The Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) announced on 3 May 2017 of the commencement of their statutory five year review of the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (WWCC Act).
As part of the OCG review process, the general community was invited to provide written submissions by 2 June 2017 on the six focus areas outlined in the OCG ‘Statutory Review of the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 Discussion Paper’.
The OCG will consider comments made in the submissions that they envisage will strengthen the ability of the current Working With Children Check (WWCC) legislation to contribute to the safety of children in NSW.
On 15 May 2017 the IEU met with Ms Kerryn Boland, NSW Children’s Guardian and her OCG colleagues, as well as representatives of non government agencies, to discuss issues and exchange views concerning the statutory review of the WWCC Act.
Following on from the consultation meeting, the IEU prepared a written submission commenting on the six focus areas outlined in the OCG discussion paper and raised concerns about specific provisions in the legislation that were outside the six focus areas.
These concerns include, but are not limited to:
• the $80 cost of screening for paid employees
• the provision for an automatic disqualification form child-related employment when an employee has been charged but the matter has not been finalised at Court
• the provision that an interim bar placed on a person cannot be appealed until the expiration of a six month period
• the provision permitting the Ombudsman to make a ‘notification of concern’ to the OCG on conduct that is broader than the categories of conduct that are listed in the WWCC Act as ‘Assessment requirement triggers’ offences ie sexual misconduct and serious physical assault
• the lengthy delays of between 6 to 12 months for risk assessments to be finalised by the OCG, and
• the limited scope of legislation surrounding an employee’s right to apply for access to documentation held in their investigation file by their employer.
The Union also requested to be included on the OCG list of agency stakeholders invited to attend subsequent OCG information sessions and targeted consultation meetings, prior to any recommendations being made by the OCG to parliament relating to the statutory review of the WWCC Act.
A copy of the ‘Statutory Review of the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 Discussion Paper’ can be located on the OCG website at https://www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au.
ACT Reportable Conduct Scheme
The ACT has introduced a ‘reportable conduct scheme’, which is modelled on the current NSW scheme. The scheme commences on 1 July 2017 and empowers the ACT Ombudsman with child protection oversight duties, which includes the monitoring of employer investigations, policies, practices and procedures, providing guidance on investigations and receiving complaints about the handling of ‘reportable conduct’ matters.
Employers covered by the scheme are referred to as ‘designated entities’ and include non government schools, childcare services as well as education and care services providers such as after school care. They will be required to report to the ACT Ombudsman ‘reportable conduct’, that is, allegations or conviction of child abuse or misconduct towards children. The conduct alleged of the employee can occur in either a personal or professional capacity.
All employees who work under contract to an employer, whether or not they provide services directly to children, are covered under the scheme. Volunteers and contractors are considered as employees under the scheme, but only if they are engaged to provide services to children.
We encourage members with any issues concerning the ACT ‘reportable conduct scheme’ or who become the subject of a ‘reportable conduct’ allegation, to immediately seek advice by contacting their Union Organiser or Russell Schokman, IEU Policy Advisor on 8202 8900 or the toll free number for country members) 1800 467 943.