Child Protection and the Blue Card

CHILD PROTECTION

The relevant child-protection legislation in Queensland is the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000  (Qld). The Working with Children Check scheme, which is an important part of the legislation, was reviewed in early 2004. As a result of this review, several changes were made including the addition of new categories of employment and businesses screened and changes to how the Working with Children Check is applied to paid employees and volunteers.

A person wanting to work with children under 18 in particular categories of business, paid or voluntary employment will need to be screened through the Working with Children Check. The person will have to fill out an application form consenting to a criminal history check prior to their appointment or engagement. Application forms can be downloaded from www.ccypcg.qld.gov.au . Also available from the Commissioner's website is a series of information sheets on the Working with Children Check.

To download a printable version for adoption by Club & Associations, click here

To view Queensland Cricket's Child Protection Policy, click here

The Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian is making important improvements to the blue card system following recent changes to the Commission's Act.

The Commission will introduce the changes in two stages from 1 April 2010 and 1 July 2010

Please visit the Commission's website at www.bluecard.qld.gov.au and read the Changes to the blue card system information sheet. You can also access updates, information sheets and new application forms online.

Laws were introduced in mid-2008 to further strengthen current safeguards for children and young people by preventing certain people up-front from applying for a blue card.

There are a number of new requirements, which are covered here:

Amendments to Blue Card Requirements

Understanding the Blue Card

New Obligations for Employers

New Obligations for Applicants/Blue Card Holders

Disqualification from Applying for or Holding a Blue Card

Health Act Changes

Dealing With Unlawful and Inappropriate Behaviours

Paid Employee Blue Card Application Form

Volunteer Blue Card Application Form

The law requires the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian to:

  • Assess a person's suitability to work with children based on their criminal history, if any
  • Contact a person who has a criminal history that may make the person unsuitable for child-related employment. Invite them to make a submission to the commissioner regarding the information in their criminal history and/or their suitability for child-related employment.
  • If found suitable a person will be issued a positive notice and blue card which is valid for two years unless cancelled earlier due to a change in a person s criminal history.

When assessing a person s criminal history, the Commissioner considers:

  • whether there are charges or convictions
  • whether any offence is a serious offence (defined by the Act)
  • when the offence was committed or alleged to have been committed
  • the nature of the offence and its relevance to working with children or young people
  • in the case of a conviction, the penalty imposed by the court and any reasons given if the court made no imprisonment order or no order disqualifying the person from holding or applying for a blue card, and
  • any other relevant information relating to the offence or alleged offence.

A negative notice will be issued if a person has been convicted of a serious offence (other than an excluding offence) unless they can satisfy the Commissioner that their case is an exceptional one, in which case it would not harm the best interests of children to issue a blue card. When assessing investigative or disciplinary information held about a person, the Commissioner considers a range of other factors required by the Act. A list of serious and excluding offences is available if the information is considered relevant to his/her work with children.

If a person's criminal history changes they must immediately notify their existing or prospective employer, volunteer organisation or education provider of the change. The employer, volunteer organisation or education provider must not continue to employ the person without applying for a new Working with Children Check. If a person carrying on a regulated business has a change to their criminal history they must also notify the Commission.

Where new information emerges about a person's criminal history (other than investigative information) the Commissioner must notify the employer whether the person has been charged or convicted with an offence, and whether it is a serious offence, a serious child-related sexual offence or a non-serious offence. No further details are provided about the information that has prompted the reassessment. The employer is not entitled to dismiss the employee because of the notice given by the Commissioner. Instead, the employer should ensure their risk management strategy caters for this situation.

The following people need to apply for a Working with Children Check:

Volunteers and Paid Employees

All volunteers and certain paid employees who work with children or young people in the following categories of employment must apply for a blue card:

  • Residential facilities
  • School boarding houses
  • Schools - employees other than teachers including non-teaching staff *
  • Childcare *
  • Churches, clubs and associations providing services mainly directed towards or involving children
  • Counselling and support services
  • Private teaching, coaching or tutoring
  • Eeducation programs conducted outside of schools *
  • Child accommodation services, including homestays
  • Religious representatives *
  • Sport and active recreation
  • Emergency services cadet programs *
  • School crossing supervisors *

Categories marked with * are retrospectively screened. This means all people who work in these categories of employment must hold a blue card regardless of when they started work. To ensure people have time to comply with the new legislation, there is a phase in period for those who need a blue card as a result of the changes of the Act. An information sheet outlines how this will occur .

Volunteers

A volunteer is a person employed by another person or organisation who is not paid, other than being reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses.

While the volunteer is responsible for filling out an application form for a Working with Children Check, the employer, volunteer organisation or education provider is responsible for applying to the Commission for the Working with Children Check for paid employees and volunteers. They are also responsible for sighting the applicants identification documents specified on the application form. However, a prescribed person, i.e. a justice, a commissioner for declarations, a lawyer or a police officer, may sight the documents under specific circumstances.

Since 17 January 2005, all new volunteers, (unless exempt) must undergo a Working with Children Check and hold a blue card before they start volunteering in any area of regulated employment, regardless of how often they come into contact with children and young people.

However, volunteers (other than parents, who are exempt) who have started work and applied for blue cards before 17 January 2005 can continue to work until whichever happens first:

  • one year has passed since this new requirement commenced (i.e. up to 16 January 2006 )
  • a negative notice is issued to the volunteer, or
  • the volunteer s application is withdrawn.

Failure of the employer to comply with this obligation is an offence and may result in fines or imprisonment.

Paid employees

Paid employees must apply for a blue card if they work, or are likely to work, in regulated employment for at least:

  • eight consecutive days, or
  • once a week, each week, over four weeks, or
  • once a fortnight, each fortnight, over eight weeks, or
  • once a month, each month, over six months.

If an employer does not ensure that a blue card is held by paid employees who works in the categories screened, or whether they have applied for a blue card, they are committing an offence and may face fines or imprisonment.

Paid employees can begin or continue to work in regulated employment while waiting for the outcome of their blue card application.

Not all paid employees are retrospectively screened. Paid employees (except those working in child care, education programs outside of school, religious representatives, non-teaching staff in schools, school crossing supervisors and Emergency Services cadet supervisors) who began work before 1 May 2001 are not required to undergo screening by the Commission.

However, if an employer knows or reasonably suspects that an employee who is not retrospectively screened has a criminal history relevant to working with children or young people, they can apply for a blue card for that employee.

Businesses

A person carrying on the following regulated businesses must also apply for a blue card:

  • counselling and support services
  • private teaching, coaching or tutoring
  • childcare
  • education programs conducted outside of schools
  • religious representatives
  • child accommodation services, including homestays
  • providers of recreational activities such as sporting camps and programs (excluding amusement parks)
  • operators of hostels for children other than residential facilities

People carrying on a regulated business are responsible for applying for their own Working with Children Check. A prescribed person must confirm that they have sighted the original documents proving the applicant s identity by signing the declaration on the application form.

The following people are exempt from the Working with Children Check and do not need to apply for a blue card:

  • children under 18 who are volunteers (except students required to work in regulated employment as part of their studies)
  • parents who volunteer their services or conduct activities at the school their child is attending, as long as the child is under 18
  • parents who volunteer their services or conduct activities through a church, club or association or are involved in sport and active recreation, where their child is involved in the same or similar activity.

A "parent" is the child's mother, father or another adult who has parental responsibility for the child. Exemptions also apply to some employees, such as registered teachers. For more information on exemptions, call the employment screening hotline on 1800 113 611 or visit the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian website.

For more information regarding working with children and the "Blue Card" click here to go to the website of the Commission for Children and Young Persons.

Any policies and procedures developed by organisations should be comprehensively implemented and accompanied by education and awareness campaigns within the organisation. This will ensure everyone understands their responsibilities and works together to protect the rights of children.

Managing the risk

Generally, it is advisable to take a risk management approach to child protection.

  • Classify the risk: How serious is the risk that an abusive (physical or psychological) situation could occur? What is the potential for harm to a child?

And then,

  • Manage and prevent the risks:
    • What steps can the organisation and any affiliated bodies take to effectively manage any situations that could occur?
    • How can an environment which fosters the prevention of child abuse be promoted?

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