Working with Children Checks in Australia
You may already be familiar with the requirement of screening checks for certain lines of work in Australia. The national police check is one of the most commonly used services for collecting background information to determine if a person is right for a job.
The Working with Children Check is a separate type of check. As the name suggests, it is required for the purposes of employment or volunteer positions which involve children. This could entail direct access to an individual child, such as working as a nanny, or more general access to groups of children, such as a teacher.
No matter the role, any person who wishes to obtain child-related work must be screened rigorously. The Working with Children Check is one of many tools issued to perform this kind of screening in Australia. It serves to keep children protected and safe at all times.
What is a Working with Children Check?
A Working with Children Check (WWCC) is the ongoing assessment of an individual to determine whether they are a threat to children. It is a type of screening used by government-operated services to carry out a background check. It checks criminal history records and child protection records.
A WWCC is compulsory for any role where the person will work with or in close proximity to children in Australia. It helps to stop people who are potentially dangerous to children from gaining work in these fields.
What is the Purpose of a Working with Children Check?
This type of screening service is of vital importance. Children are some of the most vulnerable members of society, and without the proper vetting of individuals, children face harm such as abuse, exploitation and neglect.
The Working with Children Check makes sure that anybody with a history of convictions relating to children are prohibited from accessing them in certain environments. Any indications found on records that make a candidate potentially unsuitable will be assessed thoroughly.
Only those of good character are permitted to work with children, so that they may live, learn and play in the company of trustworthy people.
What is the Difference between a Working with Children Check and a Police Check?
Although often used simultaneously, the Working with Children Check (WWCC) and National Police Check (NPC) are two different types of checks.
The Working with Children Check is used to determine whether an individual is eligible to work with or volunteer with children. It applies to any role where the applicant has access to children, and is an ongoing assessment.
The national police check is a ‘point in time’ check. It only includes information up until the date of issue, and is obtained from searching police history records to establish any criminal history the individual has.
Both checks require a criminal background check. With a police check, the results documented on a national police certificate will be determined by how relevant they are to the purpose of the check. The Working with Children Check will disclose all police information, including all spent convictions.
What Does a Working with Children Check Disclose?
The WWCC discloses all information contained within a person’s police record. It releases all information related to spent convictions, despite the spent convictions scheme.
The Working with Children Check discloses if a person is eligible to work or volunteer with or around children.
In Australia, children are categorised as vulnerable persons. The community and Australian government are responsible for keeping all children as safe as possible.
From searching multiple records including the police history information database, the check generates a result which clearly shows whether a person is a likely threat to children. This could be based on prior offences against children, or a history of violence and sexual convictions.
The Working with Children Check is thorough, and does not exclude spent convictions, pending and non-conviction charges, or any other form of disciplinary actions.
Employers and organisations need a transparent overview of a person so that they may reach an informed decision as to whether to hire them.
What Does Background Screening Entail?
As with an Australian police check, the police database is scanned using personal information taken from the individual. If records are found, the information will be gathered and assessed.
A background search will reveal disclosable court outcomes including convictions, charges, traffic violations and any other dealings with authorities. A background check will also confirm that the individual has no police record, if there is no information found.
Background screening not only reveals police information, but verifies a person’s identity. Identity verification is greatly important for child-related professions, as the person must be who they claim to be. Screening helps to verify credentials, educational history and employment history. These are all valid factors in finding the right person to take a position.
How Long is a Working with Children Check Valid?
Unlike the national police check, working with children checks are ongoing and can be transferred between organisations. This means that a fresh check is not needed every time you apply for a different position.
However, Australian states and territories have different policies regarding working with children. As the working with children check is particularly vital, it cannot be transferred between Australian states and territories.
Each state/territory follows some slightly different processes for assessing a person for child-related work. The renewal process differs, and there is no conclusive time in which the working with children check remains valid.
The check itself has alternative names in some locations, such as the Blue Card in Queensland and the Working with Vulnerable People registration in the Australian Capital Territory.
No matter where you obtained your current WWCC, you will need to apply for a new one should you seek work in another part of Australia.
Who is Required to Obtain a Working with Children Check?
There are no exceptions when it comes to working with children. Every person who wishes to fill a position in a child-related role in Australia must apply for the Working with Children Check. The employer or organisation is bound by law to ensure that every individual obtains and provides the check before commencing work.
Some main examples of occupations where an individual has access to children are:
- Teacher training and education sectors (teacher, classroom assistant, tutor etc.)
- Health and social care
- Childcare (nanny, au pair, early childhood educator)
- Charity and volunteer work
- Child protection services
This is not an exhaustive list, and there are many other industries which may require a WWCC. For example, a public transport driver may need to obtain a check if children are likely to be passengers in their vehicle.
How to Apply for a Working with Children Check
To apply for the Working with Children Check, you’ll need to follow the application process. This can vary slightly depending on the state you are living in when you apply for the check.
The overall process is relatively similar. It can be applied for online and is generally straightforward. Each state has its own certified government screening unit and you must apply through the relevant state website.
Firstly, you’ll need to complete the application form using your personal information like name and date of birth. Proof of identity must then be provided via photo ID. This can be done through identification documents such as an Australian passport or driver’s license.
Another form of ID must be given such as an Australian birth certificate or Australian citizenship certificate.
Further information about acceptable documents can be found on the state website issuing the application.
When Should a Working with Children Check be Obtained?
The Working with Children Check should be obtained prior to the employee or volunteer beginning work with a business or organisation. This ensures only the right people can get involved in children’s work.
Employers must ensure they are presented with a valid WWCC from every employee or volunteer. It should be requested in advance during the recruitment processes.
Why Must I Confirm if I Will be Working with Children on a Police Check?
Although a completely different type of check to the Working with Children Check, a national police check must determine whether you will be working with children or vulnerable people. This is to ensure that the correct legislation is applied to the applicant, and that any relevant information for a child-related role is disclosed.
The results of a national police certificate are conditional to the purpose it is required for. Anybody working with children must be vetted appropriately, and many jobs will require both a police check and a Working with Children Check.
The same logic applies to vulnerable groups such as the elderly and people living with a disability. There are other types of checks which may be required, such as the NDIS Worker Screening Check.
What if a Working with Children Check is Unsuccessful?
When it comes to children, an employee’s background is more important than ever. Depending on the specifics of the job, a criminal record will not always banish you completely from working with children.
The information stored on records may not be relevant to the job you are applying for. A major factor when authorities assess a person’s record for the purpose of child-related work is to review the nature of the offences.
For instance, a driving violation may have no impact on your application for a job as a teaching assistant.
However, there are certainly situations where an individual is prohibited altogether from working with or in the presence of children. Any instances of child cruelty or sexually related convictions will not be tolerated in a childcare setting.
What if I Have Spent Convictions?
Although the spent convictions scheme is used when performing a national criminal history check, it is excluded from being used in a background search for working with children.
You might assume your conviction from when you were a juvenile is no longer included on your record. However, a Working with Children Check will disclose all police history information.
Australian laws are strict. The protection of children is a government priority, and therefore spent convictions legislation is eradicated from Working with Children Checks. The checks offer full disclosure. Regardless of the industry, employers and organisations can make informed decisions based on every piece of information available to them.
Working with Children Checks in Australia
Whatever the role you seek, you should be prepared to provide a Working with Children Check should it involve children. If you are unsure of whether your background or personal situation will influence your eligibility to work with children, you can contact your local authorities and request more information.
You should also check out the government screening unit for your state and read the legislation. Some checks last longer than others, and your current Working with Children Check may still be valid.