If you wish to work with children in Queensland you must first have the appropriate blue card in accordance the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000.
The blue card system is the prevention and monitoring system of those working with children and young people. It aims to promote safe and supportive environments for children and young people when they are participating in activities such as child care, education, sport, and cultural activities, or when receiving particular services. There are three stages to the blue card system; blue card screening, ongoing monitoring and the implementation of risk management strategies.
Who needs to obtain a blue card?
Schedule 1 of the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 sets out the types of activities are regulated by the blue card system. These include:
- Work at a school when not a teacher or a parent of a child attending the school;
- Commercial child care, including nanny services and babysitting;
- Providing health, counselling or support to children; and
- Private tutoring services.
Volunteers and trainees who wish to work closely with children will also require a blue card.
Generally, employees, volunteers and trainees will have their blue card applied for on their behalf by their employers. Those who wish to operate a business which works closely with children, should apply for a blue card directly.
If you are a registered teacher or police officer in Queensland, you should apply for an exemption card if you are providing regulated activities to children which are outside of your usual professional duties.
The Queensland government’s Blue Card Services website has further information on the application process.
Blue card screening
The Queensland working with Children check or blue card screening is the first part of a three-part system of child protection.
The blue card screening determines your eligibility to work with children and young people and assesses the following:
- Any police charges and the results;
- Child protection prohibition orders;
- Disqualification orders;
- Reporting obligations under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 or the Child Protection (Offender Reporting) Act 2004;
- Disciplinary information held by certain professional organisations; and
- Any investigations into allegations relating to serious child-related sexual offences, even if no charges have been laid.
If your application is approved, you will be issued with a positive notice letter and a blue card. If your application is refused, you will be issued with a negative notice. A negative notice will prevent you from carrying on a business, working in a regulated business or providing regulated child-related activities.
The second aspect to Queensland’s child protection blue card system is ongoing monitoring.
Queensland police maintains information of everyone who applies for and who is issued with a blue card. Those who hold blue cards are monitored by the Queensland police systems which can take immediate steps when information on the card holder changes (such as a charge is laid against the blue card holder).
Both child service providers and blue card holders are monitored to ensure compliance with the blue card system obligations.
Child and youth risk management strategies
Organisations providing child services which are regulated under the blue card system must implement a minimum set of risk management strategies. These strategies are also monitored and reviewed annually.
The risk management strategies must include the following, at a minimum:
- A statement of commitment outlining the organisation’s commitment to maintaining the safety and wellbeing of children and young people;
- A code of conduct which outlines the organisation’s values and provides clear expectations for all stakeholders;
- Key policies and procedures for the employment, education, training, and management of volunteers, employees and trainees;
- An easy-to-follow procedure which ensures staff respond as quickly as possible to any allegation, disclosure or suspicion of harm of a child in the organisation’s care;
- Policies and procedures for the organisation’s general compliance with the blue card system, including maintaining a staff register and when to review the risk management strategy;
- A detailed plan for managing breaches of the risk management strategy and which sets out the consequences if policies and procedures are not followed;
- A risk management plan which identifies the potential risks of harm to children and young people in participating in high risk activities or special events arranged by the organisation; and
- A system for communication and support so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities under the risk management strategy.
Failing to develop the minimum requirements or review the strategy is an offence with a maximum penalty of $2,356.00.
As a regulated organisation, an employer has duties and obligations to remain compliant with the blue card system. Regulated employers cannot undertake the following:
- Carry on a regulated business without a current blue card for each executive officer;
- Employ anyone without a current positive notice and without advising Blue Card Services of the proposed employment, if the proposed employee is to work for a minimum of:
- 8 consecutive days; or
- once a week over 4 weeks; or
- once a fortnight over 8 weeks; or
- once a month over 6 months.
The maximum penalty for not complying is $58,900.00 or 5 years in prison.
Obligations and penalties under the Act
There are financial penalties and sometimes prison sentences for not complying with the requirements under the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000.
Those who receive a negative notice cannot apply for, start or continue employment with children. Similarly, if you are charged with a disqualifying offence or do not undertake the blue card screening before you apply for a position to work with children, it is an offence. It is also an offence to work with children if you are subject to any offender prohibition order.
The maximum penalty is $58,900 or five years in prison.
It is an offence to provide false or misleading documents or information to either a prospective employer or to Blue Card Services. Doing so attracts a maximum penalty of $11,780 or two years in prison.
If your blue card is lost or stolen, you must apply for a replacement within 14 days. If the original card is recovered, you are subsequently issued with a negative notice, or your positive notice is suspended, the blue card must be returned within 14 days. It is an offence not to comply and the maximum penalty is $1,178.00.