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Diocesan workers’ obligations to report abuse

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Reporting concerns for the safety, welfare or wellbeing of children or vulnerable adults is a cornerstone of safeguarding culture.

Am I a diocesan worker?

A diocesan worker is any person engaged by or acting on behalf of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, including those:

  • employed by the Diocese under an award or contract
  • volunteering their services, including authorised (foster) carers or relative or kinship carers, within the meaning of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998
  • contracted by the Diocese as a sole trader or other business to undertake particular tasks
  • people undertaking practical training as part of an educational or vocational course
  • clergy incardinated to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle or providing ministry as an agent of the Diocese
  • members of religious congregations working for or providing ministry on behalf of and in the name of the Diocese.

If you meet any of these criteria you are obliged to satisfy the following reporting obligations.

I need to report “concerns for children”

Concerns for children is a term used to capture a wide range of possible situations or issues that may adversely affect the safety, welfare or well-being of a child or class of children and includes those matters that:

  • may involve a criminal act
  • constitutes “risk of significant harm”
  • do not meet the threshold for significant harm but where a diocesan worker has anxiety or fears for a child or class of children (“below the threshold”)
  • may constitute reportable conduct under Part 3A NSW Ombudsman’s Act 1974
  • may constitute a breach of;
    • Integrity in Ministry, when considering clergy and religious acting on behalf of the Diocese
    • Integrity in the Service of the Church, when considering lay diocesan workers
    • an employee’s code of conduct or other employment-related standards for conduct.

Diocesan workers must also report any instance where they believe, on reasonable grounds, that a person is working in the Diocese with children but without a Working with Children Check (WWCC).

I need to report “concerns for vulnerable adults”

Vulnerable adults refers to persons over 18 years of age:

  • suffering from a physical disability of sufficient severity that makes them dependent on another for assistance in everyday activities and self care
  • suffering a chronic and persistent mental illness that significantly impedes their competence
  • with a developmental delay or other cognitive disability to a moderate or profound degree
  • who has become physically or mentally frail as a result of advanced years.

Concerns for a vulnerable adult is a term used to capture a wide range of apprehension held for the safety or welfare of those with special needs or who are particularly susceptible. These concerns could:

  • involve a criminal act
  • constitute a reportable incident under Part 3C NSW Ombudsman’s Act 1974
  • constitute a serious breach of professional standards towards a vulnerable adult, that is, a serious breach of Integrity in the Service of the Church or particular codes of conduct relevant to diocesan workers.

A concern for a vulnerable person does not include issues that are best dealt with under a diocesan agency’s complaints management or complaints resolution processes.

When in doubt — contact the Office of Safeguarding

If you are uncertain about what you are dealing with, it is important to discuss your concerns with your supervisor. If your supervisor is unavailable or you believe they are conflicted or are unclear what to do next, as a diocesan worker, you have the right to contact the Office of Safeguarding to discuss your concerns:

P:   4979 1390 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm)
E:   child.protection@mn.catholic.org.au

Reporting timeframes

The type of concern you have determines the timeframe in which you must report it.  Some concerns may fit multiple criteria, for example, criminal and ROSH and “reportable conduct”.  The following list is set out in order of priority.

If the crime is currently occurring or the situation is an emergency — ring 000 immediately and ask for Police.

If you suspect a crime has occurred — ring your local Police station or The Police Assistance Line 131 444 immediately.

You must contact your supervisor as a matter of urgency*.

If your supervisor is unavailable or you believe there is an issue with your supervisor, you must contact the Office of Safeguarding as a matter of urgency* 02 4979 1390.

Contact FaCS Child Protection Hotline 132 111 immediately or within 24 hours (in accordance with the MRG).

You must advise your supervisor as a matter of urgency*.

Also, you or your supervisor must report to the Office of Safeguarding within one business day 02 4979 1390 or email child.protection@mn.catholic.org.au.

You must advise your supervisor as a matter of urgency*.

Also, you or your supervisor must report to the Office of Safeguarding within one business day 02 4979 1390 or email child.protection@mn.catholic.org.au

You must contact the Office of Safeguarding within one business day 02 4979 1390 or email child.protection@mn.catholic.org.au

If the alleged breach of professional standards involves concerns for the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or vulnerable adult, you must contact your supervisor within five business days.

Also, you or your supervisor must report to the Office of Safeguarding within five business days 02 4979 1390 or email child.protection@mn.catholic.org.au

If the alleged breach of professional standards does not relate to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or vulnerable adult but would be considered a complaint, you should contact your supervisor and act in accordance with the relevant complaints management policy and procedure.

* Reporting as a matter of urgency means reporting without delay. The diocesan worker will report the matter as a priority before other obligations or demands, and after addressing the immediate safety and wellbeing of the child, vulnerable adult or other persons.

Factors that may make reporting more urgent

The reporting matrix sets out the timeframes applied to all diocesan workers. However, there are a number of factors that affect how urgently you should report your concerns.

  1. The role of the person alleged as being abusive or neglectful. It is more urgent if the alleged abuser:
    1. is a diocesan leader (principal, head of service, director of agency, cleric)
    2. holds a position of prominence or trust in the community (law enforcement, the law, government or business).

  2. The child who is the alleged victim has particular vulnerabilities, including:
    1. intellectual or developmental delay
    2. significant physical disability
    3. chronic or acute medical condition.

  3. The vulnerable adult who is the alleged victim is wholly dependent on others for their safety and wellbeing.

  4. The more serious the alleged behaviour and the greater the risk of causing significant, even permanent harm.

  5. The alleged behaviour is being conducted by one or more adults who has the “whole of life” care of the child or vulnerable adult (that is, abuse is occurring in the victim’s home and the abuser is the carer).

Failure to report concerns for children or vulnerable adults is a serious breach of professional standards

A diocesan worker failing to report their concerns for children or vulnerable adults is considered a serious breach of professional standards and may be, in particular circumstances, a criminal offence.

The Diocese will investigate any alleged failures to report and should it be established they failed to report their concerns, the worker may be subject to disciplinary proceedings. Disciplinary action may include:

  • counselling
  • formal censure and warnings
  • withholding of an increment
  • demotion to a lower classification or increment
  • transfer to another more appropriate position
  • suspension
  • termination of employment.

For volunteers, disciplinary action may involve being counselled or being directed to cease volunteering.