Assessment and certification

ACSL’s Audit and Review Program is designed to assess how well an entity or ministry that is governed by a Church Authority is applying the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards.


The NCSS Audit Framework includes a range of assessment tools used to undertake a risk-based assessment of the safeguarding culture of a Church entity or ministry.

Once an initial audit has been completed and any recommendations are addressed, the organisation is eligible for ACSL certification.

This includes a certificate and the use of the ACSL certification logo.

We offer ACSL certification to Catholic organisations that work with children and adults at risk, who can demonstrate that their policies, processes and culture are consistently safe.

This includes a strong focus on understanding safety from the perspective of the children and young people who are part of your organisation.

ACSL certifies against the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, which take into consideration:

  • The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations
  • Relevant legislation across jurisdictions
  • Recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The NCSS measure against criteria, indicators and evidence expected of organisations with a well embedded culture of safety.

ACSL is currently refining our audit and review framework to acknowledge the differences in size, composition and complexity of Church entities. Our certification requirements will be built on this risk -based approach and include:

  • Self Assessment + Validation
  • Peer Review + Validation
  • External Audit + Validation
  • ACSL Audit
  • ACSL Review

The ACSL certification represents a three-year partnership with organisations to support continuous improvement, integrate new legislative requirements and emerging best practice, and monitoring the certification requirements.

Published audit reports

All audit reports of Church entities are published on ACSL’s website.

Risk-based audit and review framework

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards apply to all Catholic entities. To acknowledge the range of structures and governance that exist across Catholic entities, a risk-based application of the
Standards has been developed to ensure a proportionate response.

View ACSL's Risk-based Audit and Review Framework

The audit process

1. Preparing for an audit

Completing a self-assessment via the NCSS Self-Assessment Portal is the first step for any type entity towards NCSS certification. The self-assessment collects basic information about an entity to get a sense of its ministries and services. The self-assessment involves the entity reviewing the criteria and indicators of the Standards relevant to their entity and providing an indication of the extent to which they believe they are currently implementing the NCSS.

Completing a self-assessment via the NCSS Self-Assessment Portal is a compulsory first step. It allows the entity to describe what is in place to meet each element of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. It also helps to organise examples of practices, policies, training plans or other actions required for the audit.

The Assessment Scale acknowledges that no two entities will be at the same point in implementing and maintaining the requirements set out in the Standards.

The Declaration of Assurance and Compliance is used where a Church Authority has governance responsibility for an entity or activity that has external accreditation, external oversight or other form of compliance assurance in place regarding its safeguarding activities.

The Safeguarding Implementation Plan is required for every entity to meet criterion 9.1 of the Standards.

2. Understand all activitites

We will work with the Church Authority to understand the governance, activities, ministries and structures relevant to the Church Authority.

3. Confirm Audit Scope

Once we have received the preliminary documentation ACSL will confirm the audit scope, deliverables, and timing of the audit. The audit team will liaise with the Church Authority to organise logistics, arrange meetings and request specific documents to review in advance.

4. Opening meeting

An opening meeting will be held with the Church Authority leadership team and key safeguarding personnel at the commencement of fieldwork to set expectations, and exchange necessary information. Once this has occurred we commence the audit fieldwork.

5. Audit fieldwork

The audit activities assess progress in implementing the NCSS. This includes interviews with key stakeholders, document review and testing processes, policies and procedures.  A representative group of sites/locations will be visited. The Standards are assessed progressively and feedback is provided at the conclusion of fieldwork audit observations and preliminary audit findings are considered at the next leadership meeting.

6. Closing meeting

The formal closing meeting will be held within 21 days of the end of fieldwork – during this time, entities will have the opportunity to remediate any audit issues.

The draft audit report, including all audit findings and recommendations, will be discussed with the Church Authority leadership team and key safeguarding personnel at the closing meeting.  During the closing meeting, we will seek to confirm with the Church Authority any outstanding management actions and target dates for remediation.

7. Reporting

The audit report will be finalised and provided to the Church Authority.  Reports are published on our website under ACSL Publications and Reports.

8. Attestation of agreed management actions

The Church Authority will attest to ACSL that any agreed management actions have been implemented by the target dates.

NCSS and State, Territory and National Requirements

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards have been mapped against both national and state requirements specifically relating to standards or principles for the safeguarding of children and adults at risk.

View mapping materials

Audit resources, guides and fact sheets

Self-assessment via the NCSS Self-Assessment Portal
Assessment scale