New obligations for councils under the Vulnerable Children’s Act.
Librarians, staff at council pools, skate park guardians and road safety coordinators could be among council staff affected by new legislation. On July 1 last year, safety checking regulations for the children’s workforce came in to force.
Safety checking, under the Vulnerable Children’s Act 2014 (the Act), requires that all paid people who work with children for government-funded organisations are safety checked, and these checks are updated every three years.
Although not previously required, many local authorities are already voluntarily ensuring that children’s workers are safe to work with children.
Now, from September 1 this year, local authorities (and the organisations they fund) that provide children’s services are legally required by the Act to ensure all core children’s workers who are starting a new job are safety checked.
A ‘core worker’ is a children’s worker who, in the course of their work, will be alone with children or will at times have primary responsibility for, or authority over, children.
From September 1, 2017, this requirement will also apply to all non-core workers.
The Act introduced a workforce restriction, which prohibits employing people with convictions for specified offences in core worker roles, unless they hold a core worker exemption.
The offences which trigger the workforce restriction involve specific serious convictions, such as child abuse, sexual offending and / or violence convictions, and are listed in Schedule 2 of the Act.
For local authorities (and organisations they fund) this means from September 1 2016 the workforce restriction applies to anyone seeking a new role as a core children’s worker. From September 1 2017, the workforce restriction will also apply to all existing core children’s workers.
If an individual has one of the offences listed in Schedule 2, and they are currently employed as a core children’s worker they will have until September 1 2017 to obtain a core worker exemption. A core worker exemption is not role-specific; a core worker exemption holder, subject to conditions, can be employed in any core children’s worker role.
• Queries relating to safety checking: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Queries about the workforce restriction or associated core worker exemption: Core_Worker_Exemption@msd.govt.nz or phone 0800 462 511
This article was first published in the November 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.