- For Parishes
Sadly, many children have been abused physically, sexually and emotionally by trusted members of their communities, including people in churches. As a result, there are requirements for people involved in any kind of work with children that leaders must comply with, both under NSW law and the Anglican Church’s ordinances.
a. Legal requirements
Any person involved in child-related work (including all volunteers) must get a Working With Children Check clearance (subject to some exemptions). A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18 years and therefore child-related work includes ministry to youth. A church must verify the WWCC number with the Office of the Children’s Guardian prior to engaging a person in child-related work to determine whether the person has been cleared or barred.
Compliance with these legal requirements is the responsibility of the senior minister, although this task can be delegated to the Safe Ministry Representative.
A failure to undertake screening as required by law could lead to significant fines. It may also potentially form the basis of an action in negligence if a child is abused by a person in child-related work in the parish who has had not undergone a WWCC, but has a record that would have resulted in a bar had the WWCC been undertaken.
b. Diocesan requirements
A person who wishes to volunteer or work in a children’s ministry position must usually:
Obtain a WWCC clearance that must then be verified by the parish,
Make a formal application for the children’s ministry position, including producing proof of identity documents and providing references (A sample application form is available here: Above Reproach – Application form for leaders),
Undertake Safe Ministry training within three months of starting the children’s ministry position, followed by a Refresher course every three years, and
Read, understand, and comply with Faithfulness In Service 2017
In addition, it is recommended that all volunteers are a member of a parish for at least 6 months before entering into a children’s ministry position in that parish.
A children’s ministry position means any paid or unpaid position to which a person is appointed by or on behalf of the senior minister or the wardens that involves activities primarily related to, and physical or face-to-face contact with, children.
Because a child is defined as anyone under the age of 18, a children’s ministry position includes youth ministry roles. Examples of children’s ministry positions include crèche leaders, Sunday School leaders and youth group leaders.
In our parish system, the senior minister has the ultimate responsibility for appointing people to children’s ministry positions, even though in practice that responsibility is often delegated to other leaders.
The screening and training requirements vary for particular ministry roles and circumstances, and depend on the different levels of risk. The following table sets out the requirements for screening and training for different ministry positions.
Safe Ministry training
At the discretion of the senior minister
|Sunday School coordinator or teacher|
|Mid-week kids club coordinator or leader|
|Holiday kids program coordinator or leader|
|Children’s camp leader|
|Playgroup helper (not formally appointed to a leadership position)|
|Volunteer in children’s ministry aged 16 or 17|
At the discretion of the senior minister
unless assisting as a one-off, eg week-long school holidays kids program
|Volunteer in children’s ministry under the age of 16|
At the discretion of the senior minister
Safe Ministry Junior
(unless assisting as a one-off, eg week-long school holidays kids program)
|Youth group coordinator or leader|
|Holiday youth program coordinator or leader|
|Youth Camp leader|
|Casual helpers who do not fulfil a leadership or teaching role in a children’s or youth program and simply assist from time to time|
Only required if they have joined the church in the last three years or are not otherwise well known to the church leadership.
|Volunteer assisting in an emergency|
Only if having them help is necessary to prevent an increased risk to the safety of the children and it’s not for more than 5 consecutive working days
|Parent or close relative of a child or youth, volunteering in a ministry group that their child is a member of or usually participates in|
though it is preferable that they have a WWCC clearance
At the discretion of the senior minister
|Other member of church staff ministry team|
|A visiting speaker or performer for a one-off occasion in the presence of other adults, volunteers serving food, wardens, Parish Councillors, Synod representatives, building caretakers, cleaners, administrators and bookkeepers|
The Safe Ministry Representative for the parish must keep records for each leader with details of WWCC clearances and the completion of Safe Ministry training. He or she must also ensure that people are followed up when the time for their renewal is approaching. Unless the requirements are met and continue to be met, a person should not be permitted to continue in children’s or youth ministry.
c. Working With Children Checks
What is a Working With Children Check?
The NSW Working with Children Check (WWCC) is a government screening process overseen by the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian. Anyone intending to work with children in NSW must get a WWCC. The WWCC involves a criminal history check (including convictions, charges and juvenile records) and a review of findings of misconduct. The result is either a clearance to work with children for five years or a bar against working with children.
Who needs a WWCC?
A Working With Children Check is a prerequisite for anyone in paid or voluntary child-related work in NSW.
“Child-related work” generally means work involving activities primarily related to children (including – in the case of religious bodies – youth groups, youth camps, teaching children and child care) that involve physical or face-to-face contact with children. However the general meaning is subject to a number of exemptions (including workers who are under 18 years of age) and extensions (including the senior minister, an assistant minister and a lay minister of a parish as they are deemed to be undertaking child-related work where there are children in a congregation of the parish).
If the contact with children is not direct or face-to-face, or the role does not primarily relate to children it will not be child-related work (such as serving morning tea to children after Sunday School, warden, parish councillor).
Any and every person engaged in child-related work in a parish must either:
hold a Working With Children Check clearance that has been verified with the Office of the Children’s Guardian and is not subject to a bar,
have a current Working With Children Check application before the Office of the Children’s Guardian, or
be subject to an exemption.
When must a person apply for a WWCC?
A person must apply for a WWCC and receive a clearance, or they must have a current application for a clearance with the Commission and have provided proof of identity before engaging in any child-related work.
What is the process for obtaining a WWCC?
There are two steps in the process:
(1) The worker must apply for a WWCC clearance, and
(2) The parish must verify that the worker has a WWCC clearance.
Step 1: Applying for a clearance
The worker (employee or volunteer) must:
Fill out an online application at www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au, or ring 9286 7219 if internet access is not available.
Receive their WWCC application number.
Take the WWCC application number and proof of their identity to a NSW motor registry. There is no fee for volunteers, but if it is a paid position an $80 application fee is payable.
The applicant will then receive a WWCC clearance or bar by email (or post if there is no email address). Most applications will be processed within 24 hours.
Step 2: Verification of the clearance
The parish must verify that the worker has a WWCC clearance before engaging the worker in child-related work by:
logging into their employer account at: www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au, and
entering the following information:
the applicant’s name,
date of birth, and
WWCC clearance number or application number.
What is the result of a WWCC?
There are only two outcomes of a WWCC: a clearance or a bar. A clearance is valid for five years, and cleared applicants will be subject to ongoing monitoring. If an applicant is barred, it is an offence to engage the person in child-related work. If an applicant is barred, the Safe Ministry Representative is to immediately advise the senior minister who must stop their involvement in all child-related work and notify the Professional Standards Unit that they are barred.
What records must be kept?
For each worker in child-related work the parish must keep the following records (either electronic or hardcopy):
Date of birth,
Verification date (the date the parish verified them),
Verification outcome (clearance or bar),
Expiry date (when the WWCC number expires), and
Status of the worker (paid or volunteer).
Who is exempt from needing a WWCC?
If a person is in child-related work but qualifies for one of the following exemptions, that person will not need a WWCC:
(1) Workers in administrative, clerical, maintenance or ancillary roles not ordinarily involving contact with children for extended periods (such as a parish secretary or grounds-keeper),
(2) Workers under the age of 18,
A person’s date of birth should be verified from a reliable source of data, such as a birth certificate. A process should be established to alert the Safe Ministry Representative when the person is approaching their 18th birthday. A WWCC can be obtained once the person reaches 17 years and 9 months.
(3) Workers working for not more than a total of five working days in a calendar year if the work involves minimal direct contact with children or is supervised when children are present,
It is recommended that parishes do not rely on this exemption as a matter of course due to the difficulty of keeping accurate records and in demonstrating that the requirements of the exemption have been met.
(4) A visiting speaker or performer for a one-off occasion who will be in the presence of one or more adults,
(5) Short-term emergencies where the engagement of the worker is necessary in the circumstances to prevent an increased risk to the safety of children and the engagement is not for more than five consecutive working days,
This exemption could be relied upon in a situation where a regular volunteer gives late notice that they are unwell or otherwise unavailable, and it would jeopardise the safety of the children concerned to run the activity without having another leader or leaders present. The parish cannot rely on the same person on more than five occasions.
(6) A parent or close relative of a child, when they volunteer in connection with an activity of which the child is a member or usually participates. A close relative means a sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew (or an equivalent step-relative).
It is recommended that parishes do not rely on this exemption as a matter of course, as the risk of engaging in child abuse is not diminished by a person being a parent or close relative of a child in the group.
Parishes may find that the administration involved in keeping track of exemptions is more burdensome than adopting a simple policy that every person involved in child-related work must obtain a WWCC.
There is also a risk that the grounds on which a person qualifies for an exemption may change over time. A parish could end up in a position where someone who is no longer entitled to an exemption is undertaking child-related work without a WWCC.
Are WWCC clearances portable?
WWCC clearances are portable within the period that they are valid. Once a person has obtained a clearance they can quote the WWCC number to other parishes or organisations with whom they undertake child-related work (such as CMS, KCC or beach missions). However, each organisation will still need to independently verify the WWCC number before engaging the worker in child-related work.
What if the applicant is from outside of NSW?
If the person is from interstate or overseas, parishes should also consider obtaining a criminal record check from that state or country in addition to the WWCC. A parish will need the person’s permission in order to do so.
Further information regarding Working With Children Checks can be found on the Office of the Children’s Guardian website: www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au/Working-with-children/working-with-children-check
Professional Standards Unit - Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney
© 2019 Professional Standards Unit
Anglican Diocese of Sydney