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Call for working with children checks

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"To date, there are 9153 reported cases of child abuse, neglect and exploitation on part of the child protection register"

File picture: Flickr

WHILE South Africa is commemorating Child Protection Week, employers throughout the Northern Cape, whose employees’ job responsibilities require them to work with or have access to children, have been called upon to verify the suitability of employees to work with children against the Child Protection Register (CPR).

In a statement issued yesterday, the Department of Social Development said that children across South Africa daily come into contact with a number of people and organisations, some of which are meant to protect them. These include, amongst others, schools, school transportation operators, hospitals, child care centres and religious organisations.

“Given the unacceptably high levels of child abuse, neglect and exploitation in South Africa, suitability checks for persons working with or having access to children is crucial as a preventative measure in the child protection system.

“As we commemorate Child Protection Week, the Department of Social Development calls upon all employers throughout South Africa whose employees’ job responsibilities require them to work with or have access to children to verify their suitability to work with children against the Child Protection Register (CPR). The purpose of the CPR is to ensure that children are protected from abuse. Employers or potential employers are encouraged to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of child abuse, neglect and exploitation.”

In terms of Section 126 of the Children’s Act , all organisations working with or having access to children are required to assess and verify the suitability of their employees and potential employees.

It is also the responsibility of parents to ensure that those entrusted with the care of their children, such as childminders and early childhood development practitioners, including volunteers in childcare facilities, are suitable to work with children. This will ensure that the right people are chosen to work with children.

Section 111 of the Children’s Act mandates the Department of Social Development to keep and maintain a Child Protection Register, that consists of Part A and Part B. Part A is used to record all reports of abuse or deliberate neglect of a child while Part B keeps details of persons declared unsuitable to work with children.

To date, there are 9 153 reported cases of child abuse, neglect and exploitation on Part A of the Child Protection Register. The register has 509 names of persons declared unsuitable to work with children. As of the end of March this year, the department had received
140 029 suitability check enquiries from employers and individuals.

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Development also raised concern about the recent increase in serious violence, particularly pupil-on-pupil violence, in schools across South Africa.

“This week, South Africa learnt about the death of an 18-year-old Grade 11 pupil at Forest Hill High School in Turffontein and the fatal stabbing of two other pupils allegedly at the hands of another pupil at the same school. This is a challenge that affects all of our society and coincides with the commemoration of the annual Child Protection Week campaign, currently under way in South Africa.

“The incident that took place at Forest Hill High School highlights the need for key sectors around the country to work together to build a more protective environment for children, starting at family and community levels. The incident also highlights the need for parents and caregivers to check and follow up on their children’s educational progress, discipline as well as the nature of their children’s reaction to discipline and respect towards teachers and fellow pupils.

“This, and other similar incidents, reinforces the department’s view, shared through the Child Protection Week campaign, that child protection is everybody’s business and that co-ordinated action is needed across a number of fronts to ensure the safety and well-being of children in South Africa. It highlights that the protection and care of children is not the sole responsibility of government but other stakeholders including parents, faith-based organisations, civil society and the media to play their part in the protection of children.”

This year’s Child Protection Week campaign runs until June 9.