A Melbourne tech startup aims to keep Aussie kids safer by providing an easy way for organisations who work with children to check the validity of staff, volunteers and coaches credentials.
The aptly named dutyof.care platform was co-founded by sexual assault survivor Luke Benson informed by his response to the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The platform provides automated real-time updates to childcare centres, schools, sporting clubs and other organisations on the status of their staff’s Working with Children Checks.
Working with Children Checks (WWCCs) report on an individual’s criminal history and professional conduct to assess suitability. Reviewing these checks is a time-consuming often neglected manual task. A lack of automation has allowed potential offenders to slip through the cracks.
Survivor Luke Benson, knows all too well how children have been let down by the existing system. In 2015, Benson gave evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“As a young boy at boarding school, I endured a period of sustained sexual abuse by a boarding house tutor,” said Benson.
“Almost 30 years later, at the Royal Commission, I gave evidence about that experience, the ongoing impact, and I finally learnt the truth about the many failures in the school’s systems that let me and my friends down so badly,” he said.
dutyof.care CEO, Stewart Carter, said in many cases organisations don’t have firm and enforced systems to check if staff, volunteers and coaches WWCCs are valid.
“This is potentially one of the most dangerous, yet the most neglected areas for many organisations who work with children” said Carter. “We have reports of some organisations not even requesting to cite WWCCs, let alone assessing and keeping on top of their status.”
Carter says organisations failing to carry out WWCC are breaching their duty of care.
“Not only is this a breach of trust as carers, but it’s also illegal under the Working with Children Act, potentially placing Directors liable,” he said.
“Most organisations only verify someone’s WWC Check when they join the organisation and then manage the expiry date, which can be up to five years later,” said Carter.
“This means that someone can potentially have their WWC Check revoked and continue to have daily contact with children for years before their workplace finds out,” he said.
In NSW over 7000 people have had their WWCC revoked in the past four years.