Child-related employment screening
Child-related employment screening is an essential mechanism in protecting South Australia's children and young people from harm.
This type of screening is conducted by the DCSI Screening Unit on behalf of organisations that are engaging employees and/or volunteers. Child-related employment screening assesses whether a person may pose a risk to the safety of children, while engaged to act in certain types of position within an organisation as an employee or volunteer.
When is child-related screening required?
Child protection laws in South Australia make it mandatory for certain organisations to ensure particular employees and volunteers have met specific screening requirements. The relevant legislation, where the assessment relates to the care and protection of children, is the Children's Protection Act 1993 (SA) and Children's Protection Regulations 2010.
In South Australia, organisations providing the following types of services, wholly or partly for children, are required by law to provide a child-safe environment:
- child and family welfare
- sporting or recreational
- religious or spiritual instruction
- child care and child protection
Key aspects of providing a child safe environment are:
- ensuring child-related employment screening is undertaken for positions as prescribed in the Act;
- having child-safe policies and procedures in place.
In accordance with the regulations, the 'responsible authority' for an organisation must ensure that an assessment of the person's relevant history has been conducted, before a person is appointed to or engaged to act in a 'prescribed position' (whether an employee, volunteer, agent, contractor or subcontractor). Refer to Section 8B of the Act for more details.
What is a 'prescribed position'? The Children's Protection Act 1993 (SA) defines a 'prescribed position' as one in which a person conducting the role:
- has regular contact with children or working in close proximity to children on a regular basis (unless the contact or work is directly supervised at all times); or
- supervises or manages persons in positions requiring or involving regular contact with children or working in close proximity to children on a regular basis; or
- has access to records of a kind prescribed by regulation relating to children; or
- carries out functions of a type prescribed in Regulation 10.
The flowchart below may help organisations determine which of their employees and volunteers are required to undergo child-related employment screening (based on the relevant Standards).
Who can conduct child-related employment screening?
Screening can be conducted by an authorised screening unit, such as the DCSI Screening Unit, or, alternatively, organisations may undertake their own criminal history assessments.
The Standards: In each case, screening must be conducted in accordance with a set of Standards (developed by the Department for Education and Child Development). The Standards can be downloaded from the Families SA website.
What information is assessed?
Child-related employment screening by the Screening Unit takes into account the applicant's national criminal history record as well as a wider range of information. The range of information that is assessed includes:
- a national criminal history check – inclusive of convictions, spent convictions, findings of guilt without conviction, and charges deemed not proven (withdrawn, dismissed, nolle prosecui), as well as acquittals and pending charges;
- information from South Australian government databases, such as SA child protection records from Families SA (Education Department) and Care Concern investigations (by DCSI or DECD) into the welfare of children in foster or state care;
- publicly available information sourced from professional registration bodies relating to persons disciplined or precluded from working with children or vulnerable people;
- information from South Australian police, courts, and prosecuting authorities including information about charges for offences alleged to have been committed (regardless of the outcome of those charges); and
- expanded criminal history information (enabled under the ECHIPWC Federal-State-Territory agreement) from other police jurisdictions, including spent convictions, pending charges and non-conviction charges and, importantly, circumstances information around charges or convictions;
- any declarations made by the applicant in response to questions in the 'declaration' section of their screening application form.
In some cases (only if triggered by data in one of the above categories) information from professional accreditation bodies, regarding persons disciplined and/or precluded from working with children or vulnerable adults, will be taken into account.
What factors are considered in the assessment?
In accordance with the Standards, the following contextual factors are considered during the assessment process for child-related employment screening:
- the nature of and circumstances surrounding the offence;
- the presence of a pattern of offending (if any);
- time elapsed since the offence was committed;
- severity of a court-imposed penalty;
- the age and vulnerability of the victim;
- the relationship to the victim and age difference;
- applicant's own age at the time of the offence;
- whether a child played a part in committing the offence (either directly or indirectly);
- relevance of the offence to the role of the applicant;
- the applicant's conduct since the time of the offence.
In accordance with the Standards, it is unlikely that an applicant will be considered suitable to be employed, contracted, hired, retained, accepted as a volunteers, or allowed to undertake functions prescribed by regulation, if the person has been convicted of:
- sexual assault;
- an offence involving child pornography, child prostitution or child abuse, for example, criminal neglect.
Principles of Natural Justice and Procedural Fairness
Applicants, employees, contractors and volunteers have the right to procedural fairness throughout the relevant history assessment process. Assessments by the DCSI Screening Unit are conducted in accordance with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.
Standard 6 of the child safe environments: standards for dealing with information obtained about a person's criminal history as part of a relevant history assessment (PDF 845KB) explains the obligation to ensure procedural fairness.
More information about procedural fairness and records management please refer to Families SA's Child Safe Environments page: Procedural Fairness and Records Management
For more information about child protection initiatives, refer to the Department of Child Protection website.
If you are unsure about whether child-related employment screening is required:
- go to the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) website at www.decd.sa.gov.au and use the handy online tool; or
- refer to the DECD information sheet Conducting Criminal History Assessments (PDF 139KB)
- contact the Child Safe Environments team in Families SA (DECD) by emailing DECDChildSafe@sa.gov.au;
- refer to our fact sheet Child-related employment screening.