Our approach to compliance and enforcement

Last update: 24 January 2023

At the Office of the Children’s Guardian, we focus on capability building and support. This reflects the importance of education in changing attitudes and cultures that can make children vulnerable to abuse.

We take a responsive, risk-based approach to regulation, which means we will focus on regulating areas where there is greatest potential harm to children and young people. For most organisations, our focus will be on education and building on the strengths of what organisations are already doing.

On this page

    New enforcement powers and penalties from 1 February 2023

    From 1 February 2023, Part 9A of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 will come into force, which will allow the Children's Guardian to take action to ensure organisations comply with the Child Safe Standards. This means where organisations do not comply with the Child Safe Standards, the Children’s Guardian can: 

    • issue a compliance notice to the organisation, or
    • accept an enforceable undertaking from the organisation.

    If an organisation fails to comply with a compliance notice or enforceable undertaking, the Children’s Guardian may commence proceedings to issue penalties.

    The Children’s Guardian will rely on these enforcement powers, where organisations demonstrate persistent, or deliberate non-compliance with the Child Safe Standards.

    Check if your organisation is included in the Child Safe Scheme.

    Monitoring

    Our approach to monitoring is strengths-based and focused on what works best for children, not prescriptive compliance. Monitoring may include reviewing an organisation’s systems and processes. We might also inspect an organisation’s premises, with permission from the head of the organisation. We also have the power to direct an organisation to complete a Child Safe Self-Assessment.

    The Children’s Guardian can also issue a monitoring assessment report to help an organisation improve its compliance with the Child Safe Standards. The organisation must respond to the recommendations made in that report. 

    Investigating

    These are some of the most common reasons we investigate an organisation:

    • the organisation doesn’t comply with our directions
    • the organisation doesn’t respond to our recommendations
    • we receive a complaint about the organisation
    • we are concerned that the organisation isn’t implementing the Child Safe Standards.   

    At the end of an investigation, an investigation report must be provided. This report will include our findings about how an organisation implements the Child Safe Standards. We may issue a Compliance Notice if we find the organisation is placing children at risk or we may make recommendations. If recommendations are made, the organisation must tell us what they will do in response. The report may also outline any enforcement measures to be taken by the Children’s Guardian.

    New enforcement measures

    Enforcement measures are steps that we can take to ensure organisations comply with the Child Safe Standards.

    Compliance notices

    If we reasonably believe an organisation is not implementing the Child Safe Standards, we can issue a compliance notice. The compliance notice will specify the action required to be undertaken by the organisation to implement the Child Safe Standards. This notice will be published on our website.

    An organisation can request a review of the Children's Guardian’s decision to issue a compliance notice and provide information to support the request. Following the review, the Children’s Guardian can confirm his decision to issue the compliance notice or withdraw the compliance notice.

    Failure to comply with a compliance notice issued by the Children's Guardian may attract a penalty. 

    Enforceable undertakings

    Instead of issuing a compliance notice, we may agree to accept an enforceable undertaking.

    An enforceable undertaking is something that an organisation commits to do by a specific date. For example, if a monitoring visit found systemic issues that put children at risk, the organisation can enter into an enforceable undertaking, signed by the head of the organisation, that they will take steps to address these issues within 3 months. 

    This enforceable undertaking will be published on our website.

    Failure to comply with an enforceable undertaking may attract a penalty.  

    We expect all child safe organisations to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in their care. If you need help understanding the steps to take to be a child safe organisation, we strongly encourage you to review our resources including the Child Safe Self-Assessment or contact our Office for assistance at childsafe@ocg.nsw.gov.au.

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