Safe and competent workforce

Embedding a culture of child protection in partnership with families, whānau and community.

What is a safe and competent workforce?

The children’s workforce is those people whose work involves planning, managing and/or delivering services to children.

A safe and competent children’s workforce is able to recognise when things aren’t right for children, and then work together within an embedded culture of child protection to deliver timely, effective services to meet the needs of those vulnerable children in partnership with whānau, family, and community.

A safe and competent workforce means local professionals and practitioners are safety checked, understand child protection as one of their core duties, and, have the skills needed to work together effectively.

Employers in a safe and competent workforce take responsibility for the recruitment, development, and support of their staff so that their workforce is ready and able to effectively support vulnerable children.

Why is it important?

No single agency or worker can effectively meet the needs of vulnerable children. When children’s’ workers work together across sectors, organisations and professions they provide cohesive, co-ordinated services that meet children’s needs.

When all children’s workers are competent in the core aspects of working with vulnerable children, the children’s workforce becomes collectively competent and is able to put the child at the centre of everything it does.

When employers follow a robust and consistent recruitment process to ensure their workforce is safe, children are valued and protected.  Safety checking and rechecking at regular (three yearly) intervals ensures the children’s workforce is kept continuously safe for children. 

Organisations with child protection policies embed a culture of child protection in their workforce. Child protection policies help the workforce understand that the safety and security of children is a priority for all services, and, the responsibility of everyone.

How do I put this into practice?

Understand and comply with the legislative requirements of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

Develop the capability of your local children’s workforce in the core competencies needed to work effectively with vulnerable children in a trans-disciplinary way.

You'll need to make sure children’s workers are safety checked in accordance with the requirements of the VCA.

Any core children’s worker whose safety check reveals certain serious criminal offending but who wants to seek an exemption will need to seek an exemption under the Act.

Some organisations are required under the VCA to have Child Protection Policies which encourage early identification and referral of suspected child abuse or neglect. However even organisations which are not required under the Act should consider developing or reviewing their Child Protection Policies to embed a culture of child protection within their workforce.

Sharing information between appropriate practitioners and agencies about a vulnerable child is essential if the risks and the needs surrounding a child are to be identified early, and the underlying issues of the child and family/whānau are to be addressed.

What do I need to consider?

Organisations need to consider capacity and capability to work together to respond to the needs of vulnerable children. You may also need to consider the way the workforce is funded, and the way services are prioritised.

Consider the way your workforce engages with Māori, and supports Māori to succeed as Māori. Also consider the degree to which your workforce is able to hear, reflect, and act on the voices of children and mokopuna.

Understanding how well your local children’s workforce works together now, and has worked together in the past, can help prompt thinking about the changes needed.

You should also take into account what national or overhead support is required, such as access to communications, IT systems, transport and supervision.

How do Children’s Teams support a safe and competent workforce?

Children’s Teams develop learning and development plans for their local children’s workforce. They link into, and/or provide capability building workshops to support their local children’s workforce to develop the competencies needed to identify, support and protect vulnerable children within a Children’s Team approach.

Children’s Teams require organisations whose employees participate in the Children’s Team to complete a standard safety check for those employees. The employers then provide evidence to the Children’s Team Director as evidence the checks have been done. Some people are not employed by any organisation, in which case the Children’s Team may complete the safety check themselves.

Each Children’s Team develops their own child protection policy unique to the team following national guidelines. They consider existing exemplars, develop their child protection policy, and then embed that policy into the orientation and business processes for their site. Each teams’ child protection policy is available on their web page:

Information is shared to support decision making on the best possible response pathway for the child, to conduct assessments such as Tuituia, and develop a Child’s Plan. It’s shared to monitor progress of the child and their whānau against their plan and to support decisions on next steps.

How do I support my staff?

Support your staff so that they know the best way to present information to the panel to get the best output.

There are a number of tangible things that managers can do to support their staff, including:

  • put in place effective supervision
  • ensure that your agency has a focus on achieving outcomes and has the skills to work in a trans-disciplinary working environment.
  • identify gaps in staff knowledge about what contributes to children’s wellbeing and how to effectively work with children and their family/whānau and other practitioners and address these skill gaps in a personal development plan.

Read more about supporting staff working with Children’s Teams

What resources can help me?