Safety checking

This page contains information on the new children’s worker safety checking requirements in the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

 On 1 July 2015 safety checking regulations for the children’s workforce came into force.

The new regulations (external link) (external link) , made under the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 (external link) (external link) , require all paid people who work with children for government-funded organisations to be safety checked, and to have these safety checks updated every three years.

This also applies to unpaid people working with children as part of an educational or vocational training course.

The new safety checking regulations will make it easier to identify the small number of people who are a risk to children.

Employers are accountable for ensuring safety checks are done. Others can complete checking for them on their behalf but the accountability will always lie with employers.

Safety checking is about more than checking criminal histories. It involves a careful process of information gathering and assessment, including identity confirmation, interviewing, referee checking and considering risk.

Find out more:

The Workforce Restriction and Core Worker Exemptions

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 restricts people with convictions for certain offences from some children’s workforce roles, subject to a government-run exemptions process, known as the Core Worker Exemption.

Who has to be safety checked and when

The new safety checking regulations apply to organisations that receive government money to provide regulated services to children. These organisations will need to check anyone they pay to work with children. Roughly 280,000 people meet this definition.

This includes schools, early childhood services, school bus services, public hospitals, medical practices belonging to primary health organisations, publicly funded providers of social or support services, and providers of services approved under legislation to work with children.

The legislation distinguishes between two types of children’s worker.

Non-core children’s workers are workers who have regular or overnight contact with children, without a parent or guardian being present. Examples of roles that may meet this definition are: non-teaching school workers, general hospital workers and many social and health workers.

Core children’s workers work alone with children, or have primary responsibility for, or control over, them. Examples of roles that may meet this definition are doctors, teachers, nurses, paediatricians, youth counsellors and social workers.

The required children’s worker safety check is the same for each group, but the requirements come into force earlier for core children’s workers. Safety checking phases in over three to four years to give organisations time to comply:

  • From 1 July 2015 new core children’s workers starting a job or contract must be safety checked before they start work.
  • From 1 July 2016 new non-core children’s workers starting a job or contract must have been safety checked before they start work.
  • By 1 July 2018 existing children’s core workers (i.e., those currently employed or contracted) must have been safety checked.
  • By 1 July 2019 all existing non-core children’s workers must have been safety checked.

As well as changing the timing of the requirements, only core workers are subject to the Workforce Restriction.

Who does not have to be safety checked

The new requirements don’t apply to volunteers, unless the volunteering is part of an educational or vocational training course (e.g. a student teacher at a school as part of an education qualification).

Businesses, unfunded non-government organisations, and voluntary organisations are encouraged to adopt the new standards voluntarily.

Specific guidance for community and volunteer organisations is available in Safer Recruitment, Safer Children [PDF, 3.1 MB].

Privately employed children’s workers like nannies and babysitters don’t need to be safety checked. The requirements also do not cover parents, guardians or people with care of a child receiving funding to secure services for their child. For example, if you are employing a person to care for a disabled child with funding from the Ministry of Health. However, you may find our guidelines helpful when seeking safe people for these roles.

Local Government will not be subject to the requirements until a later date (up to 1 July 2017). More information will be made available once decisions about the timing have been made.

Self-employed children’s workers

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 applies to some, but not all, self-employed persons or sole practitioners:

  • If they are contracted by a State service, then they will need to be safety checked by that State service if they fall within the definition of a children’s worker.
  • Similarly, if they are contracted by an organisation that receives funding from a State service to provide regulated activities, the funded organisation will be required to ensure that safety checking is done.

The second requirement may also capture a small number of self-employed or sole practitioners who have formed separate legal entities, and are employed or engaged by them (for example, companies where a practitioner is both employed by the company and its sole shareholder).

This can create a situation where there is a conflict of interest or no clear person positioned to do the required safety checking. This is a known issue, and government agencies are working on a solution, which may involve setting up a separate approved screening service.

In the interim, enforcement of the requirements will recognise these limitations.

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