Child Safety lessons from the Reportable Conduct Scheme’s report

The Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) has released data from the Reportable Conduct Scheme’s (the Scheme) second year of operation in 2018/19. The data has provided a helpful insight into the mandatory reports made under the Scheme and provides lessons to organisations on priorities moving forward.

Key statistics

In 2018/19, the CCYP received a total of 805 mandatory notifications.  This is similar to the 806 notifications received in 2017/18 and demonstrates a steady number of notifications over the first two years of the Scheme. However, the CCYP has indicated that they expect this number to increase, especially in the religious bodies and health and disability sectors, which has had a surprisingly low number of notifications.

Some other key statistics include:

  • Out-of-home care was the sector with the most amount of mandatory notifications, accounting for 40 percent of all notifications. This was followed by the education sector which represented 28 percent of all notifications.
  • The most commonly reported type of reportable conduct was physical violence which accounted for 54 percent of all mandatory notifications. However, in the education sector, sexual misconduct was the most commonly reported.
  • In relation to alleged victims in mandatory notifications, it was reported that:
    • 58 percent of alleged victims were male.  However, allegations of sexual misconduct more commonly involved a female alleged victim.
    • 11 percent of alleged victims were identified as being Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander.
    • 13 percent of alleged victims were identified as being from a culturally and/or linguistically diverse (CALD) background.
    • 7 percent of alleged victims were identified as having a disability.
    • 26 percent of alleged victims were reported as being in the 10-14 years age group.
  • A total of 31 percent of reported allegations were found to be substantiated. 

Key learnings

  1. Child safety concerns can affect all individuals but some groups are more vulnerable

    The data from the CCYP provides information on the landscape of reportable conduct. Interestingly, females and males were generally equally represented both in statistics regarding alleged victims and alleged perpetrators. This demonstrates the importance for organisations to take all child safety concerns seriously regardless of the person’s sex or gender identity. However, it is also worth noting that the CCYP statistics reflect the findings from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that individuals from an Aboriginal / Torres Strait Islander background, a CALD background or with a disability are particularly vulnerable to child abuse.
  2. A tailored approached to child safety needed for different sectors

    The CCYP data helpfully identifies trends in specific sectors. It demonstrates that for the education sector, sexual misconduct is the most commonly reported conduct and organisations in this space should be focusing prevention and education on this. On the other hand, out-of-home care providers and disability service providers are most likely to report physical violence, demonstrating a need to provide better education on appropriate and boundaries and physical interactions, including the use of restraint.
  3. Public awareness is increasing the risk to organisations that fail to report

    There has been a sharp increase in public disclosures (i.e. disclosures from individuals other than the head of an organisation), which jumped 60 percent in 2018/19 compared to 2017/18. This is indicative of greater public awareness of the Scheme and the CCYP. Where organisations fail to report, it is increasingly common for another individual to report to the CCYP, which can lead to scrutiny and compliance action against organisations.
  4. Organisations that fail to produce high quality investigation reports risk compliance action

    Another important learning is that for the first time in 2018/19, the CCYP took compliance action in two instances where it undertook its own investigation into organisations in the education and religious sectors. As anticipated, the CCYP have played a more interventionist role in investigations, including questioning and scrutinising how investigations are conducted and the findings that were made. As the Scheme develops, there will be increasing pressure on organisations to produce high quality investigation reports that align with the requirements of the Scheme.

Next steps for organisations

As the Scheme progresses through its third year, we recommend that organisations:

  1. Review and update child safety policies and procedures – many organisations have still not embedded the Scheme into their documents, especially their child safety reporting procedures. This creates a risk that they will fail to comply with their reporting requirements under the Scheme.
  2. Undertake investigation training – organisations should be training their staff on investigations under the Scheme which are quite unique in their requirements. This is especially so for organisations which intend to run internal investigations into child safety concerns.
  3. Know when to report – the CCYP statistics indicate that organisations are still unsure when to report with some over-reporting (leading to a low rate of substantiated allegations) and some under-reporting (leading to compliance action and public notifications). It is important that you are providing clear guidance to your employees and head of the entity on when a report is required and when it isn’t, noting that a report will require you to conduct an investigation.
  4. Understand your sector – it is clear that different sectors deal with different types of child safety concerns. Organisations should review their priorities in light of the CCYP statistics. Additionally, organisations in the religious and health and disability sectors should be on notice that the CCYP has indicated it will be scrutinising why notifications from these sectors remain concerningly low. 

Moores has experience working with organisations in determining if a mandatory notification needs to be made, providing training on the Scheme and assisting in investigations.

For further information or guidance please do not hesitate to contact us.