Under the Children’s Protection Act 1993 and the Children’s Protection Regulations 2010 employees and volunteers must meet mandatory screening requirements if they work in a “prescribed position” in certain organisations that work with children.
This screening involves a criminal history assessment, which must be done in accordance with the standards developed by the Department for Education and Child Development.
A prescribed position is a position where someone who:
- has regular contact, or works closely, with children, unless the person is under direct supervision at all times;
- supervises or manages people who are in positions that involve direct contact, or working closely, with children;
- has access to certain records relating to children (including education, child care, health or disability service records);
- is providing overnight care and sleeping arrangements to a child, whether on a short-term or ongoing basis; or
- is providing a prescribed passenger transport service. You may be running a prescribed passenger service if you carry passengers in a vehicle in return for a fare or other compensation, and those passengers may potentially include children. This includes running the service under a hire or charter agreement.
Non-government organisations must screen anyone who holds a prescribed position, if the organisation provides the following types of services, either wholly or partly for children:
- Child and family welfare
- Religious or spiritual instruction
- Sporting or recreational
- Child care and child protection
- Cultural services
- Residential services and facilities
- Disability services
If you are not sure whether screening is needed for a position, the Department of Education and Child Development has an online tool to help you decide. Please note, this tool is designed for people who intend to work with the Department of Education and may not be suitable for all situations.
When is a screening not required?
The following people will not need a screening assessment before they are engaged to work:
- A parent or guardian volunteering to provide services or activities in their capacity as a parent or guardian of a child who is ordinarily provided with that activity;
- A person under 18 years who volunteers to provide a service;
- An organisation that provides food, equipment or venues for children’s parties or events, and no other services;
- A police officer;
- A registered teacher under the Teachers Registration and Standards Act 2004.
You will not need a screening assessment if you are working in an activity that runs for no more than 10 consecutive days or only occurs one day per month.
You are also exempt if all the work involving children is undertaken while their parents or guardians are present, and you usually have no physical contact with children in that role.
There are also other exemptions which may apply.
However, none of the exemptions will apply if the you or the organisation, provides:
- child care or baby-sitting services that require approval under the Children’s Services Act 1985 or the Education and Early Childhood Services (Registration and Standards) Act 2011;
- residential or overnight care for children;
- disability services, if the services are only provided to children;
- administration of the juvenile justice system or child protection services; or
- prescribed passenger transport services.
Who performs the screening?
An organisation can conduct its own criminal history screening or request an assessment from an authorised screening unit (see DCSI Screening Unit below).
If an organisation decides to conduct the screening itself the persons conducting the screening on behalf of the organisation, known as the responsible authority, must ensure that the screening is performed before a person is engaged to work in a prescribed position. This applies regardless of whether the person is engaged as an employee, volunteer, agent, contractor or subcontractor.
The responsible authority can also request a screening assessment at any time after a person has been engaged in a prescribed position, if they believe it is necessary for maintaining a child-safe environment.
However, a person must give informed consent for any screening to be performed.
The screening process
A national criminal history record check will be obtained as part of the screening. The national criminal history record check will show spent convictions, pending charges and non-convictions. It may also show other information, such as child protection records, disciplinary actions or any preclusions from working with children or vulnerable people.
Further enquiries may also be necessary, based on the responses to the application questions or any other information provided.
Once all the information is collected, it is assessed in accordance with the standards determined by the Department of Education and Child Development. These standards outline how a person’s criminal history will be assessed and what an organisation is allowed to do with the information you provide.
Factors considered in the screening
Guided by the standards, the screening process looks at a number of factors when considering the person’s criminal record, including:
- the nature and circumstances of any offences listed, and how relevant the offences are to the prescribed position;
- the age of the person at the time of committing those offences;
- the age of any victims and the relationship between the person and the victim, including any age difference;
- how long it has been since those offences were recorded and the person’s conduct since that time;
- whether there is a demonstrated pattern of offending; and
- the penalty the court imposed (for example, whether the sentence was particularly severe).
If the person has been convicted of murder, sexual assault, or if the offence involved child pornography, child abuse, or child prostitution, it is unlikely that the person will be declared suitable to work or volunteer with children.
DCSI Screening Unit
The Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) Screening Unit can also conduct employment screening on behalf of an organisation.
The DSCI Screening Unit will perform a thorough assessment of any relevant information about the person to determine whether they pose a risk of harm to any children in a workplace.
A job applicant must give informed consent before the screening application is submitted. The organisation which requested the screening will need to keep a record of this consent.
If a person has no criminal history and there is no match of their name against any of the government records searched, DCSI screening will usually be completed within 30 business days.
The DCSI Screening Unit’s employment screening clearances are valid for 3 years and can be used for working in prescribed positions in any organisation within South Australia.
If the Screening Unit finds information that shows the person may pose a risk of harm to any children’s safety, the person will be contacted and the information discussed with them before the assessment is finalised.
Review the screening outcome
If the job applicant is unhappy about their screening result, there is an internal review process. The job applicant will need to provide a substantive reason for why the DCSI Screening Unit should review their decision. Substantive reasons can include:
- the unit considering irrelevant information during the initial screening;
- the job applicant providing new information which could affect the screening outcome; or
- the job applicant believing that information they originally provided was not taken into account.
If the applicant is still dissatisfied with their screening result after any review process, the DCSI suggests applying to the Ombudsman South Australia or the Human Rights Commission for an external review.