Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon
Category Administration and Management
Type Policy
Approved by

Vice-Chancellor, 28 August 2017

Date Policy Took Effect 28 August 2017
Last approved revision 26 January 2021
Sponsor Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and Director, Human Resources
Responsible officer Manager, Policy and Compliance


The University of Otago is committed to the well-being of children and young people.  The purpose of this policy is to affirm that commitment and ensure that the University meets its requirements under the Children's Act 2014 and other relevant legislation, through providing provisions for:

  • the identification and reporting of child abuse or neglect, and
  • appropriate safety checking of staff and students who have relevant engagement with children within the context of their University work or study.

Organisational scope



For the purposes of this policy, a child or young person aged 17 years or younger.
Safety Check
For the purposes of this policy, a screening process to assess the appropriateness of a person to work with children (i.e. in terms of ensuring child safety).
Staff Member
An employee of the University.
A person enrolled at, or planning to enrol at, the University.
University Representative
Any person engaged in carrying out University business, whether as a staff member or student, or in some other role (e.g. as a volunteer or contractor).


  1. Reporting Child Abuse or Neglect

    1. Staff and students of the University who, in the course of their work or study for the University, come to believe that a child may have been, or may be at risk of being, abused, neglected or otherwise harmed, should take appropriate action as outlined in clauses 1(c)-(i) below.
    2. Staff and students who carry out part of their University work or study in the context of prescribed State Services, District Health Boards, schools, or other providers of children's services, should be aware of and adhere to any child protection policies in place in those organisations.
    3. Where a child discloses abuse or harm, or a concern about abuse or harm is raised, this should be documented, including recording:
      1. the disclosure (as close to verbatim as possible) and/or the concern
      2. the date of any disclosure and who was present
      3. any evidence in support of the disclosure or concern
      4. any advice received
      5. any action taken, and
      6. any other relevant information.
    4. Except where a delay in response is likely to endanger a child, staff or students are strongly encouraged to discuss any concerns they may have and any potential action to be taken with their supervisor, manager, Head of Department or the University Registrar.
    5. Where a person believes that a current or prospective staff member, student or other University representative may pose a risk to children in the context of University work or study, they should seek further advice from:
      1. The Director, Human Resources in relation to any staff member, or
      2. the University Registrar in relation to any student or other non-staff University representative.
    6. Where it is believed that a child is in immediate danger, concerns should be reported to the Police.
    7. Where it is believed a child has been, or is likely to be, abused, neglected or harmed, but it is judged that they are not in immediate danger, concerns should be reported to Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Vulnerable Children).
    8. Where a concern is raised, and it is subsequently determined that no risk to a child or children exists and that no action is to be taken, this decision and its rationale should be documented.
    9. Disclosures of, or concerns about, abuse should be treated as highly sensitive and appropriate standards of confidentiality should be maintained, subject to this Policy and the University's Privacy Policy.
    10. Nothing in this Policy limits the right of any person to report child abuse or neglect in accordance with Section 15 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
  2. Safety Checking of Staff and Students who Work with Children

    1. For the purposes of this policy, relevant child contact is:
      1. regular or overnight contact with a child or children in the course of University work, study or research (other than with children who are co-workers)
      2. without a parent or guardian of each child being present, and
      3. in the context of a regulated service as specified in the Children's Act 2014.
      Education services at tertiary level are not considered regulated services, and so teaching interactions with enrolled students aged 17 years or younger will not normally fall under the definition of relevant child contact, except where such teaching is carried out on behalf of a school or other regulated service.
    2. Any staff member who is likely to have relevant child contact in the context of their University employment shall be safety checked.
    3. Any student who has, or is likely to have, relevant child contact as a consequence of their enrolment in University programme(s) or paper(s), or as a consequence of any other official University activities, shall be safety checked.  Child contact independent of University activities (e.g. through existing independent employment) does not require University safety checking.
    4. Safety checks shall be carried out as prescribed under the Vulnerable Children (Requirements for Safety Checks of Children's Workers) Regulations 2015.
    5. Safety checks shall occur:
      1. before the staff member or student commences work with children (or before deadline dates as specified under commencement provisions in clauses 25 and 26 of the Children's Act 2014), and subsequently
      2. at least every three years if the staff member or student is continuing in a University role which involves child contact.
    6. The University may accept, as meeting the requirement of clauses 2(d), written confirmation of a dated safety check concluding that a person is safe to work with children from:
      1. District Health Boards (DHBs), for staff or students who are currently employed by the DHB and for whom relevant child contact in their University work or study is primarily or solely within the context of the DHB, or
      2. any other organisation (including registering bodies), for staff or students for whom relevant child contact in their University work or study shall occur solely within the context of that other organisation.
      Such safety checks only apply to work in the specified contexts. Relevant child contact outside these contexts shall require a University-initiated safety check.
    7. The University shall endeavour to make clear to prospective staff, students and other University representatives, employment and study options, or other University business, which require safety checking, for example through position descriptions and recruitment processes, and programme and paper regulations and notes.
    8. The University reserves the right to require a full or partial safety check of any staff member, student or other University representative who has relevant child contact in the context of their University work or study, regardless of any previous checks carried out.
    9. The University reserves the right to appropriately restrict a person's University-based activities where a safety check finds that that person may pose a risk to children and/or is not permitted to work with children under the Children's Act 2014, or where no safety check has been completed.
    10. Nothing in this clause shall limit the University's obligation and right to take all necessary steps to meet legislative requirements.
  3. Safety Checking Oversight and Responsibilities

    1. Safety checks shall be carried out by:
      1. Human Resources in relation to staff, and
      2. the relevant academic department or division in relation to students.
    2. Departments, in consultation with Human Resources, are responsible for identifying University roles involving relevant child contact, and in such cases ensuring appropriate safety checking is carried out.
    3. Human Resources shall maintain records of staff safety checks, and advise departments which rechecking (under clause 2(e)ii) may be required.
    4. Academic departments and divisions are responsible for:
      1. identifying programmes and papers under their jurisdiction (excluding research-only programmes and papers) which may involve relevant child contact, and reporting this to: · the Board of Graduate Studies or Board of Undergraduate Studies, through standard proposal or amendment processes, for new or amended programmes or papers, or · the Manager, Policy and Compliance, for existing programmes or papers
      2. appropriately accounting for safety checking requirements in programme and paper regulations and notes, and
      3. ensuring compliant safety checking and rechecking processes are in place for such papers and programmes and are carried out as required.
    5. Staff researchers, and supervisors of research students, are responsible for:
      1. reporting planned relevant child contact in research projects under their jurisdiction to their Head of Department and the appropriate University of Otago Human Ethics Committee as part of the ethical approval process for those projects, and
      2. organising any associated safety checks that are required in accordance with clause 3(a).

Related policies, procedures and forms

Contact for further information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, or for general queries and queries relating to students and academic programmes, contact:

The Manager
Policy and Compliance

For queries relating to staff, please contact:

The Human Resources Services Manager

Back to top