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Screening is a process by which information is sourced and assessed to determine whether an applicant could pose a risk to a particular group or groups of people, related to their work in a professional or volunteer environment.
This process involves obtaining a record of an individual's relevant criminal history, which is assessed to determine the level of risk. Depending on the type of screening being conducted, additional sources of information are included in the assessment. Assessment is based on all relevant information disclosed to the DCSI Screening Unit at a particular point in time.
Screening by the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) Screening Unit is an employer-driven process. It is conducted on behalf of organisations that are engaging people to work in an employment or volunteer role. The informed consent of the individual is required prior to screening.
Screening by the DCSI Screening Unit may be required by an organisation when recruiting or engaging people for a work or volunteer role, or where rescreening of current employees or volunteers is required.
Where not mandated by law, the decision as to what type of screening is required is made by the employing organisation, based the inherent duties of the role. Organisations may develop their own policies that require employees and volunteers to undergo criminal record checks or contracts with third parties may require personnel to be screened.
Employers, sole traders and organisations engaging employees or volunteers may require screening services during an assessment of the suitability of an individual for a work or volunteer role. In some cases, there is a legislative requirement or other type of requirement or screening.
A screening assessment is an important component of taking a preventative approach towards the care and protection of vulnerable people in our community.
Screening of volunteers or employees is a measure taken by organisations to help prevent people with a known history of violent or abusive behaviour towards others gaining access to children and other vulnerable people through their work or volunteering role when engaged by the organisation.
In some circumstances, screening is necessary in order to comply with legislation or regulation. Where not mandated by law, the employing organisation determines whether to screen its employees/volunteers, and to what extent. Sometimes human resources policies or contracts with third parties impose a requirement for personnel screening to be conducted.
Although it is a useful tool for risk mitigation, screening on its own is limited to identifying known perpetrators. It is recommended therefore that organisations supplement screening with interviews, thorough reference checks, and policies aimed at maintaining a 'safe' working environment.
A DCSI screening clearance is valid for three years, which means that screening is normally only required once every three years. Screening renewal applications should be submitted no more than six (6) months prior to expiry of a current clearance.
A clearance letter issued by the DCSI Screening Unit is portable across organisations within South Australia, i.e. it can be taken from workplace to workplace (the general employment probity check excluded). In the case of a general employment probity clearance only, the clearance is not transferable. Therefore, if the employee or volunteer changes agencies — or even changes roles within the same agency — the person may need to be rescreened.
In some cases there an organisational policy requiring screening more than once every three years.
Our aim is to process the majority of screening applications with 30 business days.
However, the time taken in each case will depend on the relevance, complexity and amount of any relevant background information identified during the screening process which pertains to an applicant. This includes any relevant criminal history information and information from courts, police agencies or other sources
If no risk is identified that requires further assessment, the turnaround time to obtain a clearance should be approximately 30 business days.
If the applicant's name registers as a match in any of the databases assessed by the Screening Unit, additional time may be required to process the application.
Where a criminal history report indicates that there is a relevant criminal history for the applicant, or there is a match of their name against government records, the process will typically take longer than if this does not occur. In this case, an application may take more than 8 weeks to process, depending on the relevance, complexity, and amount of information to be assessed.
A number of other factors may affect the amount time taken to complete a screening application, including:
- the time of year (January-April is usually the busiest time of year for the Screening Unit);
- the length of time taken to obtain relevant information from other agencies across Australia, including confirmation or ruling out by police agencies of any database 'matches' against the applicant's name.
We recommend you allow as much time as possible for your screening check to be completed.
You can help make sure your check is processed as quickly as possible by providing complete and accurate personal information and role-related information in your application.
The prior informed consent of the individual concerned needs to be obtained before an application for screening is submitted to the DCSI Screening Unit.
It is the responsibility of the requesting organisation to obtain the applicant's consent to screening and to keep a record of their consent.
This involves the applicant providing their consent for the Screening Unit to undertake a risk assessment based on any criminal history information that might appear on their National Police Certificate. For some types of screening, such as child-related employment screening, they consent to the consideration of a wider range of relevant information about them, in addition to their criminal history records.
If the individual has a current clearance with six or more months left to run, they do not yet need to be re-screened. Renewal applications should be lodged when there are six months or less left to go on their current clearance.
Apply online: The DCSI Screening Unit has introduced an online process for submitting screening applications, making it faster and easier to apply for employee and volunteer screening. More information.
Apply using a hard copy form: If your organisation is not yet registered for online screening, or you are unable to apply online for another reason, you can still apply using a hard-copy form.
For information about fees, please go to our fees page.
Payment for screening may be made by the organisation which is engaging an employee or volunteer (the applicant) or by the applicant themselves.
Applicants who are uncertain as to who is responsible for paying for their screening should check with the organisation concerned.
Screening payments can be made online by credit card, using the online screening application system, or may be invoiced to an organisation that is eligible for this option. The DCSI Screening Unit does not accept cash payments.
The online payment system uses the Commonwealth Bank's BPOINT service, which accepts both VISA or MasterCard, and is free to use. If you do not have a VISA or MasterCard, you can purchase a prepaid credit card. These can be purchased from many merchants, including Australia Post, and may be reloadable.
Applicants who are unable to pay using a credit card should contact the requesting organisation. It may be possible to arrange for the organisation to pay on your behalf, and the applicant reimburse the fee.
When initiating an application on behalf of an applicant using the online application system, the requesting officer in the organisation selects the option in the appropriate section of the form to indicate who will be paying for the screening assessment.
Organisations that submit 100 or more applications per year can apply to set up invoicing arrangements with the DCSI Screening Unit.
Paying at Australia Post
Alternatively, if the organisation has not yet registered for online submission of screening applications, a hard copy form may be submitted and payment made in cash at any Australia Post outlet. Please note that cheques are not accepted.
For more information, please refer to How to pay for your screening application
All matters are assessed in accordance with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness. More information.
Information obtained about an applicant is assessed on a case by case basis in accordance with relevant legislation. Where the information obtained suggests that there are matters of concern that could impact on the screening outcome, applicants will be provided with an opportunity to provide further information regarding the nature and circumstances of these concerns, such as the circumstances in which any relevant offending occurred.
Applicants may provide additional documentation such as referee or medical reports in support of their application. Where permissible, and with the applicant's consent, additional information regarding specific criminal offences may also be sought from the applicant, police, prosecuting authorities or courts to ensure an objective and informed assessment can be made.
Assessments are conducted by trained and experienced staff in strict confidence and in accordance with legislative requirements and standards. Screening Unit staff may deal directly with applicants and requesting organisations to clarify and/or confirm details when required.
Where appropriate, the Screening Unit will consult with the Authorised Officer in the requesting organisation before any final recommendation is made in relation to a screening outcome. The final decision as to whether or not an applicant is suitable to be engaged in paid or volunteer work rests with the employer or volunteer organisation, and not with the Screening Unit.
This depends on the type of screening. Although each type of check involves obtaining a national criminal history record check from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), some types of screening take into account additional sources of information. In some cases, legislative requirements dictate the type of information assessed.
Both vulnerable person screening and general employment probity screening take into account the applicant's criminal conviction history only.
Aged care sector screening involves a consideration of the applicant's national criminal history record to ascertain whether the applicant has ever been convicted of murder or sexual assault, or any other form of assault for which they have received a sentence of imprisonment (these are precluding offences). This type of screening is conducted in compliance with the requirements of the Aged Care Accountability Principles 2014 made under the Aged Care Act 1997
Child-related employment screening takes into account the applicant's national criminal history record as well as a wider range of information. This includes:
- information from South Australian government databases such as child protection information;
- 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, 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 obtained from other jurisdictions, including spent convictions, pending charges and non-conviction charges and, importantly, circumstances information around charges or convictions.
This information obtained during child-related employment screening is assessed in accordance with a set of standards. For more information see child-related employment screening.
Disability services sector employment screening involves a national criminal record history check and includes the consideration of:
- criminal convictions information and charges, regardless of the outcome of those charges;
- convictions that would otherwise be considered 'spent';
- information from the Courts Administration Authority;
- workplace records that are relevant to working with people with disability, including professional misconduct and disciplinary action taken against, or attempted to be taken against an applicant; and allegations of abuse in disability employment .
This type of screening is required by some government agencies, all non-government disability service providers funded under the Disability Services Act (1993), and licensing authorities of supported residential facilities.
Organisation: The employer/volunteer organisation will be advised of the screening outcome by email from the DCSI Screening Unit.
Applicants: Applicants who have been cleared as a result of their screening by the DCSI Screening Unit will receive a clearance letter, posted directly to them by the Screening Unit. Clearance letters are printed on green security paper, embossed with the logo of the South Australian Government.
Note: Applicants for General Employment Probity screening do not receive a letter.
Clearance letters are important documents and should be kept in a safe place.
Please note that screening is only one part of the recruitment process of employees and volunteers. It is the responsibility of the employer organisation to inform job seekers whether they have been successful with their application to work in the specific job or volunteer role/position.
No. The DCSI Screening Unit does not provide applicants or their employers/volunteer organisations with a copy of the applicant's national criminal history report or police certificate.
If you require documentation of a person's criminal history, it is recommended you obtain a National Police Certificate through a police service such as South Australia Police.
Screening by the Screening by the DCSI Screening Unit involves a risk assessment specifically focused on the applicant's risk in relation to a particular work or volunteer role.
There is no such risk assessment with a Police Certificate, which is simply a record of the applicant's criminal conviction history.
Screening by the DCSI Screening Unit
Screening by the DCSI Screening Unit additionally involves a risk assessment specifically focused on assessing an applicant's risk for a particular role. There is no such assessment with a police certificate, which is simply a record of a person's criminal conviction history.
When you apply for screening by the DCSI Screening Unit, you provide your consent for the Unit to undertake a risk assessment that can consider a wider range of relevant information about you, in addition to any criminal history information that might appear on your National Police Certificate. What is assessed?
A police check (National Police Certificate) is a summary of a person's offender history in Australia. Police checks are obtained through police services (such as SA Police) and involve the identification and release of the person's relevant criminal history information, including convictions, findings of guilt or pending court proceedings.
If you require documentation about your criminal history, it is recommended that you obtain a Police Check.
Spent convictions / non-disclosure legislation and information release policies place some limitations on the information a Police Check can provide. In South Australia the applicable Spent Convictions Scheme stipulates that prior convictions are not to be disclosed where 10 years have passed from the date of the conviction.
Free Police Checks for Qualifying Volunteer Organisations
Police checks for volunteers who work with vulnerable groups such as children, the aged or people with a disability are provided free of charge by South Australia Police, to organisations who are eligible to obtain a Volunteer Organisation Authorisation Number (VOAN). The VOAN scheme is administered by South Australia Police. Please refer to the VOAN information on the SA Police website for further details.
The Screening Unit is not part of the VOAN scheme; a fee is charged for all applications that it receives and processes.
A screening clearance letter is posted directly to successful applicants through Australia Post. The employing organisation is advised of the screening outcome by an email from the DCSI Screening Unit.
A card system is not used in South Australia. Clearance letters are printed on security paper embossed with the logo of the South Australian Government.
A clearance letter is not issued for General Employment Probity screening. However, for each of the following types of screening, successful applicants will receive a clearance letter:
- Child-related employment screening
- Aged care sector employment screening
- Disability services sector employment screening
- Vulnerable person-related employment screening
It is recommended clearance letters be kept in a safe place. The Screening Unit does not issue replacements for lost, stolen or misplaced letters.
No. The different states and territories within Australia may each have specific legislation that defines their systems and processes in relation to the screening of employees, students and volunteers. For information about interstate screening, please click on the relevant link/s below:
Yes. If you believe that due process was not followed in an assessment decision made by the DCSI Screening Unit, you can apply to have that decision reviewed by the Unit. This looks at the information collected for your initial assessment, and any new or additional information you provide with your application for review. The Screening Unit will not accept review applications without a substantive reason being provided for doing so by the applicant.
Substantive reasons for a request for a review may include, but are not limited to:
- You can provide new or additional information to the Screening Unit that might affect the outcome of the assessment;
- You believe that information provided by you as part of your initial assessment was not fully or properly taken into account;
- You can demonstrate that information was considered as part of your initial assessment which the Screening Unit was not permitted to access or incorporate in your assessment; and/or
- You believe that irrelevant information was considered by the Screening Unit as part of your initial assessment.
To apply for an internal review, please contact the Screening Unit:
- Telephone: 1300 321 592
- Email: DCSI.ScreeningUnitPolicy@sa.gov.au
Please note: For contractual and confidentiality reasons, the Screening Unit does not retain a person's National Criminal History Record Check (NCHRC) for more than three (3) months after the finalisation of an assessment. If your application for internal review is lodged more than three months after your initial application was received, the Screening Unit may contact you seeking your consent to obtain another copy of your NCHRC, which may incur an additional fee. This will also ensure that your check is as up-to-date as possible.
Further avenues of appeal
If, following the completion of an internal review, you are dissatisfied with the determination, you may have your application reviewed externally. Government bodies that might be able to assist you include the Ombudsman and the Human Rights Commission.
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For information about providing your feedback or to register a complaint, please go to www.dcsi.sa.gov.au/feedback.