NSW’s new Working with Children Check (WWCC) system could form the model for a national system, with NSW already working with other states and territories to facilitate the cross-jurisdictional exchange of sensitive information.
The WWCC system, operational in NSW since June 2013, is the country’s first online screening system. It conducts continuous checks on every applicant, and alerts the Office of the Children’s Guardian to any new criminal or disciplinary records.
“The royal commission is now looking at a national system and looking at other States,” NSW Children’s Guardian Kerryn Boland said during a Family and Community Services budget estimates hearing this month.
However, Boland told Intermedium that “delivering a nationally consistent model is not without its difficulties primarily because of the differences in the relevant criminal laws of each State and Territory.
“In addition there are some technological challenges that currently stand in the way of a ‘simplified national system’.”
Elements of the NSW system that could underpin a national scheme are:
- Its use of streamlined online systems and centralised operations;
- Its ability to access full criminal histories and continuously monitor new State records of clearance holders;
- Its provision of portable and renewable five-year clearances that reduce red tape for employers; and
- Its provision of a single check for paid workers, authorised carers, volunteers, self-employed individuals, and adults sharing their homes.
The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released an issue paper on a nationally consistent WWCC scheme in June. It asked for submissions on the features of a national scheme, length of clearances, what records should be included in the check and how the effectiveness of a WWCC scheme should be evaluated and monitored, among other things. Submissions closed on 12 August 2013.
All Australian jurisdictions already have access to the same criminal history information since 2006 under the Exchange of Criminal History Information for People Working with Children agreement.
The development of the NSW WWCC application received funding of approximately $1.5 million, according to Boland.
The NSW Commission for Children and Young People contracted CSG (which has since been acquired by NEC) to build the system in May 2010. The WWCC system is currently hosted by Service First, the NSW Government shared services provider.
The NSW WWCC system integrates with a number of other State and Federal agencies, including:
- NSW Department of Family and Community Services;
- NSW Department of Health;
- NSW Department of Education and Communities;
- NSW Roads and Maritime Services;
- NSW Police; and
Since its launch in June, the fully electronic system has processed over 97,700 applications and issued around 55,600 clearances. It has reduced clearance times from as long as 48 hours to under 24 for 70 per cent of applicants, Boland told the estimates committee.
“Applicants are given an application number and then they must make their way to a Roads and Maritime Services centre and verify their identity,” she said. “Once that is done the information will go down to Crimcheck and an immediate clearance can be issued.”
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