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COVID - 19

PUBLIC ADVICE IN RELATION TO THE OFFICE OF SAFEGUARDING’S OPERATIONS IN RESPONSE TO THE CURRENT COVID-19 SITUATION

The arrangements described below are temporary.  They are in effect from 6 April to 29 June 2020.

These arrangements are in response to the advice and directives of the National Cabinet and, particularly, the NSW Health Minister’s Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020, issued 30 March.

The Office of Safeguarding (OoSG) offices in Mayfield and Newcastle West are closed to the public.  However, most OoSG services are still being delivered.

Diocesan workers can contact an OoSG investigator to report concerns for a child or vulnerable adult, have them recorded, ensure that reporting obligations are met, be given advice and have serious concerns responded to.

Intake services are available during office hours via phone (P. 4979 1390) or via email to childprotection@mn.catholic.org.au.

For more information on intake, refer to the Office of Safeguarding’s reporting abuse information webpage.

The OoSG cycle of face-to-face training has been suspended.

In the coming weeks diocesan workers will be advised of some online training options that OoSG personnel will be presenting.

Most Healing and Support services will continue to be offered using the phone and other electronic medium (e.g. video conferencing).

Face-to-face support groups are cancelled until further notice.

However, other face-to-face meetings can still occur if necessary, in accordance with the direct contact protocols set at the end of this advice.

For more information on healing services, refer to the Office of Safeguarding’s Healing and Support (Zimmerman Service) information webpage.

ADR will continue to be offered using electronic medium (e.g. video conferencing).  Face-to-face preparatory meetings can still occur if necessary, in accordance with the direct contact protocols set at the end of this advice.

For more information on ADR, refer to the Office of Safeguarding’s ADR information webpage.

The cycle of school safeguarding audits conducted by the Office of Safeguarding will continue apace on the proviso that the school is able to support the Office of Safeguarding during its conduct.

The audit will be conducted by using electronic medium (e.g. MS Teams).  On-site (face-to-face) auditing processes may still occur if necessary, in accordance with the direct contact protocols set at the end of this advice.

The OoSG will continue to conduct investigations as required using electronic medium (e.g. video conferencing).  Conducting face-to-face inquiries will occur if necessary, in accordance with the direct contact protocols set at the end of this advice.

For more information on the conduct of a diocesan investigation, refer to the Office of Safeguarding’s investigative processes information webpage.

The OoSG will continue to conduct risk assessments, including service-based assessments using electronic medium.  On site risk assessments may occur if the service is able to support the OoSG.

The Diocese will continue to work to meet its obligations to produce a just resolution to survivors seeking redress, using electronic medium (e.g. video conferencing) and dependent on any possible delays or restrictions raised by legal firms and mediation facilities.

For more information on redress, refer to the Office of Safeguarding’s seeking redress from the Diocese information webpage.

Direct Contact Protocols

Should direct or ‘face-to-face’ contact be necessary for undertaking OoSG activities, there are two steps that OoSG staff are required to address prior to  arranging the contact, which includes a set of screening questions and determining whether anyone who will be attending the direct contact, is a member of an ‘at risk group’.

During any meeting social distancing rules will be followed.

Prior to having a face-to-face meeting, OoSG staff are required to confirm with the person that they meeting or any other persons who will be a participant in the meeting:

  • are not diagnosed with COVID-19
  • have not been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days
  • are not awaiting results of a COVID-19 test
  • have not returned from overseas in the past 14 days
  • do not have fevers or respiratory symptoms (sore throat, dry cough or shortness of breath).

If any of the persons participating in the meeting answer ‘YES’ to any of the above, that person must be told that they are unable to attend.  If the person affected is the client, cancel the face-to-face meeting.

The Australian Government Department of Health have issued online details on who should be considered to be more ‘at-risk’ than others, What you need to know about coronavirus (COVID-19)

In Australia, the people most at risk of getting the virus are:

  • travellers who have recently been overseas
  • those who have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • people in detention facilities
  • people in group residential settings.

People who are more at risk of serious illness if they get the virus are:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
  • people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions
  • elderly people (70 years and older)
  • people with compromised immune systems (e.g. cancer)

The risk to children and babies, and the role children play in the transmission of COVID-19, is not clear. However, there has so far been a low rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases among children, relative to the broader population.

If the client falls within one of these at-risk groups, the face-to-face meeting should not proceed unless deemed an absolute necessity (e.g. the client is demanding a face-to-face meeting).  However the OoSG must advise the client that they are deemed to be at most risk or more risk, in accordance with government advice.

Should face-to-face work be deemed sufficiently important to proceed, the following social distancing protocol should be applied:

  • keep a minimum of 1.5 meters distance from others
  • ensure that there is 4 m2 for each participant in a meeting held indoors
  • stop shaking hands to greet others
  • promote good hand, sneeze and cough hygiene
  • provide alcohol based hand rub for participants on arrival at the meeting
  • open windows or adjust air conditioning for more ventilation.

The current advice from Government on social distancing is available online from Australian Government directives on ‘social distancing’.