No check on home help with kids

A LOOPHOLE in the NSW Work With Children Check has local family support workers concerned that people with sexual, indecency or child-related criminal offences could be put in homes with children.

A volunteer home visiting program run by the Lismore-based Family Support Network places an extra pair of hands in homes to help mothers with their infants.

These volunteers are not required to have a Working With Children Check – a criminal history screen – and this is a major concern for Family Support Network volunteer home visiting program project officer Kim Kirkby.

“It is of real concern to me that volunteers and students only need to sign a declaration and are not getting checked,” she said.

“My concern is that I’m placing someone in a family’s home who has only signed a piece of paper saying they are safe.

“The parents are there all the time with the child and the worker, but there is alw- ays going to be an instance when mum rushes off to the toilet, even if it is only for five minutes.

“We try to the best of our ability to make sure our workers have a background check.”

Paid workers involved with the volunteer home visiting program are required to fill out a children employer reg- istration form, which is then screened and checked by a government agency.

The only volunteers req- uiring a mandatory check are those who are working with disabled children or as a mentor to disadvantaged child- ren, but Ms Kirkby said all volunteers should be treated equally.

The feeling is the same for Ballina-Byron Support Service volunteer home visiting service co-ordinator Bernie Wilson, who said she would like to see all volunteers covered under the check.

After hearing the concerns of local volunteers during a visit to Lismore recently, NSW Minister for Volunteering Peter Primrose said the changes should be implemented to ensure the safety of children.

“There is a legislative review under way,” he said.

Despite her concerns, Ms Kirkby said the Family Support Network trusted and valued its current volunteers.

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