Catholic Professional Standards Ltd Release Draft National Catholic Safeguarding Standards

03 May 2018

The Catholic Church’s safeguarding body Catholic Professional Standards Ltd (CPSL) last week released draft National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (Standards) which will be used to gauge the capacity of the Catholic Church to provide safe places for children and vulnerable adults. CPSL will audit compliance with the Standards and will publicly report audit findings. There are 10 Standards which take into account guidance from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) and the National Statement from the Australian Human Rights Commission. CPSL is calling on anyone interested in the development of the Standards to provide feedback.

What is CPSL?

According to its website, CPSL was formed in response to the findings of the Royal Commission. CPSL:

  • was established by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia
  • operates independently from the Church
  • has no bishops, priests or religious brothers or sisters on the CPSL Board. CPSL board directors are lay people with professional expertise in the fields of law, education, human services, safeguarding and regulation
  • is committed to the safety of children and vulnerable adults and has zero tolerance for abuse
  • is committed to acting in accordance with its values of courage, compassion and honesty.

CPSL developed the Standards as part of its commitment to fostering a culture of safety and care for children and vulnerable adults.

The CPSL website's FAQ section provides further useful information about the functions of the new entity including:

  • CPSL is a not-for-profit public company limited by guarantee
  • CPSL does not handle complaints and compensation claims
  • it is expected that Church Authorities will enter into contractual arrangements with CPSL, agreeing to: 1) comply with the Standards and 2) be audited on their compliance with the Standards
  • CPSL does not have the power to force any Church Authority to implement any recommendations. It will however have the resources, skills and expertise to assist in building the capacity of Church Authorities to implement appropriate safeguards through training, support, policy development, sharing of good practice and dissemination of research.

CPSL is registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.

Do Other Religions Have Similar Organisations?

The Royal Commission's investigations and now, recommendations, clearly distinguish between different types of religious organisations. The Final Recommendations include recommendations particular to all religious institutions in Australia: Jewish institutions, the Anglican Church, the Catholic Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses organisation. While some of these religious groups have established dedicated organisations to address the prevention of child abuse, such as Tzedek (Jewish), CPSL appears to be the only organisation to be independent from the Church and also the first to proactively respond to the Royal Commission prior to legislative responses. In December the Anglican Church announced it had introduced "for the first time binding national standards on child protection for all clergy and church workers, including independent audits" and a wealth of information is available on this Southern Queensland Anglican website. The Queensland materials reference general, national Anglican documents however they do not appear to be publicly available.

The CPSL Standards

Like the 10 Child Safe Standards identified by the Royal Commission, there are 10 CPSL Standards. For comparison's sake, we have listed the two sets of the Standards and the similarities are clear:

Royal Commission
1 Child safety is embedded into institutional leadership and governance Committed leadership, governance and culture
2 Children participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously Children are safe, informed and participate
3 Families and communities are informed and involved Partnering with families, carers and communities
4 Equity is upheld and diverse needs are taken into account Equity is promoted and diversity is respected
5 People working with children are suitable and supported Robust human resource management
6 Processes to respond to complaints of child sexual abuse are child focused Effective complaints management
7 Staff are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children safe through continual education and training Ongoing education and training
8 Physical and online environments minimise the opportunity for abuse to occur Safe physical and online environments
9 Implementation of the Child Safe Standards is continuously reviewed and approved Policies and procedures support child safety
10 Policies and procedures document how the institution is child safe Regular improvement

One difference is that the CPSL has reversed the order of its Standards 9 and 10 compared to the order of the Royal Commission Standards 9-10. Like the Royal Commission Standards, each CPSL Standard is further explained by specific criteria. Accordingly, CPSL has taken steps to implement Royal Commission Recommendation 6.4 which is that ''institutions should implement the Child Safe Standards identified by the Royal Commission."

In its Standards document, CPSL also includes for each Standard, a range of specific and measurable criteria and an implementation and evidence guide with suggestions, examples and requirements for how a Church entity may demonstrate compliance with the indicators, criteria and ultimately, each Standard.

Next Steps for Catholic Schools

The draft Standards are open for comment. Interested individuals, groups or organisations may make a submission via the CPSL website. CPSL aims to have the Standards ratified and ready for roll-out before the end of 2018. The deadline for receipt of submissions is Wednesday 31 May 2018 (note that this date is incorrect but is the date on the CPSL website). Schools are eligible to make submissions. Once the Standards are final, Catholic leaders will be held accountable for their implementation in Church entities and organisations. For Catholic schools, this means that they are likely to see further guidance and direction on how to implement the Standards in their schools. The implementation of the Standards would need to occur in addition to school compliance with legal and regulatory child protection requirements such as the Victorian Ministerial Order No. 870. How those legal obligations will be reconciled with the Standards remains to be seen.


Kieran Seed

Kieran is a Legal Research Coordinator at CompliSpace. In his position, Kieran assists with drafting and review of governance, risk and compliance content programs and client-requested policies, while also writing regular articles for School Governance. Kieran’s key focus areas are student duty of care and school registration. Kieran studied at the University of Sydney, completing a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of International and Global Studies majoring in Government and International Relations.