New NDIS Worker Screening

As of 1 July the NDIS Commission is introducing a national NDIS worker screening database. The database will keep records of any person who has applied for an NDIS Worker Screening Check. Providers will have access to a limited set of information about an employee to ensure the person is cleared to work with people with disabilities.  Workers will be able to provide supports in any state or territory. The database will not provide information about the person’s criminal history and details relating to the outcome of the screening application.

Workers and other personnel that start in a role that needs a clearance after 1 July 2019 will need to apply for a new NDIS Worker Screening Check. The Commission will release information on how to apply soon. We have no information about the costs involved. Workers in SA and NSW who meet the current state disability worker screening requirements can continue to work until their state-based check expires. The rules for the transition in other states and territories are expected to be similar but have not been published yet. Additional state and territory specific requirements such as Working With Children Checks are still mandatory.

Who needs a check?

From 1 July all personnel of registered providers (except for WA) will need a check if they are in a risked assessed role including:

  • key personnel (including board members, senior executives, manager, team leaders)
  • roles for which the normal duties include the direct delivery of specified supports or specified services to a person with disability
  • roles for which the normal duties are likely to require more than incidental contact with people with disability, including volunteers and subcontractors.

What is more than incidental contact?

If a role requires the worker to physically touch the person with disability or if the worker is building a rapport with the person with a disability as a part of the performance of the duties, the contact is considered to be more than incidental. Contact includes physical contact, face-to-face meetings and oral, written and electronic communication. If the interaction requires just polite and no functional contact with the customer, it is considered incidental. For example, an accountant who is working in the building but may greet a customer in passing in the hallway will not require clearance.

Tips for record keeping

Registered providers must assess all roles and identify each role that is a risk assessed role. Engaging workers in risk assessed roles without appropriate clearance could breach NDIS registration conditions.

Providers need to maintain a list of risk assessed roles including job title, the description of the role and why the role is risk assessed, the date the role was assessed and who made the assessment. Registered providers are also required to maintain a written list of all personnel who engage in risk assessed roles and keep it up to date. The list must specify the full name, date of birth and address of the person, the risk assessed role, the screening check application/check number, and the check outcome expiry date. Section 18 of the NDIS (Practice Standards-Worker Screening) Rules 2018 also specifies requirements for record keeping on suspensions or exclusions. Section 19 outlines records that must be kept for other personnel that is not directly employed by the registered NDIS provider.

How to avoid delays?

Experience has shown that new systems can bring hiccups and delays. If you are planning to hire new staff members or if your key personnel have not undergone the necessary checks, you may want to apply for state based clearance as soon as possible.

In SA, workers in a risk assessed role must have a valid clearance for:

  • SA disability services employment screening (obtained in the last three years) or
  • SA child related employment screening (obtained in the last three years).

The child-related employment check in SA will also change to new Working with Children Checks in July. The list of acceptable checks in SA can be found here.

A registered provider may temporarily allow a person to engage in a risk assessed role if the person is in the process of obtaining clearance, if the person is appropriately supervised by a person with clearance, if the provider is implementing a risk management plan and if not prohibited by state law.

Safety as a point of difference

Office workers or cleaning personnel without client contact do not require clearance. Secondary school students doing work experience are also exempt, if supervised appropriately. Providers may still want to ask all personnel for clearance, however this is up to each organisation to decide.

At this stage workers who work for unregistered providers are not required to undergo screening checks. This is an important point of difference for registered providers and worth mentioning to your clients.

New Worker Orientation Tool

The NDIS Commission has launched the on-line training tool ‘Quality, Safety and You’. The worker orientation module is for NDIS workers to understand their roles and responsibilities under the NDIS Code of Conduct. The training is mandatory for workers and personnel who are employed or otherwise engaged by registered NDIS providers including key personnel, volunteers and contractors and subcontractors.

The module is divided into four modules and can be paused and continued at any time. The training takes over 90 minutes and provides sections for reflection and questions to check on learning.  Each person undergoing the training has to register separately to receive a Certificate of Completion at the end.

How to implement orientation training in your organisation?

Providers must include the training in their induction program and ensure that each new staff member completes the module. Existing staff can complete the training over time, however it is important to establish a learning program and plan to ensure everyone will complete the training. Do staff have access to computers, can they complete the training during working hours or will they need to complete it at home? Auditors will look for evidence that the training is scheduled and in progress and that completion is recorded.  Modules specific for group training are not available, however providers can use the tool to run groups training sessions and allow extra time for group discussions and feedback. Worker who attend a group session will not receive an individual Certificate of Completion. The completion of training can be evidenced with a signed and witnessed attendance sheet or a declaration of completion.  The training will give workers a good understanding of the obligations of the NDIS Code of Conduct and help staff to act accordingly.

Keeping people with disability safe and well is the duty of every disability provider and worker.