What is the need for the Safeguarding Children program?

In a National Child Protection Clearinghouse Issues Paper devoted exclusively to the topic of child abuse in organisations, Irenyi, Bromfield, Beyer and Higgins (2007) highlighted that there has been a litany of recent government and institutional inquiries into historic and contemporary institutional abuse which have exposed the impact of abuse of children and young people by employees or volunteers with a role to care or support them.

Research has also demonstrated that organisations can be vulnerable to the subversion by adults intent on harming children. Between 1988 - 1996, the Victorian Child Exploitation Squad found that 43% of sex offenders gained access to child victims through children's organisations (Petratis and O'Connor, 1999).

A Queensland Crime Commission investigation in 2000 highlighted numerous deficiencies in the approaches of organisations to the protection of children and young people from abuse. For example, less than one third of sporting, scouting and youth organisations contacted undertook any screening of employees and volunteers. Half of the 66 non-government schools involved in the survey had no guidelines in place for dealing with allegations of abuse involving a school employee. Only three out of 51 community groups had formal policies for reporting allegations of child abuse involving employees or volunteers. More than half of these groups said they would not involve the police in an allegation of child sexual abuse (Project Axis, 2000).

Recently, the NSW Ombudsman (2010) reported that in a sample of 101 sexual offence matters against school students by school employees between 2001-2009, 92% involved grooming prior to the sexual offence. In 31%, the grooming behaviour had been reported prior to the conduct escalating to a sexual offence. Of these, 39% of reports were not acted upon at all. Some action took place in 42% of matters, however, only 19% were deemed to have been appropriate action. In more than half of the reported matters, the response included ineffective warning of the perpetrator.