The Differences Between a Working with Children Check, and a Police Check

The Differences Between a Working with Children Check, and a Police Check

The Australian childcare sector is immense, and continues to grow year on year. The size and scope of that child care means that checks are vital for ensuring the most vulnerable members of security are kept safe.

Childcare workers, including volunteers in the sector, have to undertake a Working with Children Check alongside a National Police Check. Any profession where the employee comes into regular contact with children will require those checks.

It’s important to understand that while both kinds of checks are considered mandatory, there is currently no national standard in place. Every state and territory in Australia has its unique set of requirements for a police check and Working with Children checks.

Often, those applying for a Working with Children Check (WWCC) will make the mistake of thinking that it is the same as a police check. As a result, they apply for one without applying for the other. That delays their ability to accept employment. That’s why it’s so important to learn more about the differences between a police check and a Working with Children Check.

Understanding the Working with Children Check

The Working with Children Check is a straightforward screening process that determines whether a person is safe to be working in environments with children. Those reviewing an application will look at criminal history but they will also have access to child protection info, along with additional data about the applicant.

The goal of those screenings is to ensure that someone hoping to work with the young does not have a history that suggests that may be a danger to children. As well as criminal history, it will highlight any misconduct issues that have been reported by any relevant professional institutions or bodies.

That’s why the WWCC is always going to be required if a job role involves direct contact with children, especially if that contact is in unsupervised settings.

After successfully submitting a WWCC, the applicant will receive a Working with Children Card. This can then be presented to employers as needed, and is necessary even if the applicant is only taking up a volunteering role.

The main difference between a WWCC and a national police check is that the Working with Children Check is an ongoing assessment. Once an application for the WWCC has been approved, that approval will last for roughly three years. However, throughout that period, the information will be monitored. A police check, on the other hand, is considered a point in time check. It is proof of a criminal history check up to the point of application, and it is not monitored or reviewed until a new application is submitted.

Unless there is any reason for a WWCC to be cancelled or suspended, it will usually last for three years, depending on the state that issued it. For some job roles, there is an exemption available for that time limit (police officers and teachers for example).

This system of continuous assessment ensures that children and other vulnerable groups are kept safer from the risk of harm. Any new information the system receives will affect the status of the WWCC status. That information comes from a diverse range of sources, including the Department for Child Protection and police databases. Should new information require an action, those affected by the decisions will be notified.

The basics of the WWIC do vary from state to state, often in the name used. In Queensland, the WWIC is known as the Blue Card, and in the ACT it is referred to as the Working With Vulnerable People registration.

Understanding a Police Check

Police checks are becoming a very common requirement for employers in  Australia. That’s become the case even if a job doesn’t involve any contact with children. However, for anyone wanting to work with children, a WWCC and a police check are both required.

Even people not applying for a job role that involves close contact with children will need a police check. More jobs than ever require one, but they are also needed for anyone adopting a child or applying for a firearms license.

However, anyone working with children will always have to provide a national police check, regardless of the details of the role or which state the job is in.

What does a Working With Children Check assess?

The priority of a WWCC is to ensure that the applicant is fit to work with children. The information that’s included on a WWCC will include:

  • Breaches of child protection legislation
  • Disciplinary actions taken by relevant employers or third-party registration bodies
  • A listing of any spent convictions if relevant
  • Details of any pending charges
  • Non-conviction charges and any charges where there was a guilty conviction

If there are convictions revealed by a WWCC, then the reviewers will look at the context of them. For example, someone with a ten-year-old conviction for excessive speeding is not likely to get flagged as unsuitable for a Working with Children Card. Context, seriousness, and relevance will all need to be taken into account.

Some convictions will, of course, result in someone not passing a WWCC. These include:

  • Murder
  • Sexual crimes
  • Violence against children
  • Child pornography (creation, sharing, storing, or viewing)
  • Child neglect
  • Child prostitution

A Working with Children Check will also provide officials and organizations with information regarding the applicant’s national criminal history. However, this information will be assessed, and will only be presented if it directly relates to the person’s ability to safely work with children.

As such, anything related to either fitness, integrity, or honesty is likely to not be included. For example, a preschool teacher who committed fraud against a previous employer may not have that information disclosed to a teaching board or other employer. That’s because it doesn’t affect that teacher’s ability to work safely with children.

However, even that information can be learned through the use of the national police check, hence the need for both to be submitted. After all, probity is always going to be essential for any role that involves vulnerable members of society.

Are Both Checks Necessary?

Any childcare role will require that both checks are carried out, and that proof of those checks is provided. The main difference between the two types of checks is that the WWIC can be easily used between multiple organisations as long as it has not exceeded its time limit.

So someone who works for one organization can then take up an offer from another organization without having to submit another WWCC application (as long as their Card remains valid).

Police checks, on the other hand, will need to be carried out every time you apply for a new job role, whether it involves working with children or not.

The Worker Screening Act 2020

This piece of legislation covers requirements and exemptions of a WWCC and employment. Everyone that is undertaking work that involves children is, according to the Act, required to submit a WWCC. There are exemptions included. The following cases will not require a WWCC or a police check.

  • Parents of a child who are working or volunteering at an activity where their child is included or is normally included
  • The applicant is related to the children they will be in contact with (unless the child has previously been removed from that adult’s care)
  • The applicant is under 18
  • The applicant is either 18 or 19 and is volunteering for child-related work as part of their education
  • They are a registered teacher working somewhere other than their school
  • Police officers and protective services officers

If you’re not sure if you are exempt from a WWCC, it’s always best to apply. Nobody is restricted from applying for a Working With Children Check and you will receive your WWC Card.

Applying for a Working With Children Check

When you apply for a police check, the process will be much the same wherever in Australia you are. You can head straight to your local police station or apply for a police check online through Crime Check Australia. If you’re applying online the results are returned to you quickly (usually within one business day).

Australian states have their unique legislation regarding child safety and the WWCC. As a result, the process of applying for your check will differ, depending on where you are and where you’re planning to work. Fortunately, they all follow similar formats. These will be:

  • Choosing the correct state authorised government screening unit
  • Filling out the application form provided
  • Providing proof of ID, which will include a form of photo ID and a government-issued ID (this can include your medicare card, birth certificate, or a Pensioner concession card, to name just a few).

In most cases, the entire WWCC can be submitted online. In some states, you may be required to provide in-person proof of ID.

Working With Children Checks by State

There are some significant differences between a Working with Children Check in different states in Australia. It’s important that you make your application through the correct body.

  • NSW: Governed by the NSW Commission for Children and Young People, all applications must be submitted through this body. In New South Wales, a WWCC will remain valid for up to five years.
  • SA: Valid for three years, a WWCC in South Australia is issued by the Department of Human Services (DHS) Screening Unit.
  • TAS: In Tasmania, there currently exists very little in the way of legislation regarding WWCCs. As a result, organizations and employers work on a discretionary and ethical basis. They will require a national police check, but will also tend to require a Working with Vulnerable People check or a Working with Children registration. All of these checks are valid for three years and can be applied for via the Department of Justice in Tasmania.
  • ACT: Like Tasmania, the WWCC comes under the umbrella of different legislation. In the Australian Capital Territory, anyone working with children will need to apply for a Working with Vulnerable People check. This too will be valid for three years before it must be reapplied for.
  • NT: It’s all slightly different in the Northern territories. The WWC card is often referred to as the Ochre card. It can be applied for through the Screening Assessment for Employment – NT (known as SAFE NT). There is legislation though, and anyone working with children will need to be able to present their Ochre card before accepting employment in the childcare sector. The Ochre card is also only valid for two years.
  • WA: Western Australia’s Department for Child Protection and Family Support will be the body to apply to for your WWCC. Importantly, you cannot apply for a WWCC online in WA, Instead, you have to fill out a paper application form. This can be provided for you by your employer, an organization, or an education facility. You can also order your own through authorised outlets. It’s a slower process, but your check will be valid for three years.
  • Victoria: You can apply for your WWCC online, but the final stage of the application requires you to take your application details and all of your documents to an Australian Post outlet that’s participating in the checking system. There, you will have your photo taken to provide further proof of ID (although this is free).
  • QLD: The Working with Children Card in Queensland is referred to as the Blue Card. You will need to register with Blue Card Services before you can start your application. It’s a slightly longer process, but it does also remain for three years.

As well as the differences between a national police check and a Working with Children Check, you must pay close attention to the state requirements too. As you can see, these also vary in many ways.

Quick Facts about WWCCs and Police Checks

There are many differences between the two main kinds of checks. The key things to remember are that:

  • Submitting just a police check doesn’t mean that you will be able to work in child-related roles
  • It’s not possible to fail a police check, but there is a pass and fail system with WWCCs
  • Working with Children Checks have a clearly defined period where they are considered valid
  • A police check is only valid to prove that your history is clear
  • A WWCC includes reviews of a candidate provided by professional bodies, unlike a police check
  • Official regulators and bodies will notify Working With Children bodies if the circumstance of someone who has been approved changes

In Summary

If you’re hoping to work with children then you need to have both a national police check certificate and a Working With Children Card. Just having one will not be enough. If you’re waiting to start work, not providing the right validation will mean that your starting date will be delayed. You cannot start work in child-focused environments without the state’s version of the Working with Children Card.

While applying for a WWCC means learning more about the state’s regulatory bodies, applying for your police check online has never been easier. Simply head to our submissions page and fill out all of the requested information. Hit the submit button and your certification could be emailed to you within one business day (and sometimes even faster).