According to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission:
‘Worker screening is a way to help check that the people who are working, or wish to work, with NDIS participants don’t present an unacceptable risk to people with disability. Worker screening is an important tool in the recruitment, selection and screening processes of an NDIS provider, and assists in the ongoing review of the suitability of workers’.
Worker screening under the NDIS Act
Under section 181Y(1) of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 (Cth) (“NDIS Act”), the NDIS Commissioner must establish, operate and maintain ‘a database … to be known as the NDIS worker screening database’.
The purposes of the NDIS worker screening database are set out in s 181Y(3) of the NDIS Act. Primarily, the database is to be an ‘up‑to‑date record of persons who, under decisions made under NDIS worker screening laws, have been found, in working, or seeking to work, with people with disability not to pose a risk, or to pose a risk, to such people’. Information in the database is to be shared with ‘persons or bodies (including employers and potential employers)’ for the purposes of the NDIS.
In other words, the NDIS worker screening database is a database of persons who have been screened and cleared for work with disabled persons under the NDIS. As part of a national framework, an NDIS Worker Screening Check clearance will be valid in any state or territory, regardless of where obtained.
Workers will need to undertake an NDIS Worker Screening Check and obtain a clearance if they are to be engaged in a ‘risk assessed role’ for a registered NDIS provider.
For practical purposes, most workers who are engaged by an NDIS provider to perform services for clients under the NDIS will be in a ‘risk assessed role’, But for completeness, a ‘risk assessed role’ is defined in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Practice Standards—Worker Screening) Rules 2018 (“Worker Screening Rules”) to mean:
(a) ‘key personnel’ (such as a CEO or Board member);
(b) ‘a role for which the normal duties include the direct delivery of specified supports or specified services to a person with disability’ (‘specified’ supports and services being those included in the list that is maintained for the purposes of the Worker Screening Rules, available here); or
(c) ‘a role for which the normal duties are likely to require more than incidental contact with a person with disability’ (for example physical touching or building of a rapport).
Western Australian update
In preparation for the new NDIS Worker Screening Check, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (Worker Screening) Act 2020 (WA) has recently been passed – receiving assent on 9 December 2020. (“Worker Screening Act”).
The Worker Screening Act will be a worker screening law for the purposes of the NDIS Act, and hence the Act under which screening decisions will be made in WA. It will operate in tandem with local equivalents in other states and territories – as currently identified in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS Worker Screening Law) Determination 2020.
The Worker Screening Act defines two classes of offence, and uses these classifications to define those persons who are disqualified or presumptively disqualified. The Act has retrospective effect.
NDIS Worker Screening Checks will be completed by Worker Screening Units in each state or territory. In WA, they will be completed by the WA NDIS Worker Screening Unit of the Department of Communities. According to information from the Department:
‘From February 2021, you will be able to apply for an NDIS Check by completing an online application form, and then attending a Western Australian Driver and Vehicle Service Centre, or authorised agency, in person, to show your necessary ID documents. An application fee will apply’.
For now, the WA Worker Screening Checks are an area to watch as more information becomes available.