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Screening Checks

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (14:43): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Human Services a question regarding the screening system.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: Prior to 1 July 2017, the screening unit only reviewed an individual's relevant history once every three years. As of 1 July 2017, a new screening system was introduced to enable ongoing monitoring of an applicant's relevant history information. The new system is linked to South Australia Police and other databases to provide up to date information about offences that are relevant to an applicant's clearance status. My question to the minister is: what was the original budget and final cost of the new screening system, and how did the implementation of the new system affect staff numbers?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:44): I thank the honourable member for his question. Yes, as he has stated the situation, we do provide continuous monitoring of screening, which commenced for employment screening on 1 July 2017. The information I have is that a total of $5.3 million in investing expenditure was provided in the 2016-17 budget for the development of the continuous monitoring system, which included $3.3 million to the Department of Human Services as well as $2 million to the Department for Child Protection and the South Australia Police to develop and implement enhancements to their internal systems to support continuous monitoring. As at the end of June 2018, DHS had expended $2.49 million of the $3.3 million original capital budget for the continuous monitoring.

Continuous monitoring enables new relevant South Australian criminal history in child protection matters to be identified on a regular basis, which contrasts with the previous system that only provided a snapshot of a person's history at the start of the three-year lifespan of the check when the initial assessment took place. Other jurisdictions have ongoing monitoring; however, South Australia is the only jurisdiction that monitors child protection information on a regular basis as part of the working with children screening clearances.

The screening unit will revoke an individual's clearance when the SAPOL notification indicates that the person has been charged or found guilty of a high-risk offence. This will immediately result in a person being no longer cleared to work in the relevant sector. The following offences are considered high-risk offences: homicide and related offences, sexual assault and related offences, violence in relation to a child, offences relating to child pornography, offences involving child prostitution and child abuse offences, such as criminal neglect.

In relation to the backlog, we have had a significant reduction in that. There were some 1,300 detailed assessments, for which a program began in April this year. Most of those have now been finalised, which means that people will experience much faster receipt of their approvals. The information I have is that nearly 76 per cent of new applications are finalised in under five business days. To take that up to 15 business days takes that up to 97.2 per cent. Within this financial year, the screening unit has received and finalised some 37,966 screening applications.

In relation to staffing arrangements, my understanding is that, particularly when we are aware that there will be influxes of additional cohorts, we need to scale up the system. The backlog project that I was referring to meant that additional staff were placed, and we also changed some of the systems involved in that. I think we have reached a relatively good point at the moment, but we are continuing to monitor that. Clearly, once we have the changes in the volunteer screening, we will be making provisions for that, as well as screenings which may come onstream as a result of other initiatives.