a conversation aimed at the restoration of good will in their relationship to promote the child’s ongoing benefit from their engagement with the Diocese.

Q How do I contact the diocese’s “child protection” team?

A The diocese’ “child protection team is called the Prevention and Response Service (PaRS) of the Office of Safeguarding. PaRS can be contacted in multiple ways:

 

Q Where is the “child protection” team located?

A The Prevention and Response Service is located at 50 Crebert Street, Mayfield. Our office hours are 08.30 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

 

Q Why have investigators? Is it not the job of the police?

A The Police are responsible for investigating criminal conduct. Where the alleged abuse involves criminality the Prevention and Response Service of the Office of Safeguarding (OoSG) reports the allegations to Police and the Diocese provides all possible assistance to the Police should they conduct a criminal investigation.

However, there are a broad range of risky, even dangerous behaviours that are not criminal but can cause harm to children and vulnerable adults.  The Bishop has empowered the OoSG to investigate allegations that the Police or statutory child protection authorities are not empowered to.  This is part of the Diocese’s commitment to safeguarding.  Also, the Diocese is required to undertake investigations of diocesan ‘workers’ under the reportable conduct scheme.  This scheme is imposed by NSW law and is oversighted by a statutory authority (soon to be the Office of the Children’s Guardian).

 

Q What are they investigating?

A As we said earlier, there are a broad range of risky, even dangerous behaviours that are not criminal but can cause harm to children and vulnerable adults, including ‘reportable conduct’. Bishop Bill and the senior diocesan leadership has empowered the OoSG to ensure that diocesan ‘workers’ act in accordance with safeguarding legislation, church derived standards and diocesan codes of conduct and policies as they relate to children and vulnerable adults.

 

Q Who are they investigating?

A The OoSG is authorised to investigate diocesan workers, which means any person engaged by or acting on behalf of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, including employees, volunteers, contractors, clergy and religious. There is a detailed description of what constitutes a ‘diocesan worker’ on this website, go to https://officeofsafeguarding.org.au/reporting-abuse/reporting-abuse-committed-by-a-diocesan-worker/

 

Q Who are the investigators?

A The ‘investigators’ within the OoSG are professionals with appropriate tertiary qualifications and drawn from a range of backgrounds, including law enforcement and statutory child protection. OoSG personnel are employed by the Diocese and answerable to the Director of Safeguarding. There is more detail on OoSG personnel on this website, go to https://officeofsafeguarding.org.au/about-the-office-of-safeguarding/people/

 

Q What if, as a parent, I don’t want an investigation to occur?

A Part 3A Ombudsman Act 1974, defines Diocesan schools as a ‘designated non-government agency’ and as such we must have systems for preventing, reporting (to the Ombudsman) and investigating reportable conduct. All staff and volunteers in Diocesan schools fall within the scope of Part 3A and may be investigated for alleged ‘reportable conduct’ which includes sexual offenses, misconduct, assault, ill-treatment, neglect and behaviour that causes psychological harm to children. The Office of Safeguarding is the Diocese’s specialist child protection service who works with the Ombudsman to ensure the Diocese meets its obligations under Part 3A.

 

Q How long does the investigation process take?

A The length of the process varies depending on a range of factors including the nature and seriousness of the allegations. Generally speaking, in matters that require a statutory response such as Police or the Department of Communities and Justice, will take longer than matters that are less serious.

 

Q Are we lay people being investigated? If so, why?

A As noted earlier, the OoSG is empowered to investigate allegations of reportable conduct or breaches of professional standards against diocesan workers. A parishioner is not a diocesan worker, neither is a parent of a child attending a school. However the Diocese has thousands of lay people as ‘workers’, as well as religious and clergy.

Q Who needs to attend safeguarding training?

A All diocesan workers will receive some level of safeguarding information or training. 

‘Diocesan workers’ means employees, religious working in Diocesan roles, volunteers and contractors acting as agents of the Diocese.

Safeguarding training courses are discussed in detail on this website, go to https://officeofsafeguarding.org.au/safeguarding-training/.  Safeguarding training includes information about the indicators of abuse and neglect, how to respond to disclosures of abuse and a person’s reporting obligations.  It is compulsory for most diocesan workers, the details of who is expected to attend what is set out on the training web page.

Parishioners or family members of diocesan school students or who attend St Nicholas Early Education Centres and OOSH programmes or work with CatholicCare Social Services or DARA, who are interested in learning more about the Diocese’s safeguarding practices and wish to attend training are welcome to do so, at no cost.  Contact the Office of Safeguarding, phone 02 4979 1390 during normal office hours,.

 

Q What is an information module?

A Informational modules are relatively brief training opportunities developed by the Office of Safeguarding (OoSG) that may be delivered by local leaders.  Modules are largely passive presentations of information, in written form presented through PowerPoint and audio-visual material.

All employees (paid) will attend an Information Module within 3 months of appointment at the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, and all volunteers (excluding Parish volunteers) will attend an Information Module within 6 months of commencing. 

 

Q What is a training course?

A Safeguarding training courses are more in-depth training packages, developed by the OoSG and presented by OoSG staff.  The training courses are interactive, including audio-visual material with written information presented through PowerPoint, printed material handed out on the day and analysis and discussion of practice scenarios reinforcing key learning.

 

Q Is safeguarding training the same as child protection training?

A Yes, ‘Safeguarding’ is the new terminology.  Any Child Protection training that has been undertaken in the past five years through Zimmerman Services (now the Office of Safeguarding) meets its equivalent obligation under the new Diocesan Standards for Safeguarding Training in 2020 and beyond.

 

Q How do I know if I need to attend a training course?

A If you are engaged in ‘child-related work’ then you are required to attend the applicable training course.

Child-related work is defined by a worker’s requirement to have a working with children check (WWCC) from the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) and the Diocese’s Human Resources being obliged to verify and record the worker’s WWCC with the OCG, before the worker can commence.  The OCG website has useful information Office of the Children’s Guardian

 

Q How often do I need to attend safeguarding training?

  • Information Modules: Once only
  • Training Courses: Every 6 years