Police vet checks to come at cost to schools

From later this year, schools will have to pay for police checks on some prospective employees.
CHARLOTTE CURD/FAIRFAX NZ

From later this year, schools will have to pay for police checks on some prospective employees.

A new charge for police checks of prospective employees could see schools pulling back on vetting, NZEI says.

Police plan to charge schools and early childhood education centres for carrying out checks of prospective employees.

On Monday, police announced it would conduct free checks for the first 20 checks a school or ECE commissioned, and charge $10 per check for every additional person. These fees would help cover costs of increasing numbers of checks, police said. 

NZ Police are tasked with carrying out vetting of prospective school and ECE employees (both teachers and non-teaching ...
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

NZ Police are tasked with carrying out vetting of prospective school and ECE employees (both teachers and non-teaching staff).

Primary teaching union NZEI Te Riu Roa said police had been looking at transferring some of the vetting costs to schools for a while now.

Changes introduced in the Education Amendment Act 2010 meant schools and ECEs were required to vet non-teaching employees who had unsupervised access to children during normal hours. That included contractors and their employees, along with teaching staff who already required vetting.

The Act also stated these checks had to be carried out by the Police Licensing and Vetting Service Centre.

NZEI spokeswoman Leah Haines said up until now schools had erred on the side of caution by commissioning checks for "every Tom, Dick and Harry".

However, the new charges — introduced at a time when many schools were struggling financially — could lead to schools deciding not to commission police checks for some staff or contractors, she said.

There was also some confusion from schools around exactly who had to be vetted. The Ministry of Education was in the process of clarifying guidelines around school employee police checks.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart said principals, teachers, and support staff fully supported any measures that would keep children safe.

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"But schools and ECE services need more money to meet these extra costs."

Police confirmed plans to introduce fees later this year, which would help recover costs associated with increasing demand for vetting requests. 

The number of requests received by police had increased almost 40 per cent in recent years; up from 394,942 in the 2011/12 financial year, to 549,346 in the 2015/16 year. Requests were expected to exceed 600,000 in the next financial year.

Manager Police Vetting Service, Senior Sergeant Bruce Mackay, said the fee would not apply to all agencies, depending on their type and circumstances. 

For example, if an approved agency did fewer than 20 checks per year, was a registered charity, or faced exceptional financial hardship or exceptional circumstances, they could be exempt from fees, Mackay said. 

"We recognise that there will be some financial impact for agencies, hence this early communication to give them as much time as possible to prepare," he said. 

"We have also worked very hard to keep the fees as low as possible, but note that at $8.50 + GST per vetting check, this is significantly less than the fees charged for other demand services provided by other Government agencies and Police services worldwide." 

 - Stuff

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