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Background to criminal history screening

People with a disability can be more vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and exploitation than other members of the community. A high priority for the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services is to increase the safety of people with a disability when they are accessing services from department funded non-government service providers or National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) non-government service providers.

The Disability Services Act 2006 makes it unlawful for a person to work at a department funded non-government service provider or National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) non-government service provider service outlet (place where a specialist disability service is provided) without undergoing a criminal history check and being issued with a positive notice and Yellow Card.

A paid employee may start employment at a service outlet once an application for criminal history screening has been made. Volunteers must await the outcome of their screening application (that is, a positive notice and Yellow Card must have been issued) prior to commencing duties within a service outlet.

Under the Disability Services Act 2006, all workers and volunteers must undergo criminal history screening every three years.

A monitoring system with Queensland Police is in place whereby the department is notified if a Yellow Card holder is charged with an offence during the screening period. A cardholder charged with a serious offence of a sexual nature will have their Yellow Card suspended. Other cardholders with a change in criminal history undergo a reassessment process.

Who undergoes criminal history screening?

The legislation requires all people engaged by a Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services funded non-government service provider or a NDIS non-government service provider to undergo criminal history screening every three years. Engaged persons include employees, volunteers, students, contractors, executive officers and members of a board, management committee or other governing body.

Criminal history screening is not required for consumers (i.e. clients of the service), tradespeople who are not employees, relatives of a consumer providing volunteer care for their relative and people engaged only to work outside of the hours that disability services are provided.

The obligation is on the service provider to identify all people who fit the definition of an 'engaged person' and submit an application for a prescribed notice on behalf of each engaged person. Under the Disability Services Act 2006 it is the service provider's responsibility not to engage a paid employee unless a criminal history screening application has been made and not to engage a volunteer/student until they have been approved and issued with a positive notice and yellow card.

An application for a prescribed notice can only be submitted for an individual if there an agreement in place for the individual to be engaged at a service outlet.

Individuals cannot apply for a prescribed notice 'just in case' they might wish to work or volunteer with people with a disability with a department funded non-government service provider or a NDIS non-government service provider.

When does someone undergo criminal history screening?

An application for criminal history screening must be made before a person starts work at the service outlet. For volunteers, a positive notice and Yellow Card must be issued before they can commence duties in the service outlet.

Criminal history screening will be conducted every three years for each person who continues to work for a Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services funded non-government service provider or a NDIS non-government service provider.

A monitoring system with Queensland Police is in place whereby the department is notified if a Yellow Card holder is charged with an offence during the screening period. A cardholder charged with a serious offence of a sexual nature will have their Yellow Card suspended. Other cardholders with a change in criminal history undergo a reassessment process.

Exemptions from criminal history screening

Pursuant to the Disability Services Act 2006, the following individuals are exempt from criminal history screening:

  • a consumer of services (clients)
  • tradesperson who is not an employee of the service
  • a relative of a consumer (client) only providing care for their relative
  • a person providing disability services only to children (these persons are screened under the blue card system)
  • a registered health practitioner

Registered health practitioners are exempt from criminal history screening under the Disability Services Act 2006 if their engagement with a department funded non-government service provider or NDIS non-government service provider relates to their functions as a health professional.

The following professions are captured by the definition of a registered health practitioner in the Disability Services Act 2006:

  • chiropractors
  • dentists
  • doctors
  • nurses
  • occupational therapists
  • optometrists
  • osteopaths
  • pharmacists
  • physiotherapists
  • podiatrists
  • psychologists.

Criminal history screening process

The service provider must apply for a criminal history check on behalf of each engaged person. The service provider is also responsible for seeking the person's consent to conduct criminal history screening.

Service providers will submit applications to the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services either by mail or electronically. Applications must be on the approved forms and signed by the service provider and the engaged person.

A person can consent to more than one application through different service providers at around the same time. The department will advise both service providers who have submitted an application of the outcome of the screening process.

The department will forward the application to the Queensland Police Service for a national check of the person's criminal history.

The department will use the information to determine whether or not a person should be engaged by a department funded non-government service provider or a NDIS non-government service provider. A decision to issue either a positive or negative notice will be made by the Director-General of the department.

A positive notice means a person can work for a department funded non-government service provider or a NDIS non-government service provider.

A positive notice remains current for three years from the date of issue unless it is suspended or cancelled earlier due to a change in criminal history. A person who wishes to continue working for a department funded non-government service provider or a NDIS non-government service provider can apply to renew their positive notice and Yellow Card up to 3 months before its expiry date.

A negative notice means that a person cannot work for a department funded non-government service provider or a NDIS non-government service provider.

Service providers can engage a paid employee once an application has been submitted. However, if a negative notice is issued, this will have an impact on the person's continued engagement with the organisation.

Obligations of non-government service providers

It is the service provider's responsibility to submit an application for a prescribed notice and obtain a person's consent for criminal history screening for each engaged person.

The application must be submitted on the approved form. Application forms are also available on request by emailing criminalhistoryscreening@disability.qld.gov.au or phoning the Criminal History Screening Hotline 1800 183 690.

Under the Disability Services Act 2006, the service provider cannot engage or continue to engage a person unless an application for a prescribed notice is submitted. A service provider cannot engage a person who holds a current negative notice.

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