NT Introduces NDIS Worker Screening Bill

Tuesday 19 November 2019 @ 3.33 p.m. | Legal Research

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (Worker Clearance) Bill 2019 (NT) (the “Bill”) was introduced into NT’s Legislative Assembly (“Assembly”) on 16 October 2019, by the Hon Natasha Fyles.

The Bill was immediately referred to the Social Policy Scrutiny Committee for an Inquiry and Report due by February 2020. Apart from establishing and operating a screening process, the Bill will also make amendments to the Criminal Records (Spent Convictions) Act 1992 (the “Act”).

Object of the Bill

As outlined in the Bill’s Explanatory Statement (“ES”), the purpose of the Bill:

“… is to establish and operate a nationally consistent worker screening process for employees of NDIS service providers who provide NDIS supports and services for NDIS participants in the Northern Territory”.

The Bill will implement the obligations of the NT which are set out in the Intergovernmental Agreement on Nationally Consistent Worker Screening for the Disability Insurance Scheme (the “IGA”), while the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Practice Standards-Worker Screening) Rules 2018 (Cth) (the “Rules”) further enact the IGA through Commonwealth regulation.

As noted in the IGA document (Part 2, Item 13):

“… This Agreement provides the framework for conducting nationally consistent NDIS worker screening and provides assurance of the shared commitment of the Commonwealth and the State and Territory Governments to deliver nationally consistent NDIS worker screening.”

Outcome of the Proposed Amendments

It is envisaged the Bill will provide for:

  • the application, assessment, and ongoing national monitoring for NDIS Worker Screening Clearances in the NT;
  • information collection, use, storage, disclosure; and
  • the ongoing monitoring of a cleared worker’s criminal history and other relevant information to provide a greater level of protection for participants.

The proposed amendments to the Act include the amendment of section 15A “Exclusion in relation to spent records” which provides that “spent records must be disclosed in an application for a screening check”.

Who Will Undergo the Screening?

An Information Paper released by NT’s Department of Health indicates workers requiring a NDIS Worker Screening Check are those “working for an NDIS registered provider delivering NDIS specific supports” that require them to:

  • be involved in direct delivery of support and services; or
  • have more than incidental contact with people with disability; or
  • are key personnel (such as management and operational positions).

The Information Paper also states:

“Workers who do not have more than incidental contact with participants as a normal part of their jobs, such as administrative support staff will not be required to have a clearance. These staff can still choose to apply or their employers may choose to make worker screening a part of their recruitment processes.”

The Consultation Process

Under the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework, consultations were undertaken with:

  • people with a disability;
  • peak bodies representing people with disabilities;
  • carers, service providers; and
  • workers.

Feedback from the consultation process found support for a nationally consistent approach to worker screening to prevent people with a history of misconduct from moving interstate to take up new positions. Most responders felt that the risk to vulnerable people clearly outweighed the rights of the small number of people who might be excluded from working in the sector on the basis of past convictions.

Some providers were concerned over the potential for delays in allowing staff to commence work, it is hoped this Bill will allow workers to start work while their application is being processed, with appropriate safeguards in place.

Minister’s Comment on the Bill

In her Speech to Parliament, the Minister said:

“The bill supports the rights of people with disability to live an independent life free from abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation and is key to the delivery of quality and safe services under the NDIS … The Northern Territory’s existing worker screening legislation does not provide authorisation for several of the nationally consistent NDIS requirements specified in the IGA [Intergovernmental Agreement on Nationally Consistent Worker Screening for the Disability Insurance Scheme].”

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National Disability Insurance Scheme (Worker Clearance) Bill 2019 (NT) - Bill and supporting information available from TimeBase LawOne Service

NDIS Worker Screening (NT) Information Paper 2019 - NT  Government (Department of Health) (Accessed 14 November 2019)

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