04 Sep 2012
- Written by VolunteeringQld
The blue card system 11 years on - a partnership to protect our children and young people
By Elizabeth Fraser, Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian
Child Protection Week (2-8 September) themed “Protecting Children is Everybody’s Business - Play your Part” aims to “raise the profile of all issues connected with child protection, including child abuse prevention, treatment, research, education, service provision and support for children, young people and families “.
So I would like to acknowledge the contribution of the 100,000 plus organisations who work with the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian to implement Queensland’s blue card system. I would like to thank them for the efforts they are making to create safer services for children across the state.
These organisations deliver a wide array of services to children aimed at promoting their safety, development and wellbeing. However, one thing they have in common is their membership in the blue card system.
The catalyst for the development of Queensland’s blue card system, introduced in May 2001 was the Forde inquiry into the abuse of children in Queensland institutions. Since its introduction, the system’s scope has been periodically expanded as further child protection concerns and risks were identified in other services such as child care, schools, health, counselling and support, church, sport and recreation, foster care etc.
The blue card system’s contribution to enhancing safeguards for children in service environments continues to be monitored and when necessary, additions have been incorporated into the legislative provisions following public discussion and parliamentary scrutiny.
So today this strong partnership system involves upfront screening to establish eligibility of prospective workers or volunteers to work with children, ongoing monitoring and advice to partner organisations of their continued eligibility, and a requirement for organisations to have strategies in place to manage potential child protection risks in their service environments. All other jurisdictions in Australia have drawn on Queensland’s experience to develop their own models.
The initial screening check done by the Commission is a comprehensive assessment of an applicant’s criminal history (if any) from anywhere in Australia and any disciplinary or police information within Queensland. The information received can be simple or extensive and complex. To give you some idea of the scale of this partnership system today, we receive between 280,000 and 300,000 applications of various types per year (or four to nine thousand per week). Since 2001 there have been over 5,800 cases where people have been prevented from working with children. In 2011-12 alone there were over 868 cases where people were prevented from working with children.
The ongoing daily monitoring of all applicants and blue card holders for changes in their police information ensures that action can be taken swiftly to protect children if necessary. The Commission is currently monitoring over 524,000 blue card holders so if a person’s history changes their eligibility to work with children is reassessed and if the matter is serious enough, their card is suspended or in some cases cancelled. If this happens, the person is informed and every organisation they are using their blue card to work for is notified as well.
The Commission also conducts targeted audits to check whether regulated organisations are compliant with their obligations (including not to employ people who have been prevented from holding a blue card). And the three year card renewal cycle provides a further opportunity to check and update a person’s personal details and current situation within the system.
These checking and monitoring activities contribute to the development of strong child focussed safeguards. And to further reduce the possibility of children being harmed, organisations must have a risk management strategy in place (covering areas such as recruiting and managing staff, codes of conduct and procedures for handling disclosures or suspicions of harm) which is to be made available to parents and staff.
Over the last 11 years, the community has developed high expectations of service providers and periodic surveys have shown that most people believe the blue card system has been effective in contributing to safer environments for children.
These safeguards however would not be nearly as strong without the help of these organisations and the community to implement the elements of the system. All involved have heavily influenced the way the system operates today and will continue to do so in the future.
No system related to human activity can be completely failsafe and there is no substitute for parental oversight and caution when placing their children in the care of others. But with the commitment of parents, organisations, the Commission and the hundreds of thousands of active blue card holders who play a part in the blue card system, the safety of our children is significantly enhanced.