Safety checking - the 7 components

  For a children's worker who started after 1 July 2015 For all other children's workers already employed before 1 July 2015 For all children's workers, every 3 years
Identity ✔ 
Work History    
Interview    
Referee    
Membership
Police vet
Risk assessment

Identity check

There are reported cases in education settings where people have gained employment using another person's identify and credentials. You need to check that the person is who they say they are.

The first time you do the identify check, you must check the person’s identity by:

  1. using an electronic identity credential such as RealMe(external link), or
  2. checking the original of a primary identity document and a secondary identity document.

The primary identity document is to check that the identity exists. The secondary identity document is to check that the identity is living.

If you use primary and secondary identity documents, then you must use documents from the list below.

One of the identity documents needs to have a photo of the person. If neither has a photo, then you must ask the person for some additional information - see note below.

If the person’s name is different between the primary and secondary documents, then you must ask them to provide a name change document from the list below.

List of identity and name change documents(external link)

Search your personnel records to check whether the person’s identify is being, or has been, used by another person. This is particularly useful for large organisations.


Note

If neither of the primary or secondary identity documents has a photo of the person or the primary and secondary documents have different names and there is no name change document, then you must ask the person to provide:

  1. the name and contact details of an identity referee, and
  2. a photo of themselves authenticated by the identity referee, or
  3. a statement signed and dated by the identity referee that confirms that the primary identify document relates to that person.

To authenticate a photo, the identity referee needs to write on the back of the photo “certified true likeness of <full name of person>”, or something similar. They must also sign and date the back of the photo.

The identify referee must:

  • have known the person for at least 12 months, and
  • be at least 16 years of age, and
  • not be related to the person and not be part of the person’s extended family, and
  • not be a spouse or partner of the person, and
  • not live at the same address as the person.

Every 3 years

You must confirm whether the person has changed their name from the name on the documents provided during the initial identity check. If it has changed, then you must ask them to provide a name change document from the list below.

List of identity and name change documents(external link)

What to check

  • Check documents are current, ie not expired.
  • Check documents for authenticity and discrepancies. Warning signs include tears, discoloration or other damage, inconsistencies in lettering, spelling of names or other details such as dates/places of birth.
  • If you detect a discrepancy:
    1. ask the person for an explanation (unless it is clearly fraudulent in which case contact NZ Police or the document’s issuing body), and
    2. resolve the discrepancy before proceeding with the recruitment process.
  • If the person cannot provide a satisfactory explanation, they should not be employed or engaged.

Do I need to check original identity documents?

Yes. Refer to Using documents as evidence | NZ Digital government(external link) - only accept originals to allow for examination of all security features that are not immediately obvious and are difficult to replicate, such as watermarks and embossing. Photocopied documents are relatively easy to alter and should, therefore, not be accepted as evidence of identity.

If a prospective worker can only produce copies during the recruitment process, you must check original documents before they start work.

Are expired identity documents acceptable?

No. Refer to Using documents as evidence | NZ Digital government(external link) - documents that are not currently valid tend to be older and are less likely to contain up-to-date security features, making them easier to tamper with or forge.

Do I need to keep certified copies of ID documents on file?

No. You need to keep evidence that the ID check has been done (eg. copies of ID documents on file), but these do not need to be certified.

If a prospective employee doesn't have one of the documents on the accepted list, are there any alternatives?

No. Only the documents on the list in the safety checking regulations are acceptable forms of ID.

How does RealMe work?

Both the children's worker and the service provider must have accounts with RealMe. The children's worker then consents to share their information, via RealMe, with the service provider.

Verification of identity is all done via the RealMe system. Anything outside of the RealMe system eg, a screenshot of RealMe, cannot be accepted as an identity document.

 

Work History

Gathering information about a person's work history provides context for their skills, knowledge, experience and personal attributes. It supports the development of interview and referee questions.

You must obtain a chronological summary of the person's work history, including a description of positions held.

The work history must be for a minimum of the preceding 5 years, including dates for each position held.

What to check

  • Check that the work history includes names of employing/contracting organisations, positions held and description of positions held.
  • Are there any unusual patterns, such as geographically scattered short-term jobs or significantly different roles, eg from a professional registered role such as a teacher to caretaker or a voluntary role?
  • Are there any gaps in work history? If there are, ask the person for an explanation.
  • Critically analyse the information and ask the person for an explanation if anything is unusual.

The mechanism for gathering this may be varied, but usually it is requested via a CV. An application form is a good way to gather more information about a person, and should be used in addition to a CV. Additionally, when you have asked any clarifying or follow up questions it is important to document these responses. It will be useful information to consider when making your risk assessment.

 

Interview

The way a person responds to careful questioning can provide insight into their attitudes towards children. An interview also provides the opportunity to confirm information provided by the person as part of the application process.

You must interview the person face to face, by phone or by using other communications technologies. Interviews should be done face-to-face, but can be done via Skype or Zoom. If using other communication technologies, be aware of their limitations. Email is not a suitable medium for an interview.

You must obtain information relevant to conducting a risk assessment of the person.

What to check

Planning ahead and follow-up:

  • Carefully choose who will conduct the interview. A small panel is recommended, to allow for multiple perspectives on a person. Consider each panel member's experience, knowledge and skills, and choose at least one person with child protection knowledge.
  • Prepare questions ahead of the interview, and take notes during the interview. Consider bringing the panel together before the interview to prepare or practice.
  • Use open questions that invite a descriptive response, rather than a yes/no answer, eg questions that start with "what", "where", "who or "how".
  • Ask questions that will get the person to describe specific examples from their own experience, rather than asking hypothetical questions (though these can be useful to a point).
  • Ask questions to gather information about the person's experience, behaviour, beliefs and attitudes.
  • Ask questions to confirm information otherwise provided by the person, eg through their application or work history.
  • After the interview, discuss any concerns with other panel members.
  • Consider whether a second interview is required to enable follow-up and clarification on any issues identified

 

Ask questions that describe the persons experiences and relationships working with children:

  • What rewarding experiences they have had working with children.
  • What they think constitutes professional practice when working with children.
  • The reason they think they get along with children or children like them.
  • Other relationships they have had with children outside the working or volunteer environment.
  • The kind of relationships they hope to develop with the children and families in your service.

 

Ask questions that explore their attitudes - if they've ever had to deal with the following situations, including process and outcome, or what would they do if:

  • A child or young person disclosed abuse.
  • A child or young person was "cheeky" or hit them.
  • They discovered two children with stolen property, fighting or engaged in sexual play.
  • A child or young person invited them to become involved in intimate or touching behaviour.
  • A child or young person threatened to make a false allegation of abuse about them.
  • They witnessed a colleague or their own manager abusing a child, eg smacking, verbally abusing or shaming a child.
  • A child or young person arrived with unusual bruising.

 

Ask questions that show the person's views on child safe practice:

  • How they think children should be "disciplined".
  • Their thoughts on being alone on the job with a child or young person.
  • How would they contribute to a culture of child protection in your service.

 

Ask questions about the person:

  • Whether complaints have ever been made about their professional practice, how they responded and what the outcome was.
  • Whether they have ever been convicted of an offence.
  • The chances of an abuse allegation being made about them.
  • Reasons for leaving previous jobs.

The example questions above are to help assess whether a person is suitable to fulfil a role as a children's worker and whether they pose a risk to children. You will want to ask the usual competency questions as well, to ascertain if the person can perform in the role.


Referee

Asking for relevant information from a referee can provide valuable information about a person. It can also help you find out if there are any gaps or differences in information otherwise provided by the person as part of the application process.

You must get the name of at least one referee from the person.

Ensure the referee is not related to the person or part of the person's extended family.

Contact that referee to request any information held by, or known to, the referee that may be relevant to conducting a risk assessment of the person.

Where possible, get the names of and contact 3 referees. At least one of the referees should be a recent direct line manager. Whilst the person may not want you to contact their current employer early on in the recruitment process, you should follow this up at an appropriate point, e.g. just before you finalise an offer.

What to check

Planning ahead:

  • Prepare the questions ahead of contacting the referee, and to take notes during the conversation.
  • Use open questions that invite a descriptive response, rather than a yes/no answer, eg questions that start with "what", "where", "who or "how".
  • Ask questions to gather information about the person's experience, behaviour, beliefs and attitudes.
  • Ask questions to confirm information otherwise provided by the person, eg through their work history or interview.
  • Contact the referee in person - usually, this is done over the phone.
  • Remind the referee to be honest about the person.
  • Consider whether a follow-up conversation is required to enable follow-up and clarification on any issues identified.

 

Ask questions about the person's experiences and relationships working with children:

  • Describe how the person behaves around children.
  • Whether they think the person gets along with children or whether children like them.
  • What relationships they have had with children outside the working or volunteer environment.
  • Whether they have ever witnessed the person abusing a child, eg smacking, verbally abusing or shaming a child.
  • Whether they think the person is safe and suitable to work with children.

 

Ask questions about the person:

  • Whether complaints have ever been made about the person's professional practice, how the person responded and what the outcome was.
  • Whether they know if the person has ever been convicted of an offence.
  • Whether they trust the person, or did they ever have a reason to doubt the person's honesty.
  • Reasons for leaving previous jobs.
  • Whether they would work with the person again in the future.
  • Invite the referee to share anything else they might think is relevant.

If there are any inconsistencies in information provided or allegations of conduct or competence were discussed, give the person an opportunity to provide an explanation. Treat any allegations with caution, and keep children's safety as your primary concern.

Who can be used as a referee?

The purpose of the safety check is to determine whether a person is suitable to fulfil a role as a children's worker and whether they pose a risk to children's safety. Therefore the person providing a reference check must be able to answer questions relevant to that purpose. For example, a recent direct line manager could provide such a reference, but a neighbour probably couldn't.

Is online or written reference checking acceptable?

Yes. The legislation does not prescribe how a reference check is undertaken, just that it is undertaken. Reference checking is one of the most important components of a safety check. Referees provide a hugely valuable source of information about a person’s skills, attitudes, values, past behaviours and relationships.

The way information is gathered is not what's important. Rather, it is that reference checking is planned and done thoroughly, regardless of how the information is gathered. Questions should be tailored to the role, and must include questions relating to child protection.

 

Professional membership

Checking the professional organisation, licensing authority or registration authority can provide additional information about any conditions or issues that need to be considered for the risk assessment. 

You must get the name of any of the following if relevant to the person's role:

  • professional organisation of which the person is a current member, eg a counsellor may belong to the NZ Association of Counsellors, or
  • licensing authority that has issued a current licence to the person, eg a driver's licence if driving is part of their role, or
  • registration authority that has issued a current registration or practising certificate to the person, eg a practising certificate from the Teaching Council.

Get any relevant information from the organisation or authority named above that may be relevant to a risk assessment of the person, e.g. check the driver's licence or certification status.

Search the Teaching Council register(external link)

What to check

  • Check online register/s, or check documents for authenticity or discrepancies.
  • Check that the name the person has supplied is the same as that shown on any membership, licensing or registration documents.
  • Check expiry or renewal dates.
  • If you find anything unusual, ask the person for an explanation.

What am I looking for on the Teaching Council register?

Check the person's certification category and expiry date. If the teacher has any censures or conditions, this will be noted on the register.

 

Police vet

The police vet is a search of the NZ Police database for information held about a person, including criminal history and other relevant information.

Read more about police vetting

You must obtain a vet from NZ Police.

If the Police vet shows a conviction for a specified offence, that person must not be employed in a core children's worker role, unless they have an exemption.

A conviction for a specified offence will be clearly shown on the police vet, alongside a statement advising that they cannot be employed. It is an offence to employ a person with a specified conviction in a core children’s worker role. This may lead to criminal prosecution and a fine of up to $50,000.

List of specified offences(external link)

Read about the core worker exemption(external link)

What to check

  • Are there any convictions on the Police vet? How many? When did they occur? What are they for - are they minor (eg speeding, shoplifting) or serious (eg family violence)?
  • What other information is shown on the Police vet? Is it relevant to the role? An offence against children or other vulnerable people is an obvious concern. Patterns of fraudulent offending may also be a concern, given the importance of trust.
  • Did the person otherwise provide the information themselves, eg through their application or work history? If it was omitted, what is their explanation? If they did otherwise provide information, have they undertaken any rehabilitation.

What about certificated teachers?

You don't need to request a NZ police vet for a teacher who has a current practising certificate or limited authority to teach from the Teaching Council. This is because the Council will only approve a practising certificate or authorisation once a police vet has been obtained and considered to be satisfactory as per Teaching Council policy.

Read more about relying on the Teaching Council’s vet

If a teacher's practising certificate lapses, the teacher cannot continue working as a children's worker until the practising certificate has been renewed, or you obtain a NZ police vet yourself to inform an updated risk assessment.

What about people who have lived overseas?

In addition to obtaining a NZ Police vet, you should ask them to provide copies of police certificates from their countries of citizenship and from any country in which they have lived for one or more years, within the last 10 years.

Read more about police vetting people from overseas

Can I use a Ministry of Justice conviction check instead of a police vet?

No, you must obtain a vet from NZ Police.

Read more about the Ministry of Justice criminal record check.(external link)

 

Risk assessment

Use your professional judgement to decide whether the person is suitable to fulfil a role as a children's worker and whether they pose a risk to children. This needs to be documented and include a clear rationale to support your assessment that the person is suitable to work with children and be a part of your organisation. Ensure the risk assessment is completed before the children's worker starts working in their role.

You must

  • Take into account any information gathered for the other components of the safety check (identity check, work history, interview, referee, membership and Police vet).
  • Consider this guidance on risk assessment.
  • Assess the person to determine whether the person poses, or would pose, any risk to the safety of children.
  • If the person does, or would, pose a risk, assess the extent of that risk.
  • If the Police vet shows a conviction for a specified offence, that person must not be employed in a core children's worker role, unless they have an exemption.

A conviction for a specified offence will be clearly shown on the police vet, alongside a statement advising that they cannot be employed.

It is an offence to employ a person with a specified conviction in a core children’s worker role. This may lead to criminal prosecution and a fine of up to $50,000. Ensure the risk assessment is completed before the children's worker starts working in their role.

What to check

  • Is the person safe to work with children?
  • Would the person support and adhere to your child protection policy, and actively contribute to a culture of child protection in your organisation?
  • Are there any inconsistencies in information supplied, eg information not mentioned on the person's work history or during interview that was provided by the referee or in the Police vet?
  • Are there any patterns of concerning attitudes or behaviours? These can be subtle and wider than the presence or absence of criminal convictions.
  • Do you need to follow-up or gather any additional information, eg from another referee or more information from a referee already contacted?
  • Do you need to clarify any issues with the applicant directly, eg allowing them an opportunity to respond to any information that is unclear or inconsistent? Did they deliberately withhold information?
  • Do you need to seek outside expert advice to support you in making a decision?

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