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Recent Changes to the Blue Card System: Is Your Blue Card Still Valid?

Friday, October 02, 2020

 

On 31 August 2020, a raft of changes to the Blue Card system was introduced, aimed at bolstering security and safety for children.

 

The changes were implemented through the commencement of the remaining provisions of the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019.

The changes affect organisations, paid workers and volunteers, and include:

 

  • A ‘No Card, No Start’ law;
  • A new rule for expiring cards;
  • A requirement to notify the Government about changes in your police information;
  • Stricter requirements for people with exemptions from holding a card;
  • A new frequency test; and
  • An expiry date for exemption cards.

 

 

‘No Card, No Start’

Previously, a paid worker could commence working with children before their application for a blue card was accepted. This has been altered so that paid workers cannot commence working with children until they have a blue card.

 

This change brings the position for paid workers in line with volunteers, trainee students and people running regulated child-related businesses – who were always required to hold a blue card before commencing.

 

 

A new rule for expiring cards

Blue card holders must submit a renewal application prior to their current card expiring in order to continue work in paid employment, volunteer, run their own business or undertake a student placement. You need not have a new card issued by the date of expiry.

 

 

Notifying the department about changes to police information

Both applicants and card holders are required to notify the government of any change to their police information immediately using a prescribed form, with penalties of up to $13,345 available for failure to do so.

 

Changes to police information include:

  • Any charge or conviction for an offence;
  • The existence of police investigative information relating to allegations of serious child-related sexual offences, even if no charges were laid;
  • Being the subject of an application for a disqualification order regarding holding a blue card;
  • Being respondent to an application for offender prohibition order; or
  • Becoming subject to reporting obligations or a child protection offender; a disqualification order; or a sexual offender order.

 

 

Stricter requirements for people with exemptions from holding a card

There are pre-existing exemptions whereby people working or volunteering with children in certain circumstances do not require a blue card. To curb the limits of these exemptions, it is now an offence for a ‘restricted person’ to work with children in ‘restricted employment’.

 

A ‘restricted person’ is a person who:

  • has been issued a negative notice;
  • has a suspended blue card;
  • is a disqualified person; or
  • has been charged with a disqualifying offence that has not been finalised.

 

‘Restricted employment’ includes:

 

  • a volunteer parent;
  • a volunteer who is under 18;
  • paid or unpaid staff who work in regulated child-related employment for not more than 7 days in a calendar year; or
  • a consumer at a child-related service outlet where they also carry out work at the outlet.

 

 

Further, it is an offence for an employer to employ a restricted person in restricted employment where they know (or should reasonably know) that they are a restricted person.

 

 

A new frequency test

Any individual working with children for a maximum of 7 days in a calendar year will not be required to have a blue card. A ‘day’ includes a full day or part of a day, so that a 3 hour shift on one day constitutes one ‘day’.

 

Restricted persons and business operators cannot rely on this frequency test.

 

Expiry date for exemption cards

Exemption cards are held by police officers and parents, and apply in relation to work outside of that person’s professional duties. Exemption cards now expire after 3 years and must be renewed before their expiry date.

 

For pre-existing exemption cards (without an expiry date) the expiry date is 31 August 2023.

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