Working With Children checks: many organisations fail to do proper monitoring

Oho, who monitor workers and volunteers that are responsible for vulnerable people, surveyed over 600 parents and guardians to understand their awareness of child safety accreditations.

Australian parents spend significant amounts of money sending their kids to school and childcare, but are they taking the most important factor for granted? Safety. Parents may not think twice about the safety of their kids, as they trust organisations to do the right thing; and believe there are appropriate systems in place to protect the vulnerable. The truth is, there’s a huge gap in expectations versus reality.

Together with social impact agency, Ellis Jones, and independent research firm, Dynata, Oho surveyed over 600 parents or guardians of children under 18 years old to understand their awareness and concerns about child safety accreditations being monitored by organisations charged with protecting people in their care.

The findings indicate a significant gap between the demands of Australian parents and caregivers versus the provision of care by Australian organisations. Importantly, the study shows that perception is also lacking, with most parents and caregivers assuming a far higher standard than is being supplied. By highlighting these findings, their report aims to inform Australians of the gaps that exist so that we, as a nation, may improve the standard of safety for our most vulnerable.

The findings

Child safety is a serious concern among parents and caregivers in Australia, who often have a hard time transferring their responsibility of care on to others.

  • 81% are concerned about the safety of their children when they are in the care of others.
  • 37% are concerned most or all of the time.

But it is well-known that organisations have legal obligations to protect those in their care; and that penalties apply for non-compliance.

Parents and caregivers accept there is a system is in place to protect their children when in the care of organisations.

  • 76% are aware that organisations providing services to children must maintain child safety accreditations for their employees and volunteers.
  • 71% are aware that criminal penalties may apply if organisations do not comply with their child safety obligations.

And despite their high levels of concern, parents and caregivers expect and trust that organisations will protect their children.

  • 79% trust organisations caring for their children to maintain the child safety accreditations of their staff and volunteers.
  • 55% expect organisations to be monitoring them continuously.

And where a breach occurs, it is expected that organisations are made aware within 1.9 days. The truth is the majority of organisations with a duty of care are failing to comply.

The checks they conduct are both inconsistent and infrequent, leaving most vulnerable children exposed to breaches in the system.

Every day, at least one Working With Children Check is revoked in almost every state in Australia.

  • 5% of organisations are competently verifying Working With Children Checks after hiring new employees.

And, for most organisations, the window of risk is at best 12 months but could be up to three years.

How can this gap between what is being demanded — even expected — of organisations be closed, versus what is being provided?

Continuous monitoring via technology presents an opportunity.

Not only would it mitigate concern for parents and caregivers, it would also relieve the burden for organisations.

  • 61% say it will mitigate their concerns if organisations were continuously monitoring child safety accreditations.
  • 88% support a technological solution that could help with monitoring and alert service providers in due time.

Nobody thinks it will happen to them – until it does

This is exactly what one of Australia’s most esteemed schools, Geelong Grammar, thought when news of sexual abuse shocked their entire community. The school has spent years working to provide an authentic response to survivors, after a letter to the school warned that ‘being sorry” is not good enough. By talking to Oho they have an opportunity to be on the front foot, to prevent such a situation from ever occurring.

In the lead-up to the anniversary and the commemoration of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, Oho revisit the 1,000 public ‘messages to Australia’ from abuse victims. With the onus now on organisations to show they are actively taking steps towards preventing abuse, the letters may be viewed as addressing them directly, with children of Australia’s past urging them to take action to protect the children of our future.

More details: National Crime Check for Working with Children in Australia