The new Children’s Guardian Act 2019 (Act) will commence on 1 March 2020 and will consolidate legislation that currently governs the existing functions and responsibilities of the NSW Children’s Guardian, also expanding their functions to include the NSW Reportable Conduct Scheme (transferred from the NSW Ombudsman).
As a result, the NSW Children’s Guardian will oversee the head of an organisation’s (called a ‘relevant entity’) response toa reportable allegation or a reportable conviction, ensuring the response has met the legislative requirements.
The new Act includes
- clarification of the definition of reportable conduct (a sexual offence, sexual misconduct, ill treatment, neglect, assault offence under 43B or 316A of the Crimes Act 1900 and behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm to a child)
- a requirement that relevant entities will have seven business days (instead of the current 30 days) to provide notification (online report) to the NSW Children’s Guardian with details of an allegationof reportable conduct or reportable conviction (penalties may result if this does not occur)
- a requirement that relevant entities must conduct an investigation and make a finding into an allegation of reportable conduct
- a requirement that an interim report must be provided to the NSW Children’sGuardian if the relevant entity is unable to complete an investigation into an allegation of reportable conduct within 30 calendar days (penalties may result if this does not occur)
- a narrowing of the definition for sexual misconduct: crossing of professional boundaries as it will not amount to sexual misconduct unless there is a sexual element
- a new avenue of appeal to the NSWCivil and Administrative Tribunal for an administrative review of a NSW Children’s Guardian initiated investigation decision, and
- a provision for the NSW Ombudsman to receive any complaints on the handling of the NSW Reportable Conduct Scheme by the NSW Children’s Guardian.
In the lead up to the commencement of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 on 1 March 2020, the NSW Reportable Conduct Scheme will continue under the current legislative (Ombudsman Act 1974) and operational arrangements and requirements of the NSW Ombudsman.
Any questions about the current scheme can be directed to the Reportable Conduct Team at the NSW Ombudsman on(02) 9286 1021.
If anyone has any questions about the scheme’s transfer to the NSW Children’s Guardian, contact them at RCStransition@kids.nsw.gov.au.