Three quarters of Police vetting checks delivered late
27 September, 2016
Three quarters of Police vetting checks delivered late in August - early childhood education services disrupted as a consequence
Almost three quarters of last month’s (August 2016) Police checks on those set to work with children, older people and vulnerable members of society were delivered late, with the delays causing ‘staffing problems in early childhood education centres throughout New Zealand'.
According to Police documents released to the Early Childhood Council, 35,580 vetting applications released in August took longer than the 20-working-day maximum.
This Police data contradicts a statement on the Police website which says: ‘The Police Vetting Service is now operating back within the 20 working days service level agreement for vetting. The previously reported backlog of vetting requests has been cleared, and the service is managing the current demand.’ (http://www.police.govt.nz/advice/businesses-and-organisations/vetting)
The Police data shows that there were, in fact, more late vetting checks in August (2016) than in any month since implementation of the Vulnerable Children’s Act in July 2015 increased the volume of checks by requiring Police vetting for those working with children in state-funded organisations.
The data shows furthermore that the percentage of vetting checks delivered late is not falling, but has instead risen from 11.7 in November 2015 to 74.7 per cent in August 2016.
Early Childhood Council CEO Peter Reynolds said today (26 September) that 14 months of vetting delays (since July 2015) had caused ‘big problems’ in early childhood education centres.
Centres had interviewed applicants for jobs, undertaken identity verification, qualification verification and reference checking, and selected a candidate only to find they were waiting ‘long periods of time’ for Police vetting that was supposed to take up to 20 working days at the most.
Centres were required to maintain specific adult-child ratios, Mr Reynolds said. And vetting delays had caused both ‘a stability-disrupting reliance on temporary staff’, and ‘stress on teachers and children’.
‘In other words, children might have three to five teachers in a couple of months covering just one teaching position - the one who leaves the job, the temporary teachers who fill in while the Police fail to deliver the vet check, and then the new permanent teacher.’
Late vetting checks had also cost early childhood centres government funding, which fell when they had lower percentages of qualified teachers.
Mr Reynolds said that if the Police (Cost Recovery) Bill was passed by Parliament early childhood education services and others would have to pay for Police vetting services. And if this happened, and vetting services continued to be habitually late, the Early Childhood Council would consider legal action to recover vetting fees on behalf of its members.
The idea early childhood services should pay Police to protect children was ‘dubious’, Mr Reynolds said, and it would be even more dubious were this protection not delivered in a timely manner.
Mr Reynolds said, given its importance to safety, he would be asking government to properly resource the vetting service and to require Police to refund vetting fees if they failed to deliver in the 20-working-days timeframe.
He said Police data showed that while the Vulnerable Children’s Act had been in effect 42 per cent (247,298 out of 587911) of Police vet checks had been delivered late (from July 2015 to the end of August 2016).
Mr Reynolds said the Early Childhood Council was nevertheless ‘highly supportive’ of the Vulnerable Children’s Act that had created the increase in demand for Police vetting.
‘The new vetting has netted potential workers with violent and sexual criminal pasts, and we’re all grateful for that.
‘What we do not support, however, is the failure of government and the Police to deliver a basic service in a timely manner, and the disruption to child services that has occurred as a result.’
The Early Childhood Council is New Zealand’s leading representative body for childcare centre owners, committees and management. It has a membership of more than 1100 centres that care for tens of thousands of children.