Child Protection & Volunteer Screening
14 May 2002 at 1:05 pm
This week is National Volunteer Week and one issue gaining attention is the added number of unfamiliar complexities and obligations for community organisations under new child protection legislation in NSW.
Following the enactment of legislation in 2001, all people including volunteers working with children were subjected to new working conditions.
Whilst the clear aims of this legislation was to provide a safer environment for children and young people, it also has created obligations that community groups need to be aware of. It’s no longer applicable to ‘use your gut feeling’ when you recruit volunteers in this arena. And theirs is a concern that many organisations are not even aware of the new obligations.
The “Working With Children Check Changes” set out the following:
ƒæ The Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act was proclaimed as law on 15 October 2001. Under this Act, a person who has been found guilty of certain offences against children will be known as a “Registrable Person”.
ƒæ A “Registrable Person” automatically becomes a “Prohibited Person” under the Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act 1998.
ƒæ The Consent Form for employment screening and the Prohibited Employment Declaration have been amended to reflect this.
ƒæ It is important the revised Consent Form and Prohibited Employment Declaration are used from 15 October 2001
Similar legislation applies in Queensland and the ACT which allows for “criminal history” checks to be carried out on people wanting to volunteer in organisations that are associated with young children.
This legislation is not in place in Victoria, however volunteers who work with children in sports clubs for example must comply with NSW legislation if they travel there for sporting competitions.
As part of National Volunteer Week, Volunteering NSW focuses on exploring the rules, regulations and best practice in volunteer screening for people dealing with children.
CEO of Volunteering NSW and the National Centre for Citizenship, Marie Fox says anecdotal evidence suggests that there are some Not for Profits, who are unaware of their obligations under the Act, even with regards to signing the ‘prohibited persons declaration”.
Fox says there needs to be education and information for organisations that don’t even realise the legislation includes them.
For example, she says volunteer staff working at a museum where children visit in their droves during holiday times come under the legislation now where as they didn’t before. Or a volunteer gardener at a hospital where children may visit and play in the hospital grounds also come under the legislation.
Marie Fox says police checks, while a feature of the legislation, are the least effective because known criminals either don¡¦t formally apply to work as volunteers or they alter their name to avoid detection.
Fox says the key is in the methodology used by organisations to screen prospective volunteers, managing the process and maintaining levels of awareness.
The feature of this week’s NSW workshop is a lecture by Paddy Bowen, Executive Director of Volunteer Canada.
Whilst Paddy brings a host of knowledge and information about volunteering in general with her, she has developed what is largely considered the international best practice in volunteer screening techniques and will discuss her ten step screening method at the workshop.
Under Paddy¡¦s guidance, Volunteer Canada has been responsible for conducting a national education campaign on screening volunteers and employees in positions of trust dealing with children and other vulnerable individuals.
If you would like copies of the NSW Guidelines send us an firstname.lastname@example.org.
What problems or experience has your organisation had under this legislation? Join our on-line Forum and share your thoughts at probonoaustralia.com.au.