The Department of Communities (Communities) welcomes the Summary of Findings and supports the recommendations and implementation timeframes.
Communities is pleased that the report recognises the improvement to the timeframes for processing Working with Children Check (WWC) applications, reassessment and negative notices since 2014; and that the risk-based approach to processing applications has been effective in reducing the risk to children. However, it is recognised that there is still more work to be done and Communities has already commenced a review of the process and identified potential areas to reduce the timeframes even further.
The best interests of children is paramount, and the application of this principle is integral to the administration of the WWC scheme. As noted in the Summary of Findings, there is an opportunity to strengthen the application of this principle even further. As a priority, Communities will also review its criteria for issuing interim negative notices, to minimise the inherent risk to children.
Communities acknowledges that the WWC compliance and enforcement regime needs to be more proactive and risk-based. Work has already commenced to develop a targeted and risk-based monitoring, compliance and enforcement approach, that uses relevant data sources and powers to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004.
Communities provides a range of child safety services in addition to the WWC Checks and is committed to its ongoing contribution to improve the protection of children. Since the conclusion of the audit, Communities has taken prompt action to ensure all Communities related positions that require a WWC Check, have a valid WWC Card. Current reporting on the levels of compliance with the WWC requirements will be enhanced to ensure the escalation of matters of concern to senior management.