The Worker Screening Act 2020 (the WS Act) identifies kinship care as ‘child-related work’, as such kinship carers must hold a WWCC. It is an offence under the WS Act to both participate in or engage a person in child-related work who does not hold a current WWCC.
All adults acting in a parental capacity and providing care to a child in a kinship placement are required to apply for, and hold, a WWCC under the WS Act. The WS Act does not distinguish between a ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’ carer, irrespective of whether one carer performs most caring tasks, or where caring responsibilities are shared. Where adults are living in a domestic arrangement both are deemed to be providing care and both must hold a WWCC to meet the obligations of the WS Act.
The department’s policy requires all adults aged 18 and over residing in homes, or on the property of people providing out-of-home care including foster and kinship care to apply for and hold a WWCC. This relates to all usual adult household members and includes those living on the property including in separate accommodation eg caravan, tiny house on the property etc. Usual adult household members are defined as:
Aged 18 years and older and is not a kinship carer, parent, biological sibling or biological half-sibling of the child;
Resides in the household or on the property such that they have access to the home where the child/young person resides including an on-site bungalow or caravan, and any tenant(s), lodger(s) or boarder(s).
Regularly stays overnight at the property with ‘regularly’ defined as one or more night/s per week
Has a relationship with the carer/s or another member of the household such that they can be expected to spend significant periods of time at the residence. ‘Significant’ is defined as five hours or more on two or more occasions per week at the home irrespective of the time of day.
- Temporarily resides in the home. This is defined as a period of 14 days or more in any 12-month period, either consecutively or cumulatively
Where the above criteria is not met, it is still open to a practitioner, in the exercise of professional judgement, to request an adult associated with a kinship household to obtain a WWCC.
A prohibition, suspension, interim exclusion or exclusion notice may be issued by the Department of Government Services (DGS) when the preliminary assessment of an applicant’s criminal record or professional conduct report indicates further assessment is required or the applicant may not pass the WWCC or when an applicant is charged with a new criminal offence or is subject to disciplinary or regulatory finding or is excluded by another state or territory.
For definitions of each of the notices that may be issued, see Working with Children Clearances for kinship carers and usual adult household members advice.
Child Protection responsibilities when a kinship carer is issued a prohibition, suspension, interim exclusion or exclusion notice
When a kinship carer is issued with a prohibition, suspension, interim exclusion or exclusion notice, they cannot provide or continue to provide care for the child/ren whilst the DGS undertakes their assessment as to whether the carer is issued with a WWCC, or can continue to hold a WWCC. An assessment by DGS may take up to twelve weeks.
As soon as Child Protection is advised that a prohibition, suspension, or interim exclusion notice will be issued to a kinship carer, a case plan review must be undertaken immediately, and action must occur within 24 hours.
The only two actions that can be considered in this circumstance are:
a. removing the child from the placement; or
b. the carer removes themselves from the placement.
Based on an assessment of the child’s best interests, where possible option b should be considered where there are two kinship carers in the house to avoid disruption to the child.
During the prohibition, suspension or interim exclusion notice assessment period, the carer can have supervised contact with the child but must not reside with the child. See contact – advice for further information on supervised contact.
Where a prohibition, suspension or interim exclusion notice is issued by DGS against a usual adult household member, a review of the case plan, with a particular focus on the placement decision, must be undertaken within 24 hours, to assess the safety of the child to remain in the placement and any other significant decisions that may be required.
If a kinship carer receives a final exclusion notice, they are unable to resume care for the child as they are ineligible for a WWCC, nor can the kinship carer be recategorised as a household member to circumvent provisions in the WS Act.
The review considers the reason for the issuing of a prohibition, suspension, or interim exclusion notice, whether Child Protection was aware of the matters under review (for example, an adverse criminal record check), as well as the nature and frequency of the contact between the usual adult household member and the child in the kinship placement.
Following review of the case plan by Child Protection when a notice has been issued against a usual adult household member, if a decision is made for the child to remain in the placement the following steps must be taken.
- Consult with the divisional WWCC team. The Divisional WWCC may request DGS prioritise their assessment for the household member.
- A request can only be prioritised by DGS once any documentation or information requested from the cardholder/applicant has been received.
If the DGS assessment for the household member cannot be prioritised by DGS, then follow the Procedure to seek endorsement for a household member unable to hold a Working with Children Clearance for when a usual adult household member is unable to hold a WWCC. Further information can be found in the Discretionary endorsement for usual adult household members unable to hold a Working with Children Clearance policy.
After an exclusion is issued
Copies of the WWCC exclusion notices are sent to all organisations the applicant has listed as their employer. Organisations are not advised of the reason for the WWCC exclusion. By law, the applicant must (in writing) tell all organisations where the applicant does child-related work within seven days of being given notice of the WWCC exclusion.
Appealing an exclusion notice – applicable in limited circumstances
When an applicant receives a WWCC exclusion, in limited circumstances, the applicant may apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to review the decision within 28 days of the date of the notice. A carer cannot resume care until the appeal has been resolved and a WWCC has been issued.
Letters of support
A kinship carer, in their response to receiving a request for further information from DGS in support of their WWCC application, may seek assistance from Child Protection, such as a letter of support. The letter of support must focus primarily on the individual, their character, and their suitability to hold a WWCC, rather than on the specific needs of the child.
If this is to occur, any support letter must be reviewed and signed by the Area Executive Director, as the support letter represents the position of Child Protection and the department.
- Discretionary endorsement for usual adult household members unable to hold a working with children clearance - policy
- Procedure to seek endorsement for a household member unable to hold a working with children clearance - procedure
- Working with Children Clearance prohibition, suspension, revocation, interim exclusion or exclusion notice - procedure