Working With Children Check

The Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat, today expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the Working With Children Check in protecting children from the risk of abuse in the workplace.

“The Working With Children Check identifies about 70 prohibited people applying to work with children each year, however the system does not reliably identify all people who may pose a risk to children,” Mr Achterstraat said.

Over one million people work with children in a voluntary capacity in NSW.

“It is not known which volunteer organisations are getting volunteers to complete a Prohibited Employment Declaration form and, more importantly, completed forms often sit in a drawer and are rarely checked,” said Mr Achterstraat.

“And there are definite gaps in the checking process because not all employers are checking everyone they should,” Mr Achterstraat stated.

These were some of the findings in the Working With Children Check report released today by the NSW Audit Office. The audit examined whether the Working With Children Check reliably identifies people who may pose a risk to children.

“Perhaps my most concerning finding is that whatever the risk a person poses to children, as long as they are not a prohibited person (that is someone convicted of a serious child-related violence or sex offence), the Commission cannot stop them from being hired,” Mr Achterstraat said. “Indeed in 2008-09, 14 people assessed as posing a significant risk to children were still employed in childrelated work.”

Mr Achterstraat outlined three key solutions to improve the Working With Children Check.

“The Commission needs to create a register of all volunteer organisations working with children and conduct regular audits to check volunteers are completing Prohibited Employment Declarations. Secondly, the Commission must undertake ongoing audits of relevant employers to ensure they are requesting Working With Children Checks and thirdly, it needs to identify people who have committed a prohibited offence while in child-related employment and stop them from working with children.”

“One of our most important roles is protecting children from danger and harm,” said Mr Achterstraat. “The Working With Children Check goes part of the way in achieving this goal but for the sake of the safety of our children it must be improved.”

Further information

Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, on 9275 7220.