On 1 February 2021, the Worker Screening Act 2020 (the Act) replaced the Working with Children Act 2005 and provided a single framework for conducting checks for both National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) workers and volunteers and people engaged in child-related work.
The purpose of the Act is to assist in protecting children and vulnerable people from harm by ensuring that people who work with, or care for them, are subject to a screening process. This requires volunteers and employees intending to work with children or who provide services under the NDIS to undergo a national criminal history check and screening process in order to obtain a Working with Children Check (WWC check) or NDIS check. Applications for WWC checks and NDIS checks are processed by the Department of Justice and Community Safety (the Department).
As a result of ongoing advocacy by Volunteering Victoria and a number of other organisations, the fee ($119.40) for the NDIS check is waived for volunteers working for registered NDIS providers in risk assessed roles.
Update: July 2022
NDIS Volunteer Screening Process
The screening checks required by volunteers in NDIS risk assessed roles, which came into operation early 2021, have proved very challenging for most volunteers and volunteer involving organisations (VIOs). Volunteering Victoria’s concern is that this process is a serious barrier to volunteering in these critical roles.
These checks are required before volunteers can begin in their roles and the current extensive delays create anxiety for NDIS clients. NDIS volunteer checks are free, which is critical, but the screening process must be made easier and more efficient.
Our advocacy with the Worker Screening Unit (WSU), which sits in the Department of Justice, continues in an attempt to solve the ongoing issues with volunteer screening. We have recently been informed that the WSU has secured funding to ensure the NDIS screening process for volunteers becomes fully integrated within their current online process. We are still waiting for a confirmation on the timeline for the completion of this important improvement and will continue to work closely with the WSU to resolve ongoing issues and delayed applications.
As a result of our ongoing advocacy, the WSU is now supporting organisations by:
- accepting fee waiver applications and NDIS screening check applications in one step. The NDIS Worker Screening Check webpage has been updated to reflect this change;
- assisting VIOs with the onboarding of multiple volunteers by helping with the completion and certification of documentation (for the volunteer fee waiver and the check). Documents can now also be sent in one bundle for processing by the Worker Screening Unit.
While the volunteer screening check process remains manual at this stage, we continue to push for a fully online process to ease the burden on volunteers, VIOs and the WSU.
At a Volunteering Victoria NDIS Screening Forum on 17 March 2022, Mark Windisch, Director of Working with Children Check Victoria within the Department of Justice and Community Safety, discussed how the various screening checks are processed and explained the changes to the current application process for volunteers. The presentation was followed by a Q&A session. You can view the recording HERE.
- If you or your organisation has applied for the paid NDIS worker check (because you wanted to do this online or needed the check done quickly) you can apply for a refund of the application fee paid. You can request a refund using the refund request form downloadable on this page under Cost of the NDIS Check.
- The Volunteer fee waiver application, which contains the fee waiver form, the Worker Screening Application form and an application guide, is available on the NDIS Worker Screening Check webpage under the section Fee Waiver for Volunteers.
- VIOs can support their volunteers with obtaining, preparing, completing, having certified and submitting the Volunteer fee waiver application, including the Worker Screening Application form
- If a VIO has a number of volunteers to onboard – bundle the applications and submit to the Worker Screening Unit in one group – this will hopefully expedite the process for your organisation and volunteers.
- If a volunteer does not have a particular form of identification (such as a current passport) this can be explained to the Worker Screening Unit who can provide alternative forms of identification (as opposed to requiring the volunteer, for example, to apply for a new passport!)
- As at 31 January 2022 or if a volunteer has a WWC Clearance, until it expires, all volunteers in NDIS risk assessed roles require an NDIS Clearance before they commence their role.
- This is a higher level of screening required of people supporting people with a disability in risk assessed roles – and the application is more onerous and time consuming – because of this VIOs should consider carefully which volunteers fall within this description and require this check as opposed to a blanket requirement for all volunteers.
- The check will remain valid for 5 years.
Please get in touch with us if you have particular issues and/or if you have large numbers of volunteers to onboard – using the feedback form. The Worker Screening Unit is interested in and receptive to receiving feedback and we are happy to pass this on.
We call on the State Government to ensure this happens as a matter of priority before too many (more) volunteers are lost from the system.
As the state peak body for volunteering in Victoria , we are continuing to emphasise and push for the following:
- The quick onboarding of volunteers is particularly critical right now – whatever can be done needs to be done as a matter of urgency to avoid volunteers giving up on volunteering in the disability sector. It should be noted that these checks also impact many other sectors including aged care, health, sport and recreation, arts and culture. Encouraging volunteers and getting volunteers back into these sectors should be a priority.
- Last year was not a good indication of the number of volunteers requiring NDIS checks – with so many volunteers stood down due to COVID, the numbers would have been far lower than usual. We expect this to increase. Recognising the importance of screening, we need the screening processes to be far more effortless and supportive of the time volunteers give up for these roles, which they do so freely and willingly.
- The online NDIS worker screening process we understand is generally quick. This option should, as a matter of priority, be available to volunteers. While combining the volunteer fee waiver and screening application into one step is welcomed, what would be preferred is if volunteers could apply as workers currently are able to do, ie online, specifying that they are volunteers with the fee being waived as part of the process. This would ease the pressure within the Worker Screening Unit on the manual processing of checks which would still be required for some volunteers (and workers.) And volunteers would not be discouraged, by the process, from taking up these roles.
- Ideally, at some point, screening could all be accessed through one platform – with the worker or volunteer being able to tick boxes and apply for checks as required by the role, in one easy portal.