Background Checking

Vulnerable adult advocates say screening of workers should start ASAP

Date: 29 July 2017
Source: The Mercury

COMPULSORY background checks on people working with vulnerable adults should be introduced “as soon as possible”, disability advocates say.

Nearly four years after the Registration to Work with Vulnerable People Act was introduced, people working with some of society’s “most vulnerable” still aren’t screened under the law.

This is in line with the timetable for the scheme’s rollout — which focused first on children — but disability advocates say the background checks should be “expedited” if necessary.

The Justice Department, which operates the scheme, said it was “likely” that registration to work with vulnerable adults would be introduced next year.

The aim of the statutory screening unit is to weed out sexual, physical and psychological predators in the children and disability sectors.

Speak Out Tasmania’s Jenny Dixon said the need for registration was “a consistent theme” in discussions with stakeholders.

“In the feedback we get from members … people with disabilities — intellectual disabilities in particular — say that anyone who works with them should have working with vulnerable people checks,” she said. “We strongly agree with that because we’re talking about some of our most vulnerable citizens who may not be able to communicate that something is wrong.

“They need all the safeguards possible and it’s our Government’s responsibility to actually make sure things like this are in place.

“We’d like to see it introduced as soon as possible.”

To date, the focus has been on screening people working with children. In the past three years, 45 people deemed too dangerous to be working with children have been denied registration. Another five cancelled their applications after being told there was a risk assessment under way.

The department has approved more than 100,000 people to work with children in that time.

From Tuesday, working with children checks will be extended to people in the vocational education and training services sector.

A Justice Department spokesman said screening of people working with vulnerable adults “is likely to commence in 2018”.

“It is anticipated that the rollout will involve a staged approach similar to child-related sectors,” he said.

“The implementation plan is still in development; however, it is likely the first phase will involve service providers in the disability sector.”


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