12 Jan 2021

Plea for mandatory police vetting of anyone working with children

9:32 am on 12 January 2021

A child advocacy group is calling for changes to the law to make it mandatory for anyone who works with children to be vetted by police.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Currently vetting is not compulsory unless the organisation falls under the Children's Act.

Child Matters chief executive Jane Searle said it is important that police checks are carried out for more than just paid employees, as it should also cover volunteers.

Child Matters chief executive Jane Searle

Jane Searle Photo: Stephen Barker / Barker Photography via Child Matters

She said any organisation working with children needs a comprehensive child protection policy.

Searle said they must have a robust recruiting and vetting process for anyone who is interacting with children or their families or whānau.

''Best practice is common sense that will reduce the risk."

She said even if a person is vetted it does not necessarily mean they are safe.

''What that means is they are not showing any convictions of concern.

''It is only a baseline check and one that is really necessary but we still need other really good policies and procedures in place to protect children.''

Searle said good process and policy in a workplace is what actually protects children.

''So who is allowed alone with children? Should people be allowed alone with children? Generally speaking you would say they wouldn't be and that is not always practical, but you want to have as many controls in place as possible."

''There is just too much at stake if we don't,'' she said.

Searle said there are two things she would like to see changed in the legislation.

''Mandatory training for organisations, government departments, teachers, nurses, doctors, that are interacting with children.

''We also need more robust vetting for people working with children.''

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