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Vulnerable Persons Policy and Practice Statement

Our Commitment

The safety, welfare and wellbeing of children, young people and vulnerable adults is Pathfinders’ highest priority.

The right to enjoy a safe environment free from threats, harm, abuse, mistreatment or exploitation is a core commitment to our clients and the communities we serve.

We encourage our workforce to be personally and professionally accountable for upholding this commitment. This means we expect every member of our team to hold themselves and others accountable, to be transparent and to learn from their experiences working with vulnerable people.

Authority

This Vulnerable Persons Policy is endorsed and authorised by the Board of Pathfinders.

The Pathfinders Board and its Chief Executive Officer are committed to the ongoing development, improvement and endorsement of policy that allows the organisation to meet its duty of care to its clients, employees and the communities it serves. It is this supportive leadership and safeguarding of our trauma-informed culture that continues to drive the success of Pathfinders programs, services and activities.

If you have any questions or concerns about how this policy applies to you, or to the Pathfinders programs or services you provide, please speak immediately with your supervisor or manager.

Policy Application

This policy applies to all people engaged to work with Pathfinders, including paid employees and unpaid volunteers, students, contractors and carers. This policy also applies to members of the Pathfinders Board.

Who is Considered a Vulnerable Person?

A vulnerable person means a child (an individual under the age of 18), or an adult (18 years and above) who may be unable to safeguard themselves against harm or exploitation by reason of illness, trauma, disability, or for any other reason. A vulnerable adult is unable, rather than unwilling, to learn or properly maintain some aspects of basic living skills and self-protective behaviours.

Physical, economic, social and political factors determine a person’s level of vulnerability and the extent of their capacity to resist, cope with, and recover from hazards. Factors that contribute to vulnerability include:

  • being a child or young person
  • lived experience of trauma
  • living with a disability
  • being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  • poor physical or mental health
  • being culturally and/or linguistically diverse
  • socio-economic disadvantage
  • being an immigrant or refugee
  • dependence on others
  • being aged, frail or lacking competence

Policy Statement

All children, young people and vulnerable adults who interact with Pathfinders have a right to feel and to be safe.

Safeguarding vulnerable people is everybody’s responsibility at Pathfinders, every day. To uphold this commitment, Pathfinders will:

  • create and maintain an environment that ensures all people involved in activities, programs or services act in the best interests of children, young people and vulnerable adults. This includes creating and maintaining a safe culture that is understood, endorsed and put into action by all individuals who work for, volunteer or access our programs and services.
  • take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety, welfare and wellbeing of clients, including encouragement of its workforce to act to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults from all forms of abuse, bullying, neglect and exploitation.
  • ensure the dignified and respectful participation of children, young people and vulnerable adults in decision-making processes. This includes consulting with and seeking the views of children, young people and vulnerable adults on issues affecting their lives; respecting clients as individuals; and recognising clients’ differing circumstances and priorities.
  • comply with all Commonwealth and NSW Government legislation and regulations (see Appendix 1) and conform to the ethical expectations of the communities we serve in providing safe spaces, programs, services and activities.
  • conduct Working With Children (WWC) Checks and, where necessary, Police History Checks to ensure any person engaged in activities with children does not have any relevant criminal offences or other charges or findings that may suggest they could be a risk to children, young people or vulnerable adults.
  • ensure all children, young people and vulnerable adults, regardless of age, disability, gender, racial or ethnic origin, religious beliefs, or sexual identity have a right to protection from abuse. Accordingly, all children, young people and vulnerable adults have a right to expect proactive intervention, support and/or information from Pathfinders which could make life better and/or safer for them, and be involved in decisions that are made about them. 

What is Abuse?

Abuse occurs when one’s rights are not respected.

Abuse is any behaviour towards a person that causes them harm, endangers wellbeing or violates their dignity or rights. It includes physical, emotional and psychological ill-treatment and neglect (including self-neglect), financial or sexual abuse, exposure to domestic violence and the impairment of physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development. Abuse concerns the misuse of power, control and/or authority, and can be perpetrated by an individual, a group or an organisation.

Our Roles and Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of everyone at Pathfinders to support the organisation’s commitment to the safeguarding of children, young people and vulnerable adults, and to attend training as required.

It is the responsibility of the Pathfinders Board, Chief Executive Officer, Senior Management Leadership Team and all program, service and activity managers to ensure compliance to – and the effectiveness of – this policy, and to fully and appropriately implement organisational procedures relating to it.

The Senior Manager responsible for this policy and its associated procedures is responsible for maintaining, updating and implementing appropriate procedures to deliver the policy’s objectives, and that these objectives are available and understood by all teams.

It is the responsibility of managers, supervisors and all members of the frontline workforce (paid or unpaid) to ensure they understand the importance of this policy and related procedures, and receive training at induction and in their ongoing personal training plan. All people working with children, young people, or vulnerable adults are responsible for familiarising themselves with this policy and its associated procedures.

Failure to report suspected harm or abuse in line with the procedure that accompanies this policy may be regarded as colluding with the harm or abuse and be in breach of the code of conduct.

Inaction on safety issues around vulnerable people is not acceptable and may constitute serious misconduct.

Delegated Authority

The Pathfinders Board has delegated to the Pathfinders Chief Executive Officer the authority to make necessary operational decisions on a case-by-case basis, which may conflict with this policy, provided that any variation so authorised is reported to the Board at its next scheduled meeting.

Appendix 1: Legislative Framework

  • Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW)
  • Adoption Act 2000 (NSW)
  • Advocate for Children and Young People Act 2014 (NSW)
  • Child Protection (International Measures) Act 2006 (NSW)
  • Child Protection (Offenders Prohibition Orders) Act 2004 (NSW)
  • Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000 (NSW)
  • Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (NSW)
  • Child Protection (Working with Children) Regulation 2013 (NSW)
  • Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW)
  • Industrial Relations (Child Employment) Act 2006 (NSW)
  • Human Rights Act 2004 (NSW)
  • Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW)
  • Young Offenders Act 1997 (NSW)
  • Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011 (ACT)
  • Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)
  • Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth)

Source: Commonwealth Institute of Family Studies

Child Family Community Australia Fact Sheet Issued March 2018

Copyright Assertion Statement: © Pathfinders Ltd (ABN 64 146 004 524).