4.6 Safety screening (referee checks, police record check and Working with Children Check)
Overview of safety screening
Safety screening incorporates referee checks, the police record check and Working with Children Check (if relevant to the role).
Referee checks are a mandatory component of recruitment as they provide the best opportunity to discover past behaviours and predict future behaviour in the workplace. They are an importnat part of the safety screening process. A minimum of two checks should be carried out. Refer to the template example Safety screening - Referee check template (Word 55 KB, opens in a new window).
Police record check
Police record checks (sometimes referred to as criminal record checks), identify and release relevant criminal history information, at a point in time, using information held by police in Victoria and other states and territories relating to convictions, findings of guilt or pending court proceedings.
Working with Children Check
The Working with Children (WWC) Check is administered by the Victorian Department of Justice (DoJ) which provides ongoing monitoring of the cardholder during the validity of the check for any relevant child-related criminal offences as specified by the Working with Children Act 2005. DoJ will reassess a person’s eligibility to hold a WWC Check card if the new charges, convictions or findings are relevant to the check. Further information about the WWC Check is detailed after the police record checks information outlined below.
Police record check
Specific to Department of Human Services and Department of Health
The Department of Human Services and the Department of Health in their roles as employers, regulators and funders are committed to providing quality services to vulnerable clients in a safe environment. The departments require that funded organisations include safety screening pre-employment/pre-placement police record checks in their recruitment processes to minimise the risk of employing unsuitable people. Safety screening may also include a Working with Children Check, please refer to the relevant section.
Application of the policy to funded organisations
All organisations that are funded by the Department of Human Services or by the Department of Health to provide services to specified clients and patient categories (as listed below) are required to comply with this policy.
The specified client categories for the Department of Human Services are:
- any person under the age of 21 years who is subject to an order of the court of Victoria which relates to their care or protection
- any person under the age of 18 years who is subject to a protective intervention report, investigation or involvement by Child Protection
- any person who is subject to an order of the Children's Court or subject to guardianship, following a protection application
- any person under 18 years to be placed for adoption by Human Services
- any person under 18 years who receives a residential or home based care or other service funded through Child Protection and/or Supported Accommodation and Assistance Program (SAAP)
- any person who has a disability as defined by the Disability Act 2006
- any person who receives accommodation support services provided to groups in community based settings and residential institutions
- any person who receives public rental housing services under the Housing Act 1983, and
- any other such client who receives direct care services and where in the view of the relevant manager, that there may exist an unacceptable level of risk by exposing these clients to inappropriate persons.
The specified client categories for the Department of Health are:
- any person who receives care or treatment for a mental illness though a public mental health service or psychiatric disability and rehabilitation support service funded through the State government
- any person who receives services through Specialist Children's Services in the Child and Family Health Program
- any person who receives services under the Home and Community Care (HACC) program
- any person who receives treatment through the Dental Health Program and the Tuberculosis (TB) Program
- any person defined as a patient under the Alcohol and Drug Dependent Persons Act (Section 28 Sentencing Act)
- any aged or infirm person who receives in-home services
- any other patient who receives direct care services and where in the view of the relevant manager, that there may exist an unacceptable level of risk by exposing these patients to inappropriate persons.
When a police record check is required
Below is a list of circumstances or persons where a police record check is required. The circumstances include either actual unsupervised contact with the specified client and patient categories listed previously, or the potential for such unsupervised contact.
Note: An offer of employment or placement in direct care/patient areas cannot occur until the completed police record check and any referee checks have been assessed and clearance given.
Organisations should adopt this listing and include the owner/s and/or proprietor/s, their representatives, board members and any other staff who, because of their role, would have unsupervised access, or the potential for access, to the specified client or patient categories:
- a prospective manager within the organisation, directly managing services to the specified client or patient categories
- a prospective direct contact employee, caregiver, volunteer or student to be placed within the organisation to provide services to the specified client and patient categories
- staff to be placed within the organisation from contract staffing organisations, to provide services to the specified client and patient categories
- existing organisation employees not already working in direct care areas prior to their promotion or transfer into jobs in client or patient contact areas
- any casual or relieving staff where there is contact with the specified client and patient categories
- primary caregiver - those who are in a position of trust and responsibility with clients or patients from the specified categories. Caregivers include but are not limited to: foster parents, private board providers, home board providers, Interchange families, Adolescent Community Placement caregivers, YASS caregivers, Cottage Parent spouses/partners, co-habiters in foster care, private board, Adolescent Community placements, YASS placements; Family Options caregivers, lead tenants, all adult cohabiters in home based and residential care (including spouses/partners and children aged 18 and over), and other providers of home based care funded through Protective Services and/or SAAP
- volunteers, including those volunteers used during strike action, and
- any staff from a contractor who is contracted to provide services in the organisation's facilities where there is contact with the specified client and patient categories, such as security staff and cleaners.
Other employees not involved in direct or patient contact may be required to undergo a police record check where the manager certifies that the job requires consideration of any police record check before approving employment.
Police record checks are not required for persons aged sixteen or younger; however referee checks should be conducted. Teachers, parents and others who personally know the individual should act as referees and the credentials of any referees should be verified.
Police record checks must be conducted at least once every three years for foster carers, lead tenants and all adult members (aged 18 years or over) of their households and for direct care employees of funded organisations that provide out of home care. If a police check on an applicant for employment as a residential carer reveals a disclosable court outcome, the funded organisation is required to seek the approval of the relevant department to employ the carer. Refer to the section ‘Results of the police record check - disclosable court outcome’ below.
Police record checks should be undertaken prior to the confirmation of the first placement and in each subsequent year of study. The student has the responsibility to notify the educational institution and the organisation of any change to the student's police record check status during the course year.
The educational institution's course coordinator must ensure that students are notified of the Department of Human Services' or the Department of Health's information collection requirements. The course coordinator must also explain the implications of consenting to a police record check and that refusal to undergo a police record check will mean that a placement cannot proceed.
International students or students who have resided in an overseas country for 12 months or more in the last ten years should refer to the ‘International police checks’ section below.
Where to obtain a police check
The Department of Human Services and the Department of Health do not organise police record checks for funded organisations (except in emergency situations - see below).
Police record checks can be obtained directly from Victoria Police (http://www.police.vic.gov.au (external link, opens in a new window)) or through an authorised service or agency accredited by CrimTrac. CrimTrac is the national information sharing service for Australia's police, law enforcement and national security agencies. A list of agencies accredited by CrimTrac can be found at: http://www.crimtrac.gov.au/national_police_checking_service/index.html (external link, opens in a new window)
Emergency police record checks
The Department of Human Services or the Department of Health will conduct police record checks for funded organisations only in emergency situations.
Emergency situations include those where client or patient contact is an immediate urgent issue (such as short term, emergency placement of children with extended family members or friends or for assessing volunteers being used in strike situations). The emergency check process should only be used in genuine emergencies and not as a solution to the late submission of police record check requests as there are limits on the number of emergency checks that can be conducted.
The emergency checks are to be arranged through the relevant Department of Human Services' or the Department of Health's Regional Employment Police Record Checks Coordinator (Safety Screening Coordinator). The departments will invoice organisations for any emergency checks conducted on their behalf, except where the departments would normally reimburse these costs.
International police checks
Any applicant who has resided continuously in an overseas country for 12 months or more in the last ten years should contact the relevant overseas police force to obtain a criminal or police record check. Victoria Police and CrimTrac accredited agencies do not conduct international police checks.
Some countries will not release information regarding an individual for personal or third party purposes. Where police records checks cannot be made, character reference checks must be conducted with at least two individuals who personally knew the individual while they were residing in the other country.
The applicant must be informed that referees will be asked whether they have knowledge or information concerning the applicant, which would adversely affect the applicant from performing the job, including any relevant criminal offences. The credentials of persons acting as referees must be verified and can include previous employers, government officials and family members.
Overseas applicants should not commence employment until this process is satisfactorily completed and this decision should be signed off by the relevant funded organisation manager.
Information contained in police record checks
Information released as part of a police record check is restricted according to the relevant legislation or release policies operating in the specific police jurisdiction. Please refer to the Victoria Police website for more information (http://www.police.vic.gov.au (external link, opens in a new window)).
Cost of police record checks
Current information on the cost of obtaining a police record check through Victoria Police can be obtained from the Victoria Police website (http://www.police.vic.gov.au (external link, opens in a new window)). Applicants and organisations conducting police record checks may be able to access reduced fees for checks on volunteers and students on placement. Refer to the Victoria Police website for more information.
Some authorised service providers, such as CrimTrac accredited agencies, may also offer reduced fees for volunteers http://www.crimtrac.gov.au/national_police_checking_service/index.html (external link, opens in a new window).
Steps in the police record check process
Prior to lodging a police record check
Organisations (with client/patient categories identified as above) must inform applicants that a police record check will be conducted if the applicant is the preferred applicant.
Requests for police record checks can only be submitted if the individual's written consent has been obtained. Written consent is obtained when the individual completes the relevant consent form provided by Victoria Police or CrimTrac accredited agency.
During the interview, the police record check process is to be explained to the applicant. The applicant is to be given the opportunity to ask questions about the police record check process. Applicants must also be advised:
- that the information is being collected as a requirement to minimise risk to specified clients and patients
- that the information is required as an endorsed policy standard and that organisations are required to collect the information as part of their contractual arrangement with the department
- that by not providing the information, the applicant will be withdrawing from the recruitment process, student placement or the ability to act as a volunteer
- what police record check paperwork will be destroyed and/or retained, and
- that where the organisation intends to employ the applicant the department will be informed about the presence and nature of any disclosable record.
If the organisation is conducting police record checks through a CrimTrac accredited agency, the funded organisation should ensure that they provide applicants with relevant information as outlined by the accredited agency.
Lodging a police check
Procedures for lodging a police record check can be obtained from Victoria Police (http://www.police.vic.gov.au (external link, opens in a new window)) or the CrimTrac accredited agency providing the police record check service.
Results of the police record check - no disclosable court outcome
Where the police record check of the preferred applicant, volunteer or student reveals no disclosable court outcomes, outstanding charges or other matters the appointment may be confirmed (an offer of employment or placement can be made).
Results of the police record check - disclosable court outcome
An applicant should not automatically be precluded from a job or placement on the basis of having a police record.
The relevant manager in the funded organisation will manage the assessment process in order to determine the applicant's suitability for employment or placement.
The funded organisation manager will ensure that:
- the applicant, student or volunteer confirms that the details of the disclosable record are correct
- assessment of the disclosable record of the applicant, volunteer or student is made in accordance with the assessment criteria detailed below
- before employment is formally offered, a discussion occurs with the relevant Department of Human Services' Area Director or Department of Health's regional senior program manager about the intention to employ an individual with such a record. The departmental representative cannot direct or make the decision to employ, but should provide their opinion regarding any decision the organisation makes (in line with principles outlined). A list of relevant Department of Human Services' Area Directors can be obtained from the Local Engagement Officer.
- following the discussion, the manager from the funded organisation obtains an email from the Department of Human Services' Area Director or Department of Health's regional senior program manager that confirms the outcome to either employ or not employ the individual (without reference to the details of the disclosable record); and
- any decision made for or against a person is able to be justified and is fully documented.
The funded organisation manager should give consideration to the following assessment criteria:
- the relevance of the criminal offence, in relation to the job or placement
- the nature of the offence and the relationship of the offence to the particular job or placement for which the applicant is being considered
- the length of time since the offence took place
- whether the person was convicted or found guilty and placed on a bond
- whether there is evidence of an extended police record
- the number of offences committed which may establish a pattern of behaviour which renders the applicant unsuitable
- whether the offence was committed as an adult or a juvenile
- the severity of punishment imposed
- whether the offence is still a crime, that is, has the offence now been decriminalised
- whether there are other factors that may be relevant for consideration, and
- the person's general character since the offence was committed.
Where an applicant, volunteer or student with a disclosable record is not cleared by the Department of Human Services or the Department of Health, the funded organisation manager must:
- inform the unsuccessful applicant of the decision and its rationale
- provide an opportunity for the unsuccessful applicant to discuss the results, and
- inform the unsuccessful applicant of the opportunity for the decision to be reviewed.
Storage of documentation and confidentiality
Disclosable records containing information relating to criminal convictions, findings of guilt, outstanding charges and other matters are confidential and must be handled appropriately to ensure security and confidentiality at all times.
Police record check documentation (including consent forms, proof of identity documentation and records checks) should be used and stored in accordance with the Information Privacy Act 2000 and any contractual requirements with the CrimTrac accredited agency, if used.
Specific to Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Criminal history and Police checks
The Children's Services Act 1996 and the Children's Services Regulation 2009 require criminal history checks for licensees, their representatives, nominees (primary or approved).
The pre-employment police records check policy, as distinct from the Working with Children Check, is mandated for Department of Education and Early Childhood Development staff.
For further information, refer to: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/hrweb/employcond/Pages/crimcheck.aspx (external link, opens in a new window)
Working with Children Check
In 2006, the Victorian Government introduced a checking system which affects some people who work or volunteer with children. The Working with Children (WWC) Check helps to protect children from sexual or physical harm by checking a person's criminal history for serious sexual, violence or drug offences and findings from professional disciplinary bodies. The introduction of the WWC Check creates a mandatory minimum checking standard across Victoria.
Employers, self-employed persons, employees and volunteers all have obligations and responsibilities under the Working with Children Act 2005. By fulfilling these obligations, Victoria's children will be made safer through the effective operation of the WWC Check.
Funded organisations are responsible for ensuring that their organisations comply with this legislation and, in particular that:
- all employees or volunteers who are required to obtain a WWC Check, do so
- employees or volunteers issued with a Negative Notice do not undertake child-related work as defined by the Working With Children Act 2005.
- periodically go to the Department of Justice WWC Check website and check the status of all employees and volunteers with WWC Check cards using Check Status function.
If the employees and volunteers of funded organisations require a WWC Check, they must:
- show their Application Receipt to their employer or volunteer organisation upon request as evidence that they have submitted an application
- present their WWC Check card to their employer or volunteer organisation on request or when applying for child-related work
- inform their employer or volunteer organisation within seven days if they have been issued with an Interim Negative Notice or Negative Notice, or if they have a relevant change in circumstances
- not engage in child-related work if they have been issued with a Negative Notice
- ensure the accuracy of their personal details and employer or volunteer organisation information through the use of the online MyCheck/Change of Details function on the Department of Justice WWC Check website.
For a full and complete list of all obligations or for further information visit the Working with Children website at: www.justice.vic.gov.au/workingwithchildren (external link, opens in a new window)
Specific to Department of Human Services and Department of Health
From 1 July 2006, organisations receiving funding from the Department of Human Services or the Department of Health are responsible for ensuring that employees or volunteers undergo a Working with Children (WWC) Check if required. Section 9 of the Working with Children Act 2005 identifies which employees or volunteers require a WWC Check. The funded organisation's contact details should be in the employer section in the WWC Check application form.
Specific to Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
The Working with Children Check is required before any person is employed in a licensed children's services including long day care, kindergarten and occasional care services, family day care and outside school hours care services
For further information
Department of Human ServicesKaren Heusner, Team Leader, Recruitment Assurance, People and Culture Branch
Telephone: (03) 9096 2575
Department of HealthFrank Mielke, Manager, HR Business Support Services
Telephone: (03) 9096 2508
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Pippa Procter, Director, Programs and Partnerships Division
Telephone: (03) 9651 3581