Page 1048 - Week 04 - Thursday, 21 May 2020

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For example, a class A offence will result in a person being automatically excluded from participating in a regulated activity involving children or an NDIS activity. The bill lists 58 offences that fall into this category. Examples include convictions for murder, culpable driving causing death, and sexual offences against vulnerable people.

A class B offence will result in a person being excluded unless exceptional circumstances exist and the applicant does not pose an unacceptable risk of harm to children or vulnerable people. Class B offences include a much broader range of behaviours and require the consideration of circumstances in which the offence occurred. Examples include convictions for manslaughter, neglect of a child, and robbery offences.

A possible consequence of this bill is that individuals who are currently registered under the ACT working with vulnerable people scheme may be deregistered, may be refused registration, or will have conditions placed on their registration due to the introduction of disqualifying offences. Access Canberra will review registration information over the coming months and, prior to the commencement of these amendments, will contact people who are likely to be adversely affected and provide information on a confidential basis.

This bill contains provisions that treat kinship carers differently, in recognition of the unique nature of the relationships in kinship care between the child, a kinship carer and the child’s birth family. All kinship carers who have been convicted of a class A offence will be treated as if they have a class B offence, which will allow for a risk assessment to occur rather than automatic disqualification. This supports the government’s commitment to consider kinship care as the highest priority when determining suitability of care due to the benefits in preserving family, promoting cultural identity and reducing separation trauma. Kinship care is also recognised as the preferred placement option for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child placement principle.

To support the rights of children currently living in foster care, the bill contains a grandfathering clause for the very small number of children who are currently living with foster carers who have class A disqualifying offences. These foster carers will be risk assessed instead of being automatically disqualified. This approach ensures that safe foster family arrangements can continue, and the rights of these children to a stable family are upheld.

However, to keep children safe, this provision will not apply to foster carers who are currently registered and subsequently commit a class A offence. It will also not apply if these foster carers wish to care for a different child in the future. This is because foster and kinship care arrangements are different. Foster carers choose to extend their caring role to children outside their family and are therefore subject to greater scrutiny than kinship carers.

I am confident that this bill strikes the right balance between protecting children and vulnerable people, while ensuring that the rights of children to live in safe, stable and secure family arrangements are upheld.

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