Stronger, nationally-consistent screening laws for people wanting to work or volunteer with children in South Australia are set to come into effect from 1 July 2019.
The new working with children check (WWCC) means that anyone working or volunteering with children will require a check by law.
The checks will be valid for five years, will be transferable between jobs and will align South Australia with new national standards.
Professions requiring a Department of Human Services (DHS) WWCC check for the first time include:
The new laws are being introduced in response to recommendations from both Federal and South Australian Royal Commissions, to help better protect children in our communities.
From 1 July , individuals will be able to apply for a WWCC themselves, instead of the current system where only an employer or volunteer organisation can initiate a screening request. This allows people looking to enter child-related work industries to be work-ready.
The new laws replace the current system where people can have a number of different clearances, such as a national police check.
Implementing such a big change requires some flexibility, which is why there will be transition periods for people affected by the new requirements.
People who hold a current, valid DHS child-related employment screening on 1 July will be recognised as having a valid WWCC until their current screening expires. Other groups who will need a WWCC for the first time will also have arrangements in place to support their transition into the scheme.
For most people working or volunteering with children, this means that no immediate action will be required.
Screening checks for volunteers remain free.
Over the coming months, DHS will work closely with communities and professional groups to provide more detailed information about individual circumstances, transition periods and what the new laws mean for them.
The new NDIS Worker Screening check will also come into effect from 1 July. The check creates nationally-consistent screening and monitoring for employees of registered NDIS providers, to help protect people with disability.
There will be no changes to current working with children screening practices until the Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 starts. This is when a new system of working with children screening checks will apply. There is currently no commencement date for the act. However, consultation on its regulations occurred from March to April 2018.
Feedback is currently being used by the Attorney-General’s Department to help finalise these regulations.
A comprehensive communications and education program will be run ahead of new working with children screening checks coming into place.
New laws provide stronger protections for children New laws paving the way for more effective working with children checks and greater rights for foster carers and children in care have passed State Parliament.
The Children’s Protection Law Reform (Transitional and Related Amendments) Bill enables elements of the Government’s child protection reform agenda to begin, transitioning to the new Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017. The Bill also enables consequential amendments to existing legislation.
It amends the Births Deaths and Marriages Act to allow for a name change of a child under guardianship, at the discretion of the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection.
A further consequential amendment will ensure financial or other assistance to be provided to an approved carer of children or young people are secured, including when care continues for children who are 18 years and over.
The transitional arrangements pave the way for the public release of regulations necessary to support the introduction of working with children checks in South Australia.
The current two-tiered system for working with children checks – where currently checks can involve either a national criminal history check or a check through the Screening Unit within the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion – will soon be replaced by a single, centralised process run by DCSI.
People convicted of a prescribed offence, such as murder, will automatically be barred from working with children, regardless of whether they have sought clearance. Regulations providing more detail on who needs a working with children check will be released for public consultation once they are finalised.
The new laws will have a staged commencement, with the first set expected to commence in February.
In November 2016 new laws were passed in South Australia to strengthen background checks for people wanting to work or volunteer with children and young people.
The Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 will ensure that a person who is assessed as being of high risk to the safety of children will be prohibited from working or volunteering with them. It will be an offence for an organisation to engage a person in a work or volunteer role where this is the case.
While the Act has been passed, or ‘assented’, by Parliament, it has not yet commenced (i.e. the Act has not yet been implemented and the new system of working with children checks has not yet started).
Organisations can continue with their normal staff or volunteering screening practices until the Act commences.
The Act lays the groundwork for change, but most of the finer detail will be contained in regulations, rather than in the Act itself. These regulations are being drafted at the moment, and community input will be sought on some elements.
For more information, please refer to the SA Attorney General's Department website.
These kits include a variety of tools to help organisations explain and promote check changes to their employees and volunteers.