The Department of Health and Ageing mandated police checks for approved aged care organizations that receive funding from the Commonwealth. Police Clearance requirements were developed to assist organizations and were further amended in Australia in 2017.
Aged care providers operate in an industry that comes into contact with most members of the Australian community in some way (direct or indirect) and it is little surprise that the industry is under constant government level scrutiny when it comes to the suitability of aged care workers that care for the elderly and vulnerable. Below we look at the requirements for aged care providers to make sure they are in compliance with legislative practices.
Legislative Framework for Aged Care Organizations in Australia
The legislative framework for aged care providers and organizations is outlined in the Commonwealth Government’s Aged Care Act 1997 (“the Act”). The act is supported by 22 Aged Care Provider Principles which outline what is required by the Act.
Some of the principles in the framework cover items such as an aged care police check, record-keeping requirements for aged care providers, ensuring compliance, and community visitors.
Which Persons Are Required to Undergo Police Checks in Aged Care?
Checks must be done for aged care workers who are volunteer members over the age of 16 (except if they are a full-time student, then over the age of 18) with access to care recipients, and employees and contractors (paid staff) that are over the age of 16 and are likely to have either supervised or unsupervised access to care recipients.
At What Point Should the Police Clearance Be Conducted?
Police checks for aged care providers should ideally be undertaken prior to the employee or contractors taking the job role and hence coming into contact with vulnerable persons (the elderly).
In circumstances where the Australian police clearance has been applied for but not yet received or completed for a new employee or volunteer of the aged care center, a statutory declaration should be used stating that the individual has not been convicted of an offence. A template for statutory declarations is provided in Police Certificate Guidelines.
How Often Does an Aged Care Police Check Need to be Renewed in Australia?
Aged care workers should note that police checks are required to be renewed every three years for all relevant individuals. Aged care centers must also put in place “reasonable measures” to ensure that employees, contractors, or volunteers notify them if they are convicted of a precluding offence within that three-year period.
Where Is a National Police Check Valid?
The national police check certificate covers disclosable court outcomes where the applicant has been convicted in states and territories of Australia.
What Is the Record Keeping Requirement for Aged Care Police Checks?
Aged care providers must keep the following police clearance records:
● National police clearance certificates that are not more than three years old for each employee, volunteer, or contractor.
● Written proof that a process is underway (application submitted) for police clearance for new staff and volunteers.
● Statutory declaration form for relevant individuals as required above.
Aged care providers must note that all records (hard copy or electronic) must be kept in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Commonwealth).
What Offences Will Preclude a Worker from Engagement in Aged Care Work?
The Aged Care Act outlines that individuals are unable to engage in an aged care work if they have a conviction for sexual assault or murder, or a conviction of (and sentence to imprisonment for) any form of assault. Any individual with such offences should not be employed or accepted as an unsupervised volunteer on the premises of aged care centers in Australia.
If a current staff member or volunteer is convicted of a precluding offence, it is the responsibility of the aged care center to ensure the individual does not continue in the role where they have direct or indirect access to the elderly (the aged care role).
Aged Care Act 1997 (Commonwealth)
Accountability Principles 2014 (Commonwealth)
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance – Police Certificate Guidelines – March 2017
Spent Conviction Scheme – http://www.privacy.gov.au/law/other/criminal