Working with Vulnerable People in the ACT

If you are involved in an industry that works with children, working with children checks have been standard practice in most Australian jurisdictions with the exception of the ACT and Tasmania. In November 2012 the ACT finally caught up with its State and Territory counterparts and introduced legislation to make background checks compulsory for any person (whether employed or in a voluntary capacity) who works with vulnerable people.

The law

Under the Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011 (ACT) (WWVP Act) if you engage in certain activities or services for vulnerable people you need to obtain a background check and be registered with the Office of Regulatory Services.

What is a vulnerable person?

The WWVP Act provides that a person is a vulnerable person if they are a child under the age of 18 years, or if they are an adult who is disadvantaged and accessing a regulated activity (for example, an adult with a physical or mental disability).

When do I need a background check?

If you are involved in an activity providing services to vulnerable people, the type of activity will dictate the date by which you are required to obtain a background check, as the WWVP Act employs a staged approach in respect of the enforcement of this requirement. Since the commencement of the Act in November 2012, any person engaged in certain services, called regulated activities in the ACT, (for example, childcare, education, disability services and child protection) have been required to obtain a background check.

From 7 November 2014, the span of regulated activities broadens to include activities such as coaching and tuition, clubs, associations and movements (for example, sporting clubs). This means that any person involved in providing coaching or tuition or in a sporting club context that has contact with children or vulnerable people will be required to obtain a background check during the period from 7 November 2014 to 7 November 2015. After 7 November 2015, any person involved in such activities who does not have a WWVP background check will be guilty of an offence under the WWVP with potential penalties of 2 years imprisonment or a $28,000 fine or both.

Considerations for clients

If you or your organisation is involved in providing regulated activities to vulnerable people it is vital that you understand your obligations in respect of obtaining WWVP background checks for you and your staff. The offences under the WWVP Act are strict liability offences; this means that if you are required to have a background check and you do not, you have committed an offence. Offences also apply in respect of organisations engaged in regulated activities which have failed to obtain WWVP background checks for staff and volunteers.

If you need assistance identifying the type of activities you provide or determining when you or your staff are required to obtain WWVP background checks contact us to discuss.

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