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Screening Checks

9 May 2018

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:05): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question to the Minister for Human Services.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.E. HANSON: The screening process delivered by the Department of Human Services is particularly important for people seeking to work with children, people with a disability and in the aged-care sector. Minister, how many people are currently waiting to have their standard screening assessment completed? What is the average time it is taking for these standard assessments to be completed?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (15:06): I thank the honourable member for the question. As he has outlined, the screening processes are incredibly important. Can I advise that the number of screenings at present that have been held as at 7 May is some 274,357 individuals who hold child-related screenings. For disability services it is 27,892. For vulnerable persons, it is 37,316 and, in the aged-care sector, it is 54,005. We now have a continuous monitoring process so that some 111 clearances have been revoked for 92 people since 1 July 2017.

In relation to the applications that are determined, we have a statistic where some 70 per cent are resolved in fewer than 10 business days. Quite a number, I think 90 per cent—I will need to double-check what that exact figure is—are resolved within 30 working days. So that's reasonably quick.

The reasons, as the honourable member will be aware, that some people are held up is that there can be broadly three or four separate issues. So, the continuous monitoring is monitoring of the SAPOL database, the child protection database. Those reports are updated daily and provided to the screening unit. If somebody submits an application through that process and there is a flag on that, then that becomes a separate process which takes a lot longer for individual people to assess and go through. Some of those can take a considerably longer period of time because they need to be individually assessed and judgement needs to be made whether they are appropriate.

The other matter that comes into play in this space is that if people have accidentally put down a different name or if they have changed their name or there is some other detail, then they will not fall within those faster timetables and therefore that can actually delay it. I have just discovered here that actually 94 per cent are done within that time frame of 30 business days. There is an ongoing project in relation to clearing what is called a backlog. Additional staff have been allocated to that process and so those more detailed assessments are working through that process.

If anybody is in a situation where the screening is holding up their potential for work or if they have any concerns, then they can contact my office on 8463 6560 and we will make sure that they are fast-tracked because we certainly don't wish to have anybody missing out on employment opportunities because their screening hasn't been approved.

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:10): I have a supplementary question arising from that answer. Minister, do you and all of your staff have a working with children check?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (15:10): When I was first appointed minister, my adviser and I were asked to make sure that we had one and so that has been processed. I am assuming that all my other ministerial staff who are working within my office have screening checks. I would be very surprised if they wouldn't, but I will double-check that for the honourable member and advise him forthwith.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (15:10): I have a supplementary question. The minister mentioned a number of staff allocated to deal with backlogs of screening applications. Will the minister advise the chamber that the number of staff allocated to the screening administration in her agencies will not be reduced by any government efficiencies required of her agencies in the next state government budget?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (15:11): I see that this will be a line of questioning to me about ruling things in and ruling things out, and I'm not ruling anything in or out in relation to the budget. I'm sure the media will tire of receiving these media releases stating that 'The Minister for Human Services won't rule this or that out', but I'm not going to play that game.

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:11): I have a quick supplementary question. Is the free screening for volunteers after the budget or is it happening soon?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (15:11): I thank the honourable member for his question. Indeed, the free screening for volunteers was a commitment of the government. We did not provide a timetable on that but the advice from my department is that there may need to be some legislative change in order to enact that because people may avoid having to pay a fee for a worker screening by signing up as a volunteer beforehand, so that may take some time to progress through this place. That will be up to all of us to ensure that it is committed.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:12): Supplementary: can the minister advise the size of the current backlog?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (15:12): That is a very good question and I will take it on notice and get back to the honourable member on that issue.


Answer to Question

6 June 2018

Hon. MICHELLE LENSINK MLC: "The Department of Human Services has advised that:

As at 23 May 2018, there were 906 screening applications requiring assessment as part of the backlog project. Since the project commenced on 9 April 2018 the backlog has reduced by 31% from 1,310 to 906.