The Screening Unit provides background screening services to a variety of organisations: large and small, government and non-government, employers and volunteer coordinators.
Screening is about providing safe environments for children and other vulnerable people. South Australian and Commonwealth policy and legislation make it mandatory for employers in relevant fields to carry out background checks on prospective employees or volunteers.
Screening checks are an employer-driven process that provides a risk assessment to assist employers to make informed decisions about their employees and volunteers. The Screening Unit does not make the final determination as to whether or not a person is suitable for employment or volunteer work. This decision is made by the organisation engaging the applicant.
The Screening Unit is authorised:
The Screening Unit is also authorised pursuant to Regulation 12(2) to conduct the following types of screening:
This National Police Checking Service provides accredited agencies and police services with national criminal history information. This supports the agencies and police services to assess people's suitability for employment or appointment to positions of trust. Department of Human Services (DHS) is an accredited agency and accesses this information for screening purposes.
Child-related employment screening by the Screening Unit is conducted in accordance with certain obligations under the Council of Australian Governments' Intergovernmental Agreement on National Exchange of Criminal History Information for People Working with Children.
The exchange increases the range of criminal history information shared between jurisdictions and is an important measure in protecting children from harm.
Under the Agreement, there are strict conditions on the receipt, use, storage and destruction of the expanded criminal history information.
The receipt or disclosure of expanded criminal history information by or to any other person, even if it is for the purpose of screening people who may be working with children, is not authorised.
All types of screening by the Screening Unit involve obtaining a National Criminal History Report, which provides a summary of the criminal history (if any) of the applicant.
In addition to the screening services available from a variety of sources (including the Screening Unit), state and territory police provide criminal history checks to individuals and organisations wishing to obtain Police Checks for employment, voluntary work and occupation-related licensing or registration purposes.
There is no single national framework setting out requirements for 'working with children' checks or Police Checks.
Each state and territory in Australia has its own procedures and important differences across jurisdictions regarding the type of screening, and who is required to undergo a screening.
For information in relation to interstate screening processes, refer to following links:
The Australian Privacy Principles outline how government agencies, private sector and not-for-profit organisations are to handle, use and manage personal information.
The Principles are set out in Schedule 1 of the Privacy Act 1998.
Legislation relevant to the activities of the Screening Unit includes:
In November 2016 new laws were passed in South Australia to strengthen background checks for people wanting to work or volunteer with children and young people.
The Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 will ensure that a person who is assessed as being of high risk to the safety of children will be prohibited from working or volunteering with them. It will be an offence for an organisation to engage a person in a work or volunteer role in these circumstances.
While the Act has been passed, or ‘assented’, by Parliament, it has not yet commenced (ie the Act has not yet been implemented and the new system of working with children checks has not yet started). Organisations can continue with their normal staff or volunteering screening practices until the Act commences.
The Act lays the groundwork for change, but most of the finer detail will be contained in regulations, rather than in the Act itself. These regulations are being drafted at the moment, and community input will be sought on some elements.
For more information on Working with children checks, please refer to the SA Attorney General's Department website.
The Act is a key aspect of the legislative framework for Commonwealth-funded aged care services. The Accountability Principles (2014) set out information about what is required or permitted under the Act.
This Act is relevant in relation to Aged Care Sector Screening by the Screening Unit. Whether or not aged care sector screening is required in each specific circumstance depends on the type of workplace and the nature of the work or volunteer role.