Disability service providers have welcomed moves to introduce national screening for NDIS workers but say the scheme needs to cast a wider net across the disability support sector, including those holding key decision-making roles.
Legislation was introduced into parliament on Wednesday enabling the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to keep a national database of workers and establish a worker screening check.
It means disability workers in the NDIS will be subject to national screening from July, and anyone who has been banned from working in one state or territory will be unable to work anywhere else in the country.
“This will provide timely and accurate worker clearance status information for providers of NDIS services and supports, and for self-managed participants,” Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher said.
Calls for wider screening
Peak industry body National Disability Services said having a nationally recognised approach to worker screening would underpin the delivery of high-quality and safe support services for people with disability.
“Providers operating in more than one state or territory, particularly where they have workers providing supports across jurisdictional borders, will benefit from having a national approach,” acting CEO David Moody told Community Care Review.
“Our members, who are disability service providers, want to know as soon as possible where a worker has been found guilty in one state or jurisdiction so that they cannot move to another state and find work with people with disability.”
However he called for compulsory screening for employees of all disability service providers and anyone who has more than incidental contact with an NDIS participant, including those within the NDIA and the Commission.
Worker screening should also apply to NDIS community and early childhood partners, Independent Living Centres and organisations that deliver Commonwealth Continuity of Support programs, Mr Moody said.
A nationally consistent approach
The National Disability Insurance Scheme Amendment (Worker Screening Database) Bill, introduced into parliament on Wednesday, paved the way for a nationally consistent approach, Mr Fletcher said.
It will allow the NDIS watchdog to monitor clearance status and criminal records of workers, and prevent rogue workers from travelling interstate and re-entering the sector.
“Worker screening is a way to check that people who are working, or seek to work, in the NDIS do not pose an unacceptable risk of harm to people with disability,” Mr Fletcher said.
“Importantly, nationally consistent worker screening will deter individuals who pose a high risk of harm from seeking work in this sector.”
A national approach will also reduce red tape for employers, the Commission says, by making it easier for them to employ staff who have moved from other states, and allow workers to transfer from state to state with greater ease.
The database will cost $13.6 million over four years, shared between the states and Commonwealth.
It will apply in WA from next June when that state joins the NDIS.