Unpacking The Worker Screening Database

As we tour across the country with our Quality and Safeguarding workshops, we have been fielding questions about the highly anticipated national worker screening database. Given the national database is planned to roll out from the 1st July 2019 (with the exception of WA) providers are wondering what it is going to look like. We still don’t know a lot of the detail yet but here’s the information available now.

 

What is an NDIS Worker Screening Check?

Before we cover the database, let’s look at what an NDIS worker screening check is. It has been defined as “an assessment, under an NDIS worker screening law, of whether a person who works, or seeks to work, with people with disability poses a risk to such people.”  If you want to find out more about the background and requirements relating to the NDIS Worker Screening Check take a look at our article here.    

 

Who needs to get an NDIS Worker Screening Check?

All NDIS registered providers engaged in a risk assessed role must have the check.

Risk assessed roles are:

  • key personnel

  • roles for which the normal duties include the direct delivery of specified supports or specified services to a person with disability

  • roles for which the normal duties are likely to require more than incidental contact with people with disability.

There is an exception for secondary school students on a formal work experience program provided they are directly supervised by another worker who has gone through a check. If you are unsure visit the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission website for more information.

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission also advise that unregistered providers and  self-managing or plan-managed Participants can require their unregistered workers to have an NDIS Worker Screening Check.  When supporting Participants that engage unregistered providers, we should ensure this information is communicated. Developing a person’s capacity to initiate their own safeguards is all in the spirit of the NDIS and now we can start talking to people about what value the national database might hold for them.

 

The NDIS Worker Screening Database

On the 13th February 2019 the National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Worker Screening Database) Bill 2019 was introduced to parliament to amend the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 to include the national worker screening database. It has just been read a third time on the 2nd April 2019.

This database is a pretty big deal because for the first time we will have a national register of cleared and excluded workers across all jurisdictions. This means information that a person poses a risk can be shared in real time, workers have national portability and people with disability have equal protection regardless of where they choose to live in Australia.   

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner will establish, operate and maintain the NDIS worker screening database. The database will keep a record of decisions made in relation to anyone who has applied for an NDIS Worker Screening Check. This information can then be shared with persons or bodies (including employers and potential employers) for the purposes of the NDIS.

 

What information will be contained in the Database?

From what we can tell, the database will include information relating to all screening applicants, their applications and related decisions including: applications no longer being considered, clearance decisions, applications pending, exclusion decisions, suspensions, clearance revocation or exclusion, and employers that have made screening applications.

The NDIS Amendment (Worker Screening Database) Bill 2019 Explanatory Memorandum further clarifies the scope of personal and sensitive applicant information that might be contained in the database but notes that not all bodies will have access to all information.

 

Who will have access to this information?

The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission will have access to this information to meet their legislative functions under the Act. The Explanatory Memorandum stipulates that the range of information that will be shared with persons or bodies will be proportionate and necessary for the objective of minimising the risk of harm to people with disability. 

States and Territories

It is intended that the state and territories will have full access to the database as required to effectively implement the national policy. This includes the ongoing monitoring of people with clearances and identification of fraudulent or duplicate applications (such as where a person has made multiple attempts to gain a worker screening clearance in a different jurisdiction or under a different name).

Employers

Employers will have access to a limited subset of information on the database.  This is expected to include information about a worker’s identity, so an employer can verify that the person who holds the clearance is the same person that they intend to engage.  Employers will also have access to information related to whether or not a person they have engaged is cleared to work in certain roles.  Employers will not have access to the details of a worker’s other employers, or sensitive information relating to a worker’s disability status, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status or cultural and linguistic diversity status. It is further clarified on the Parliament of Australia website that the database will contain information about an outcome of a decision made, but not a person’s criminal history information that may have informed the decision.  

 

On the face of it, this seems like a really strong step forward in safeguarding the rights of people with disability. We look forward to seeing the roll out of the national database which is set to commence from 1 July this year for all states and territories with the exception of WA who will join from 2020. You can keep up to date with any progress by regularly visiting the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission’s website.