Working with Children Checks – Follow-Up

Audit finding – Communities has not implemented risk-based monitoring and enforcement, and has little assurance about employer compliance

Communities can provide little assurance that employers and volunteer organisations with people in child-related work comply with the Act, which undermines the effectiveness of the WWC Check scheme. The Screening Unit has done little to address the recommendation in our 2014 report, to take a risk-based approach to proactively prioritise and target enforcement activity. Communities does not use available data to identify areas of risk or proactively plan regulatory activity, to ensure employers and volunteer organisations comply with the Act.

Communities takes a cooperative compliance approach including delivering education sessions to employers and volunteer organisations. Communities also carries out investigations and audits of individuals or organisations where external sources provide information that warrant the commencement of an investigation or audit.

Communities advised they completed 24 audits and 124 investigations in 2017-18.[1] This is an increase from the 1 audit and 28 investigations completed in 2013-14. However, these are still only undertaken when Communities receives relevant information from external sources.

Other than the audit and investigations carried out, Communities does not use targeted regulatory activities to assure itself that entities and individuals comply with the Act. For example, the Act permits Communities to require employers to certify annually their compliance with the Act. However, Communities does not currently require this even though it could use this to inform its risk assessment and as a basis for a rolling sample of verifications which could identify non-compliance and enable enforcement activity. Targeted auditing would allow effective use of monitoring and enforcement resources.

Communities has a range of data that could be used to target regulatory activities based on indications of risk. For example, we found that analysing negative notices issued by work-related category identifies that the “club, association or movement” child-related work category accounts for 8% of all cardholders but, in 2018, accounted for 15% of negative notices issued. This could be a flag suggesting further regulatory investigation is warranted in this category. As another example, Communities could identify employers with the highest number of people engaged in child-related work, or those occupations which provide the most access to children as areas to focus compliance activities.   

Furthermore, Communities has never undertaken a proactive audit of self-employed individuals. We randomly selected 30 individuals or organisations advertising child-related services in WA on the internet. Of these, 40% did not have a WWC Card or application in progress with Communities. A number of these were self-employed individuals. Self-employed individuals, such as those offering private music lessons or other tuition, pose a risk of not being subject to the WWC Check screening as there is no oversight by an employer requiring a WWC Card. Both the individuals offering the services and the parents engaging them may be unaware they are required to have a WWC Check.

In addition to community and parental awareness, monitoring and enforcing compliance is essential to making the WWC Check scheme credible and effective in helping to keep children safe.

[1] Data available at the time of audit

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