New Worker Screening Checks

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The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission have recently announced new Worker Screening Checks. The Checks will replace state arrangements and set a national standard. They will ensure that NDIS participants have safe, high-quality services and supports.

What is a NDIS Worker Screening Check?

A NDIS Worker Screening Check, in short, is a risk assessment by NDIS worker screening units of people under the NDIS to evaluate if a person poses an unacceptable risk to people with disability. This check takes into account far more risk based factors than a regular criminal check. These factors include criminal history, workplace misconduct, AVOS, information about past employment, juvenile offences and any other relevant information that may determine whether a worker poses a risk to a person with disability.

Providers should understand what Worker Screening means for their business. Depending on the role, workers need an appropriate clearance. This is a mandatory requirement of NDIS registration. The requirement is to ensure that workers with more than incidental contact with participants do not pose any harm to them.

Workers starting in a role that requires clearance after July 1 will need to apply for the new Check. Once the new Checks are fully implemented, they will enable a screened worker to deliver supports and services in any state or territory, and are current for 5 years. Worker Screening Checks are only relevant for workers engaging in NDIS related work. Please note that workers in SA and WA can continue to work until their state-based check expires. Transition rules for other states have not been released yet.

Upon application for a NDIS Worker Screening Check, there are four possible outcomes:

  • Clearance: The applicant is accepted and successfully receives their Worker Screening Check.

  • Exclusion: The applicant is rejected and is unable to engage in NDIS related work.

  • Risk assessment: The application is still in the assessment stage. They are still able to engage in NDIS related work only in the instance where a service provider has a risk assessment plan in place and they are appropriately supervised.

  • Interim bar: The applicant is neither cleared nor excluded (yet). This stage is similar to the risk assessment stage, however they are not allowed to engage in NDIS related work with this status.

There are four key new provider requirements:

  1. Risk assessment: All roles within the organisation must be assessed to determine which roles will require a NDIS Worker Screening Check.

  2. Monitoring and reviewing: All roles not directly performed by employees such as subcontracting arrangements must also be reviewed to determine whether a NDIS Worker Screening Check will be required.

  3. Risk management plan: A risk management plan is required in instances where a person without a clearance is accepted to work in a risk assessed role.

  4. Record keeping: Requirements regarding record keeping have become more detailed – now all details such as Worker Screening Check numbers, application dates and all employee details must be readily available.

What are risk assessed roles?

Registered NDIS providers are required to assess all roles performed in the course of working with NDIS participants. These include direct workers such as employees, volunteers, consultants and other personnel such as subcontractors. Key personnel roles such as directors, board members and managers must also be assessed.

Risk assessed roles would include roles where regular duties require more than incidental contact with people with disability (physical contact, face-to-face, oral, written and electronic communication). It is up to the provider to assess the level of incidental contact.

For key personnel, risk assessed roles include those that are responsible for executive decision making, planning, directing or controlling the activities of the provider. While these roles may not involve more than incidental contact with people with a disability, due to the nature of these roles, they will still be categorised as a risk assessed role.

The roles of other personnel must be risk assessed. Depending on the nature of the roles, subcontractors may now be required to possess a clearance to perform the work. The responsibility of acquiring the clearance lies with the contractor. However, providers must validate the clearance status upon engaging the services. This is likely to affect current contracts that providers have. The extra costs of acquiring the checks may potentially be passed down to providers.

Exceptions:

  • Secondary school students on formal work experience placements that are supervised by another worker with a clearance do not require clearance.

  • Those in the process of obtaining an NDIS Worker Screen Clearance under the conditions that they are supervised by another worker with a clearance and the provider has a risk management plan in place.

  • Providers in SA and NSW who are meeting the transitional arrangements.

Risk management plans

Workers and other personnel can engage in a risk assessed role without a clearance when:

  • The person is in the process of obtaining a clearance

  • The person is appropriately supervised by a person with a clearance

Providers are required to develop and maintain a satisfactory written risk management plan for protecting people with a disability. The plan must be available to be reviewed at the request of the NDIS Commissioner or when there is a reportable incident involving a worker or provider. In the case where a reportable incident occurs, the whole risk management plan will be reviewed.

Record keeping

More requirements have been introduced regarding record keeping laws. Providers will now keep a written list of all risk assed roles and ensure that this list is constantly updated. Further records that must be updated include names, details, worker screening check applications and check numbers.

In the instance where a worker is working in a risk assessed role without a clearance, the name of the person supervising them and the reason why they are able to do so is required to be recorded.

Regarding other personnel, providers are required to keep records of contracts, how both the contractor and provider comply with these contracts and any reportable incident records.

In line with these changes, the NDIS Commission is working with state and territory governments to develop an NDIS Worker Screening Database. The database will keep records of any person who has applied for an NDIS Worker Screening Check.

The database will also:

  • Keep records of cleared and excluded workers

  • Support monitoring of the criminal history records of workers with clearances

  • Allow employers to easily sponsor applications and verify clearances of workers

  • Help with record keeping

The changes are a positive step by the NDIS Commission to ensure the safety of participants. Further information will be released by the NDIS. For more information, visit the NDIS Commission website.

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