Editor’s Note: a lot has been happening in the Quality and Safeguarding space in the last few months. We recommend looking at our updated article on this topic.
The Crimes Amendment (National Disability Insurance Scheme – Worker Screening) Bill 2018 passed both houses of Parliament on 10 May. Consistent with the changes being rolled out under the Quality and Safeguarding Framework, this amendment is an important change for providers to be aware of.
The Quality and Safeguarding Commissioner is the new National body responsible for ensuring the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework is implemented. One of the areas they are responsible for is Worker Screening and this bill helps to clarify how they will undertake this work. The changes are part of the progressive rollout of the Quality and Safeguarding Framework, with NSW and SA rolling in on 1 July 2018 and the other states and territories following 1 July 2019, bar WA which will rollout 1 July 2020.
What is in the bill?
The Bill advances the protection of the rights of people with disability in Australia relation to preventing exploitation, violence and abuse in the disability sector. The Bill outlines the rights of workers and the role of “state based worker screening units” to undertake thorough risk assessments including the circumstances surrounding any relevant aspects of a workers criminal history.
The Bill could have impacts on the human rights of workers rights to work and rights to privacy but attempts to balance this against the reasonable and necessary supports required to make people with disability safe and free from abuse.
The Bill allows an NDIS worker screening unit to consider pardoned, quashed or spent convictions in determining whether an individual poses a risk to people with disability, and does not override the presumption of innocence.
The permission to access such information will be obtained from a worker applying for a worker screening check as a part of the application process to work in disability services.
Worker Screening Units will be established in each State and Territory.
What is the impact on Providers?
A person engaged by a registered NDIS provider to deliver NDIS supports that entail more than incidental contact with a person with disability, or in a key executive, management and operational position, such as a Chief Executive Officer, Chairman or Board Member, will be required to obtain an NDIS Worker Screening Check.
A registered NDIS provider will be required to ensure that its workers have undergone the necessary screening processes as part of their registration requirements.
Prior to commencement of work with people with disability funded under the NDIS, workers will need to apply for and pass the Workers screening process.
What will this look like?
Similar provisions are currently in place for Working with Children checks since 2010, so the assumption until further information is released is that it will work in a similar fashion. It could also be reasonably assumed that there will be a cost associated with applying for a Worker Screening Check with possible exemptions for volunteers as with current Working with Children checks.
Now is a great time to look at your current worker screening process and review who is currently not subject to a police check but has more than incidental contact with participants and update your workers on the new changes coming.