Safety Checks

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 (VCA) introduced safety checks as one of the measures to help reduce the risk of harm to children. The Act sits alongside the Vulnerable Children (Requirements of Safety Checks of Children’s workers) Regulations 2015. 




Who must be safety checked?

Safety checks must be completed for all core workers employed or engaged in work that involves regular or overnight contact with children.

  • Employee - a person of any age employed by an employer to do any work for hire or reward
  • Engaged– someoneother than an employee who is engaged to do any work for gain or reward – e.g. a contractor
  • Children’s worker - a person who works with children without a parent or guardian of the child(ren), being present
  • Core worker - a children’s worker who works one to one with a student unsupervised or who has primary responsibility for a child or children
  • Non-core worker - means a children’s worker who is not a core worker

NZSTA recommends that:

  • everyone who works at the school has a Police vet as they can often be with a child unsupervised regardless of their role at the school.
  • a Police vet is completed for all volunteers. 
  • Although student teachers are likely to have been safety checked by the education organisation they attend; the board must ensure these are done. Boards can agree with Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) that the checks will be done on behalf of the board.

How do we safety check? 

 

Identity confirmation:

What do you need to do to ensure that someone is who they say they are?

s5 (VCA regulations)

There have been cases in schools where people have gained employment using someone else’s identification. Without a confirmed identity, any other information you gather cannot be relied on.

You need:

  • One primary form of identification, for example:
    • NZ or overseas passport
    • NZ full birth certificate that is issued on or after 1 Jan 1998 with a unique ID number
  • A secondary form of official identification, for example:
    • NZ drivers licence
    • Community Services Card
    • IRD number
  • One of the forms of identification must include a photo
  • You can also use electronic identification, for example RealMe

You will find a full list of identity documents that can be used here.

If the name of the person differs from the name on the documentation they provide, e.g. marriage or deed poll, they will need to produce a supporting document that shows evidence of the name change.

If it is identified that a name has been used by another person, please contact NZSTA at 0800 STA HELP (0800 782 435 option #2) for further advice.  

Information about previous criminal convictions:

Police vetting and teacher certification

Information about previous criminal convictions (if any) - Police vet (section 6)

s6 – (VCA regulations)

The Education Act 1989 has always required the Police vetting of anyone appointed to work during normal opening hours as well as contractors who have or are likely to have unsupervised access to children during normal opening hours.  The VCA requires all children’s workers to be Police vetted as part of the Safety checks.

The Education Council completes Police vets for teachers who have a current practising certificate.  The board or the person with delegated authority must therefore:

  • Ensure all teachers have a current practising certificate
  • Complete a police vet for all non-teaching employees who work during normal school opening hours
  • Complete a police vet for contractors who have or are likely to have unsupervised access to children during normal opening hours.

The NZ Police Vetting Service provides criminal history checks and other relevant information on potential and current employees or volunteers to Approved Agencies that provide care to children, older people and vulnerable members of society in New Zealand.

If someone has a schedule 2 specified offence you cannot appoint or continue to employ them (section 28 of the Act) unless they have an exemption (section 35 of the Act). It is the responsibility of the person with the offence to apply for an exemption.

If an existing employee is identified as having a schedule 2 offence or an offence that you believe potentially impacts on their suitability for continued employment at the school contact NZSTA at 0800 STA HELP (0800 782 435 option #2) for advice and support on how to manage this.

Other information:

Checking applications, CVs, references and interviewing

s7 – (VCA regulations)

Work history, licenses and certification

To undertake a comprehensive risk assessment as part of a safety check you need to obtain the following information;

  • A chronological summary of the applicant’s work history for the preceding 5 years including the position they held in the organisation.
  • Any professional organisations they are a member of if it is relevant to the role e.g. a school counsellor may belong to the NZ Association of Counsellors.
  • Any licence relevant to the activity e.g. drivers or bus licence if driving is part of their role
  • Any registration authority that has issued a registration or practising certificate e.g. teacher registration
  • Any other information that the board or person with the delegated authority considers to be relevant in the assessment of the person, e.g. where possible qualifications should be verified. The Education Council will have checked the first qualification issued to a teacher as part of their checks e.g. an undergraduate degree but may not have a record of any subsequent qualifications e.g. Masters

Interviews

You mustinterview any applicant who you may wish to employ or engage. NZSTA recommends that this is done face to face. During the interview you must consider;

  • would the person pose a risk to children and if so, to what extent?
  • what is their attitude to child safety?

You should include questions to find out about;

  • the applicant and their qualifications
  • their view on discipline and keeping children safe
  • their attitudes and experiences when working with children

You will find a list of example interview questions on the MoE website .

NZSTA’s interview guide and matrix (link to document OR link to the Forms&Template page) is recommended.

Reference checking

This allows you to verify information the applicant has provided in the C.V. and interview as well as to find out if there is any information they haven’t told you that you need to know. Using NZSTA’s reference checking guide and matrix (link to document OR link to the Forms&Template page) can assist.

The employer should check three work related references. One is the minimum required by the VCA, however it is strongly recommended to check three references before making a decision to appoint. Do not rush this. NZSTA advisers have been informed of instances where previous employers (the board chair or principal), were not contacted and this resulted in subsequent problems for the school.

General guidelines:

  • one of the referees should be their current employer (direct supervisor) or most recent direct supervisor (if not currently employed)
  • written references shouldn’t be relied on and must be followed up by phone
  • character references have limited value, work references are preferred
  • preferably call a landline or work number as it is harder to verify who is on the end of a cell phone
  • referees should be able to answer questions about the applicant’s suitability to work with children and their fit for the role based on the key knowledge, skills, attributes and how they demonstrated these in previous roles.
  • Listen for any hesitations or pauses. If someone says that they aren’t able to provide information or comment on something, that could be a red flag.

If they are honest about an issue with a current employer, check the reference and see if that seems accurate with what the applicant had described.

Reference checks should remain confidential unless an agreement has been made with the referee to share information with the applicant. Prepare your questions ahead of time and use the same questions for each applicant. It is preferable that the same person conducts all the reference checks so there is consistency of information across all applicants.

Application Forms

Using the NZSTA application form fulfils many of the above requirements from the VCA and allows you to contact referees (who can attest to their suitability for the position) other than those specified. This will permit you to seek further information or clarification if any issues or concerns are raised. However, it is recommended to first let the applicant know if you will be contacting people not listed as referees. If they are reluctant to provide their current employer, ask them why. However, the current or most recent employer must always be checked before appointing.

Risk assessment: Does the person pose any risk to the safety of children? 

s8 – (VCA regulations)

Once you have gathered all the information from the identify verification, Police vet, and any other information, the board or delegated authority must undertake a risk assessment to ascertain if there could be any risk to the safety of children if they were to be employed.

For example, you should consider;

  • What is the role they will be undertaking e.g. if they are going to be driving a vehicle as part of their job, a driving conviction may be cause for concern.
  • Do they have a schedule 2 offence?
  • Were any concerns raised from their referees? What were these?
  • Were any concerns identified in the interview? What were these?

Periodic safety checks: How do we ensure ongoing commitment to child safety?

part 2 – (VCA regulations)

Periodic safety checks

Periodic checks must be completed on anyone who is employed or engaged at the school within 3 years of their last safety check.

As part of this check they must;

  • confirm whether they have changed their name since the last safety check
  • ensure teachers have a current practising certificate (includes Police vet)
  • complete a Police vet for any non-teaching employees
  • obtain the names of any professional organisation, licensing authority or registration authority they belong to and check with these organisations or authority that the person is currently registered with them

The board or delegated person must then complete a risk assessment to ensure that this person does not pose a risk to the safety of children.

Note: Not all safety checks are required for existing employees e.g. interview, referee checks

Additional Safety Checking and VCA information and resources:

NZSTA -  VCA  E-learning module and Workshop schedule

Ministry of Education-  VCA requirements, VCA Practical Guide, Police vetting for school property projects

The New Zealand Police - Vetting information and forms

Children’s Action Plan website – Safety Checking

Back to top