Duty of Care

Duty of care when working with children, young people and families

Duty of care is often used as a legal term and most people would be aware of their duty of care in regards to occupational health and safety.  However, duty of care applies to a range of situations and can be briefly described as an obligation that a sensible person would have in the circumstances when acting toward others and the public.

If the actions of a person are not made with care, attention, caution, and prudence, their actions are considered negligent. A very high degree of care is owed to children because they have a limited capacity to care for themselves.

Both Providers of services and educators have a Duty of Care to the children and families in their service. To ensure this is maintained the Provider should ensure that they have systems and policies in place, to ensure the following factors are considered and known by all the Educators ( including Casuals ) in relation to their duty of care:

  • All staff are familiar with current information and legislation relevant to children, young people and families with whom you are working.
  • Staff keep their knowledge and skills up to date.
  • Committee and staff comply with organisation policies and procedures.
  • Committee and staff maintain confidentiality and privacy and ensure that all exchanges of information are lawful.
  • Staff ensure interventions and activities are developmentally appropriate.
  • Committee and staff provide accurate information and advice within your area of expertise and seek expert advice when no expertise is available.
  • Staff report children at risk of significant harm and concerns about the actions of employees consistent with the relevant legislation and organisation policies and procedures.
  • Staff maintain a safe environment and pay particular attention when providing transport, conducting activities or when under supervision.
  • Committee and staff respect the knowledge and contribution of other colleagues and organisations.  Work collaboratively with them, to ensure that important information about children is available to those who need it and that reasonable steps are taken to work collaboratively to meet children and young people’s needs.
  • All committee and staff know that when they experience difficulties complying with policies, procedures or practice standards they are able and required to bring this to the attention of their supervisor.

What is a Mandatory reporter?

Educators in OSHC are “Mandatory Reporters”.

A mandatory reporter in NSW is an individual required by Section 27 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 to report to the Child Protection Helpline when he/she has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child, or a class of children, is at risk of significant harm from abuse or neglect and those grounds arise during the course of or through the person’s work.

Mandatory reporters include those who deliver services, listed below, wholly or partly to children as part of their paid or professional work.

  • Health care (e.g. doctors, nurses, dentists and other health workers)
  • Welfare (e.g. psychologists, social workers, family workers, community workers and youth workers)
  • Education (e.g. teachers)
  • Children’s services (e.g. child care workers, family day carers and home-based carers)
  • Residential services (e.g. refuge workers)
  • Law enforcement (e.g. police)

The NSW legislation also mandates any person who manages an employee from the above services to report significant risk of harm.

Organisations will generally have internal policies setting out the requirements for mandated employees and their managers report concerns about children and young people. Some organisation policies (such as NSW Health) require non-mandated reporters to report to the Child Protection Helpline, so practitioners need to be familiar with the legislation as well as their organisation’s policy on reporting risk of significant harm.

Providers of OSHC services should ensure that all employees are aware that they are mandatory reporters and that they are aware of their roles and responsibilities. Committees can support this by ensuring their employees attend relevant training, information is provided at orientation on child protection responsibilities and they keep ‘Child protection’ on their meeting agenda and the staff meeting agendas to ensure that the committee remains updated to any issues in relation to child protection policy and implementation of procedures. 

Protection for mandatory reporters

Where a report is made in good faith there is no:

  • breach of professional ethics or etiquette or departure from professional standards
  • liability for defamation
  • grounds for civil proceedings for malicious prosecution or conspiracy

Generally the law requires that the identity of the reporter not be disclosed. However, it may be disclosed if this occurs in connection with the investigation of an alleged serious offence committed against a child or young person and the disclosure is necessary for the purposes of safeguarding or promoting the safety, welfare and well-being of any child or young person (whether or not the victim of the alleged offence).

To access more information on child protection including policy templates, fact sheets and online information quiz for employees and committees go to

www.networkofcommunityactivites.rg.au/childsafe

This resource has been produced by Network of Community Activities using funding provided
by the NSW Department of Education Sector Development Grants Program.