Your One-Stop Guide to NDIS Risk Assessments for Support Workers

Rob Scott

Written on 29 July, 2022
Worker Screening Checks are a strict requirement for staff members delivering supports to people with disabilities. These risk assessments help safeguard NDIS participants while protecting support worker privacy.

Worker Screening Checks are still relatively new, having only become mandatory across the entirety of Australia in 2021. While they represent the same goal of ensuring participant safety, there are several key differences between them and how NDIS risk assessments used to be handled. 

Waiting for Worker Screening Check clearance can slow down support worker recruitment and onboarding. However, as an NDIS service provider, there are several steps you can take to ensure new staff members are rostered as quickly as possible. This starts with understanding the Worker Screening Check process and requirements.

NDIS Risk Assessment vs Worker Screening Check: What’s the Difference?

Risk assessments are an everyday part of running an NDIS service provider business. Client risk assessments are a fundamental step in creating a client’s support plan and should be regularly updated

Risk assessments of support workers, meanwhile, are “an evaluation of whether a person poses an unacceptable risk of harm to people with disability based on their criminal history and/or other relevant information.”

Until recently, NDIS service providers could run their own risk assessments for support workers. However, this has now been completely phased out in favour of Worker Screening Checks done by the Worker Screening Unit.

The biggest difference, of course, is that you are no longer doing the risk assessment. The responsibility, workload and decision-making are taken out of your hands. As a result, the assessment should be more objective and support workers’ privacy will be respected, with you having limited access to information about their background. 

Another major point to note is that the support worker is only assessed for one specific role. It is important to remember that having clearance for this role does not mean they have been risk assessed for other work.

Who Needs to Undergo a Worker Screening Check Risk Assessment?

It’s not just support workers visiting clients’ homes that need to undergo a Worker Screening Check. This risk assessment is mandatory for:

  • Key personnel, e.g. senior management and executives in registered NDIS provider businesses

  • Workers that are involved in the direct delivery of services to people with disabilities

  • Any worker whose role involves “more than incidental contact” with people with disabilities

The NDIS refers to these as “risk-assessed roles”.

The Worker Screening Check Process: What to Expect

It is the worker, not the service provider business, that initiates the screening check. They have to apply through their state or territory agency, paying a set fee at the time. The cost varies depending on the state.

When applying, they have to prove their identity and nominate the NDIS provider (i.e. you) or self-managed participant that they will work with. The screening process will then be paused until the provider or participant verifies this. In other words, the quicker you confirm that you want to hire this support worker for this role, the better.

Finally, the Worker Support Unit will conduct their risk assessment and reach a decision. This could be:

  • NDIS Worker Screening clearance: They are not found to pose an unacceptable potential risk to people with disabilities in this particular role, and so you can assign them work

  • NDIS Worker Screening exclusion: They are found to pose an unacceptable risk to people with disabilities, and so you cannot hire them for this role

You will be able to view the results of the screening check in the NDIS Worker Screening Database, which you’ll find via the NDIS Commission Portal. There is also a process for lodging reviews and disputes if the support worker believes they were incorrectly excluded.

Clearance expires after five years, so workers in risk-assessed roles will have to periodically repeat the process.

What Does the Worker Screening Unit Consider in Their Risk Assessment?

As part of the NDIS risk assessment, the Worker Screening Unit considers:

  • The worker’s national criminal record (or lack thereof)

  • Disciplinary and misconduct information about the worker, including breaches of the NDIS Code of Conduct

  • The nature, gravity and circumstances of any incidents

  • The vulnerability of any victims, taking into account (among other things) the support worker’s relationship with them

  • The worker’s conduct since these incidents

  • Any other information considered to be relevant

Can a Support Worker Deliver Services Before Receiving Worker Screening Clearance?

In some states and territories, support workers can begin working in risk-assessed roles while waiting for their NDIS Worker Screening clearance. However, they can only do this if they have already applied for the risk assessment and their work is being supervised by someone who already has clearance.

Other states and territories, however, require all workers in risk-assessed roles to have received clearance before beginning work in the role.

Make sure you double-check your local regulations and clearance expiry dates so that you can remain compliant while also rostering your support workers as quickly as possible.

Reducing Risk as an NDIS Service Provider

Worker Screening Checks are just one aspect of the many safeguarding and risk-reduction practices NDIS provider businesses are responsible for. Thorough client risk assessments, incident reports and progress notes and a complaints management process are also essential. So is good document management, from first aid certification and Worker Screening Check clearance to client care plans and risk assessments.

ShiftCare NDIS software will help you mitigate risk and improve support quality through secure document storage, automated expiry notes and templates for incident reports and progress notes. With these features, you can trust that you’re remaining compliant and taking the required steps to ensure participant safety. Try ShiftCare for free today.

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