Screening of people working with children and young people :issues paper

Institute of Child Protection Studies


Over the past 10 years there has been a developing awareness of the need for organisations to look further at how best to ensure the wellbeing of children and young people with whom they work. Attention has focused on how to more effectively “screen” people who work with children and young people and as a result there has been a significant increase in the number of people who have been screened. For example in NSW in 1993, just 269 people were assessed - with 95 assessed as being of some risk. Last financial year, 215,792 people in NSW had background checks over their suitability to work with children. The issues for implementing an effective screening system revolve around questions of who should be screened (all people who work with children both in paid and in volunteer positions), what type and level of screening (criminal history, employment history, domestic violence history, psychological testing) and who should do the screening (eg police checks, screening by specialised organizations, in house). There are also issues about who pays for a ‘screening’ process’. Strategies for protecting children from harm outside of the family unit raises many issues including: the rights and safety of children, human rights and procedural fairness, privacy and political, administrative or organisational dilemmas. The ACT Children Services Council has requested a review of international and national literature on issues surrounding the screening of people working with children and young people. This paper reviews the issues related to employment screening, presenting information about alternative models, legislative schemes and frameworks, & a range of practice issues involved in this strategy. In addition, it provides a brief survey of the legislative approaches being adopted by each of the Australian States and Territories. It also discusses the limitations to screening & briefly reviews alternative strategies for safeguarding children and young people.