New legislation passed in November 2016 will set a new standard for working with children.
During 2017, areas engaged in activities that involve children should anticipate possible delays in the screening process and be ready to review procedures.
Reducing risks to children
A new assessment process being implemented by the South Australian Government is intended to make it harder for unsuitable people to work with children. The Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 (SA):
- Extends the scope and type of activities considered to be working with children
- Imposes additional obligations on individuals and employers
- Sets significant penalties when those obligations are not met.
More people working with children will need a unique identifier
To work with children, an individual will need to apply for a “unique identifier” and be re-assessed every 5 years. Employers will have to verify that a person has a valid unique identifier before allowing them to commence (or continue) working.
Clearances for individuals will continue to be issued by a central assessment unit but, under the new legislation, the Registrar will have broad powers to require organisations to provide “assessable information” and discretion to issue prohibition notices to people assessed as unsuitable. With additional rigour applied and fewer exemptions available, the Unit will be tasked with an increased volume of applications and added scrutiny over applicants.
Exemptions under the Act are limited
Fewer exemptions are directly available under the new Act. For example:
- Registered teachers are no longer an exempt category. All teachers will need to be screened (unless exempted by the Minister).
- An individual who works with children for fewer than 7-days in a calendar year will be exempt but this is for a lesser period than the previous threshold under Child Protection Regulations 2010.
This means that many people exempt under current legislation may need to be assessed under the new law.
Anticipate changes during 2017
From mid-2017, the process used to screen employees, contractors, students on placement and volunteers who work with children will change.
Regulations are being finalised by the State Government and further information about the implementation of these changes should be available in the coming months.
Until then, it is clear only that University operations, policies and procedures will be impacted by the new statutory requirements.
Any areas engaged in activities that involve children should prepare for possible delays in the screening process and should be ready to review and adapt procedures as necessary.