Legal: Blue cards - “no card, no start” starts now
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 6, 14 August 2020, page no.25
Blue cards are to be more important than ever, as new laws tighten the child protection regime in ways that will have wide-reaching impacts on parents, teachers and school leaders.
Changes to the Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 (Qld) (the act) come into force on 31 August and will have immediate effect, and the Department of Education will release new policies to comply with the rules.
This article looks at some of the flagship changes for educators and the department’s plan to implement the scheme. The changes are wide-reaching and we strongly recommend that teachers, and especially school leaders, pay particular attention to the policies and procedures to be released by the department shortly, to ensure they are not caught out by the new regime.
Under the act, the following are required to hold a valid blue card if they are likely to work more than seven (7) days in a calendar year:
- any paid employee, if their work falls under a category of regulated employment under the act
- all volunteers 18 years of age and older (unless they are a parent of a child attending the school)
- students enrolled in a tertiary course and undertaking practical placements in regulated employment as part of their studies.
Teachers likely to work more than seven days in a calendar year are required to hold exemption cards, as are teachers working or volunteering with children in other regulated services outside of the school.
Most famously, the new rules introduce a charge prohibiting an employer from employing a person in regulated employment (i.e. employment around children) unless:
- the person holds a blue card or exemption; and
- the school has notified the department that it is proposing to employ the person.
To satisfy this “no card, no start” notification requirement, a principal will be required to:
- take reasonable steps to verify the employee’s identity (for example by viewing the employee’s working with children card or another form of identification which includes their photograph
- notify the chief executive either via the online organisational portal or through a paper-based form.
The penalty for any failure to do so will be elevated to 100 penalty units ($13,055), and will not be covered by the state government’s indemnity for public servants. Of course, any police action would be followed by departmental disciplinary action up to and including termination.
Another major change is a requirement for registered teachers to renew their exemption every three years (with a three year grace period from the commencement of the scheme on 31 August).
In addition, each school will be required to develop, implement and annually review (during Term 1 of each school year) a child and youth risk management strategy (CYRMS), which must include eight mandatory requirements. These are:
- a statement of commitment
- a code of conduct
- key policies and procedures
- an easy-to-follow procedure which ensures staff respond as quickly as possible to any allegation, disclosure or suspicion of harm to a child
- policies and procedures for the school’s general compliance with the blue card system
- a detailed plan for managing breaches of the risk management strategy
- a risk management plan
- a system for communication and support so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities under the risk management strategy.
Failing to develop the minimum requirements or review the strategy will be an offence with a maximum penalty of $2,356.
We expect the department to provide training in these new requirements, but teachers and school leaders must be fully aware of the increased potential to fall foul of these new rules if they do not remain vigilant.