On 17 September 2020, the Worker Screening Bill 2020 (Vic) (“the Bill”) was introduced into the Legislative Assembly by Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy. The Bill has yet to pass the Legislative Assembly.
The Bill seeks to introduce a new framework for screening people who work or seek to work with children and people receiving services and support from registered National Disability Insurance Scheme (“NDIS”) providers. Under the new framework, there will be two distinct checks; the Working with Children check and the NDIS check.
The Bill also seeks to repeal the Working with Children Act 2005 (Vic) (“the Act”), which is the main legislation under which the Working with Children check currently operates. The Act established a process to screen the criminal history information for people who worked or sought to work with children. The new proposed framework will adopt the established system and processes under the Act in order to continue the Working with Children check, whilst adapting these processes to meet the requirements of NDIS worker screening. In containing the two screening schemes under the one framework, the Bill acknowledges that both checks face similar risk assessment considerations, and accommodates shared legal and operational processes for both checks. Both checks are proposed to be administered by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety, which currently administers the working with Children check. The Bill does not seek to make any significant changes to the Working with Children check.
The new NDIS check under the Bill also reflects the move towards implementing a nationally consistent NDIS worker screening scheme.
In December 2016, the Disability Reform Council published the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework (“the Framework”). The Framework seeks to provide a national approach in order to ensure that participants receive the best support with appropriate safeguards in place. Included in the Framework is the delivery of a national screening scheme. In support of the Framework, the Commonwealth and the States and Territories agreed to the Intergovernmental Agreement on Nationally Consistent Worker Screening for the NDIS (“the Intergovernmental Agreement”). The Bill implements Victoria’s promise under the Intergovernmental Agreement.
Under the proposed NDIS check, an applicant will be subject to a review of their criminal and disciplinary history. The applicant will then be granted a clearance, or if any misconduct or offence is found, and exclusion may be granted. A nationally consistent screening scheme also ensures that clearances and exclusions will be nationally accepted. NDIS clearances will be identified on the National Clearance Database, which is to be operated by the Commonwealth NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, and will be subject to ongoing monitoring. Under the Bill, no Victorian NDIS worker will be permitted to work until they receive clearance under the check.
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