Working with Children Checks – Follow-Up

Audit finding – The level of automatic monitoring has improved however delays still exist for completing reassessments

The Screening Unit continually monitors cardholders. They run the list of cardholders against the WA Police Force systems, which reflects updates and/or changes in criminal history. Where a relevant change occurs the Screening Unit reassess whether the person is suitable to remain engaged in child-related work. A small proportion of cardholders are not automatically monitored. Since our last audit, Communities has taken steps to reduce the number of people not automatically monitored and controls are in place to mitigate the risk posed. During 2018, the Screening Unit completed 69 reassessments that resulted in the issue of an interim negative notice or negative notice. Reassessments are finalised more quickly than in 2013, but can still take a long time to complete.

The level of continual monitoring of cardholders has improved

In 2014, we recommended that DCPFS work with the WA Police Force to improve the matching of applicants between the WA Police offence data system and the Screening Unit’s information system, and reduce the number of cardholders who cannot be monitored through this process. Communities advised as at 30 April 2019, 8% of cardholders were not subject to continual monitoring, compared with 14% in 2014. The Screening Unit and the WA Police Force have controls to manage this risk. The WA Police Force has processes and procedures in place to notify the Screening Unit if a person charged with a relevant offence is considered to be in child-related work. This includes individuals who are not subject to continual monitoring by the Screening Unit. The WA Police Force does not currently have access to the list of WWC cardholders. It believes that existing controls would be strengthened if it had access to the list of WWC cardholders.

Continual monitoring is one of the benefits of the WWC Check compared to other checks, such as the WA Police National Police Certificate. For example, a National Police Certificate is only a point in time list of a person’s disclosable court outcomes and pending charges from all Australian police jurisdictions.

New offence notifications are actioned more quickly than in 2012-13, but some internal delays still exist

Communities is reassessing cardholders who commit offences more quickly than in 2012-13, however, some internal delays still exist. In 2012-13 only 35% of reassessments were completed in 10 days, this increased to 69% in 2017-18.[1] Further, 25% of reassessments took more than 4 months in 2012-13, this decreased to 3% in 2017-18.

Once the WA Police Force notifies Communities of a relevant update to a cardholder’s criminal record, the Screening Unit must reassess the cardholder’s suitability to continue working with children. If the decision is made that a cardholder is no longer considered suitable to engage in child-related work, Communities will issue a negative notice prohibiting them from engaging in child-related work.

We analysed the 69 reassessments resulting in an interim negative notice or negative notice in 2018 due to offence notifications. We found that the 50 issued with an interim negative notice took an average of 3 days to issue. However, the remaining 19 issued with a negative notice, but no interim negative notice, took an average of 87 days to complete. The Act allows the applicant 28 days to provide a submission prior to Communities issuing a negative notice, but there is significant opportunity for Communities to reduce the timeframe from 87 days thereby reducing the risk cardholders ultimately issued with a negative notice may pose to children.

[1] Data available at the time of audit

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