There will be no changes to current working with children screening practices until the Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 starts. This is when a new system of working with children screening checks will apply. There is currently no commencement date for the act. However, consultation on its regulations occurred from March to April 2018.
Feedback is currently being used by the Attorney-General’s Department to help finalise these regulations.
A comprehensive communications and education program will be run ahead of new working with children screening checks coming into place.
New laws provide stronger protections for children New laws paving the way for more effective working with children checks and greater rights for foster carers and children in care have passed State Parliament.
The Children’s Protection Law Reform (Transitional and Related Amendments) Bill enables elements of the Government’s child protection reform agenda to begin, transitioning to the new Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017. The Bill also enables consequential amendments to existing legislation.
It amends the Births Deaths and Marriages Act to allow for a name change of a child under guardianship, at the discretion of the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection.
A further consequential amendment will ensure financial or other assistance to be provided to an approved carer of children or young people are secured, including when care continues for children who are 18 years and over.
The transitional arrangements pave the way for the public release of regulations necessary to support the introduction of working with children checks in South Australia.
The current two-tiered system for working with children checks – where currently checks can involve either a national criminal history check or a check through the Screening Unit within the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion – will soon be replaced by a single, centralised process run by DCSI.
People convicted of a prescribed offence, such as murder, will automatically be barred from working with children, regardless of whether they have sought clearance. Regulations providing more detail on who needs a working with children check will be released for public consultation once they are finalised.
The new laws will have a staged commencement, with the first set expected to commence in February.
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 where this is the case.
While the Act has been passed, or ‘assented’, by Parliament, it has not yet commenced (i.e. 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, please refer to the SA Attorney General's Department website.
The Screening Unit now monitors new information that may change the clearance status of individuals.
The new screening system, which was introduced from 1 July 2017, will help to reduce the risk of harm to children and vulnerable people.
Why the change?
Previously, screening reviewed and assessed an individual’s relevant history only once every three years. The new system will monitor relevant information from a variety of sources to help better protect children and vulnerable people.
This new information will be used by the DHS Screening Unit to reassess screening clearances and ensure they are current.
The Screening Unit will be moving to a continuous monitoring system in mid 2017.
The new system will enable ongoing monitoring of an applicant's relevant history information. By linking the Screening Unit with the South Australian Police and other databases, this streamlined system will enable automatic searches for information about any offences that are relevant to an applicant's clearance status.
This will help to identify people who have received a screening clearance to work with children and/or other vulnerable people, but who later commit an offence or offences.
Currently, screening clearances are updated every three years, and only provide a snapshot of a person's record at the time of screening at a 'point in time'. With the new system, an individual's clearance will be able to be withdrawn if appropriate.