PETER DEWAR & CARLY LADEN
Teachers, tutors and junior sporting coaches have raised questions over who should pay for working with children checks mandated by the State Government.
A working with children check is a licence given after a screening process to people intending to work with children, to ensure children are safe.
The fees for obtaining the check is $82, and volunteer workers to pay $11.
Ilija Stajic, a university student and physical education instructor at Wesley College in South Perth said that after buying university books every semester, and paying for fuel every week, university students could find the fee “a bit much”.
Stajic’s point was echoed by Bianca Chater, principal of Talent Co. Dance and Entertainment studio in Wangara.
“No, I don’t think [paying over $80 is] a good thing, because it seems like it will only put people off from getting [the check done] or delay getting it, and that is only going to affect the safety of the children,” Mrs Chater said.
“I actually think it should be something that is free … since it is a requirement to work, if [the government is] really interested in protecting kids, then [the check] should be government funded.”
But Stajic insists the fee should not deter anyone from wanting to pursue dreams of teaching or child-related work.
“If you’re passionate about being a teacher, you know you need to do whatever it takes, and if that means the government is saying that you have to fork out a little bit more, you absolutely should,” he said.
“There’s no excuses.
“With each obstacle, you just have to grab the bull by the horns and keep progressing, and the yearly … check is a necessity because you have a legal responsibility to these children.
“Once you become a teacher you still have to keep doing more courses and getting more qualifications and it’s all going to cost.
“It is a duty of care and you need to take care of the children and make sure their parents know that you are legally responsible.”
In February 2015, there were 18,398 active staff in Western Australian government schools, including teachers, support teachers, program coordinators, prinicipals and deputy principals.
One year later, despite the price hikes, that number has increased to 19,285.
But the checks don’t just affect schools.
Janine Finnie, Game Development Manager for Hockey WA, insists that the checks are worth their price.
“[Paying] $80 for something that is a necessary part of your role, which ensures that children are safe, is not too bad of an investment really,” Ms Finnie said.
Most of the check holders in Hockey WA are volunteers. For example, the coaches of the junior teams are often parents of the players themselves.
“Sport in general is manned by volunteers, and for the state association, when we employ people, the money is a small commitment in terms of making sure that the people we are working with are safe,” she said.
The difference between schools and Hockey WA is that the latter will cover the cost for the checks, whereas teachers are responsible for paying the cover themselves.
In 2014, the price was raised from $54 to $80 for paid child-related workers, and again by $2 in November, 2015. For volunteers, the price was raised from $10.50 to $10.80 in 2014, and in November it was brought up to $11.
Emma White, the Director General for the Department for Child Protection and Family Support, said the increase in fees was necessary.
“The cost of the … check [for the Government] was actually over $100,” she said.
“That increase still provided a significant subsidy to the community and it should be noted that the fee covers a check that is valid for three years.
“Many organisations choose to reimburse employees the cost of the … check while others in paid employment may be able to claim the … check fee as a tax deduction or negotiate with their employer for the payment of the fee.”