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Important changes to screening laws in South Australia

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Important changes to screening laws

Key points

  • South Australia has changed its screening laws for people who work or volunteer with children
  • The new working with children check (WWCC) laws apply from 1 July 2019
  • There are transition provisions for all current, valid DHS or Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) child-related employment screening clearances to be recognised as WWCCs under the law until they expire and for National Police Certificates
  • checks assessed by organisations will be valid for working with children until 1 July 2020

These changes are important. More information below, please read on.

The new laws

The revised regime is governed by the Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 (SA) and corresponding regulations. From 1 July 2019 all individuals who work or volunteer with children, or where it is reasonably foreseeable they will work with children, must have a working with children check (WWCC).

The Department of Human Services (DHS), whose Screening Unit regulate the regime in SA, list the following examples where they consider it is ‘reasonably foreseeable’ that someone will come into contact with children:

  • Clubs or associations where there is a significant youth membership, such as sports and recreation clubs, cultural or artistic schools or services (theatre, music, dance etc)
  • Anyone attending an overnight activity (eg camps)
  • Coaching or tuition, which may include academic tutors, mentors, and/or sports or recreation coaches
  • Groups that sell or supply goods or services to children where physical contact may occur
  • Photographers who work with children
  • Medical or health professionals, including counselling and support services

More examples can be found on the DHS website, along with information on the very limited situations where a WWCC is not required.

The WWCC replaces the previous system where a person could have either a National Police Certificate assessed by their relevant organisation or a child-related employment screening by the DHS.

Under the new law, only the DHS Screening Unit can do a WWCC ─ organisations can no longer do their own screening of workers and volunteers. Key changes are:

  • people can apply for a check themselves and be job-ready faster
  • WWCCs are transferable across organisations and roles within South Australia
  • WWCCs are valid for five years and are continuously monitored
  • for people who only volunteer (that is, are not in paid employment), WWCCs are free
  • for other people fees are imposed, with a discounted rate for students.

Subject to the transition provisions below, it is now an offence to work or volunteers in a child-related role without a WWCC, carrying with it a potential fine of up to $120,000 and/or a prison sentence.

You can find more information about the fees associated with WWCCs on the DHS website. If your organisation would like to apply on behalf of your staff (paid or volunteer), you will need to be registered with the DHS Screening Unit. Visit the DHS website for information on how to register your organisation.

The Working with Children Check Guidelines 2019 have been released and provide detailed information on how the new WWCC regime will work in practice and what information will be considered by the DHS Screening Unit in assessing an application.

Transitional arrangements

While the new regime is now in force, there are transitional arrangements for people operating under the previous screening arrangements. Importantly,

  • all current, valid DHS or Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) child-related employment screening clearances will be recognised as WWCCs under the law until they expire
  • National Police Certificates assessed by organisations are valid for working with children until 1 July 2020

In the short term, this should mean that there is little to do for existing employees and volunteers, however organisations should now transition to this new system and implement the WWCC where appropriate for all new employees and/or volunteers and as existing DHS and DCSI checks expire.

Information sessions

The DHS Screening Unit will be running free community information sessions in partnership with Volunteering SA&NT in a variety of locations in South Australia and online in July and August 2019. You can find out more and register for the sessions on the Volunteering SA&NT website.

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