This has been an issue, at least in NSW where paramedics objected to being required to pay for a working with children check – see for example ‘Paramedics giving free rides in protest against paying for Working With Children ChecksABC News (Online) 1 March 2018.

Today’s correspondent, from the ACT says:

Several years ago all staff at the ACT ESA were required to register and hold an ACT WWVP [Working with Vulnerable Persons] card, which for most will expire after three years in 2020 and require ESA staff to renew before their individual expiry dates..

The introduction of APHRA paramedic registration last year has prompted ACTAS management to (correctly) advise staff that APHRA registered members need not renew their ACT WWVP registration. Registered health professionals are deemed to have undertaken the required police checks under the APHRA umbrella legislation covering national paramedic registration.

After searching the internet to confirm this interpretation I discovered the following policy PDF from the Catholic Education office. It says:

  1. Police officers, registered health professionals, lawyers, persons registered under the Aged Care legislation, and financial services licensees do not require WWVP Registration, provided their engagement is in their professional capacity.
  2. Police officers, registered health professionals, lawyers, persons registered under the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth), and financial services licensees under the Corporations Act must have a valid WWVP registration for any engagement in a personal/ non-professional capacity, such as a parent-volunteer at their child’s sporting event.

After consideration this document raises a number of issues:

  1. It is probably not universally understood that registered health professionals are not required to apply for or renew their WWVP approval with ACT Government, thus leaving the health professional without a govt issued WWVP card.
  2. The only way to substantiate a WWVP approval without a card is to provide a copy of an APHRA registration certificate. If a registered health professional wants a card to carry they will have to pay to renew their ACT Govt WWVP approval for 3 years.
  3. A significant issue raised in the Catholic Education policy is that an APHRA approval is only acceptable when the individual is working in his/her capacity as a registered health professional. E.g. an ACTAS paramedic working operationally or an individual working as a volunteer or contract paramedic under the terms of registration. However an off-duty paramedic volunteering as a parent at school, scouts or with a youth sporting organisation cannot be recognised without producing an approved ACT or other state issued WWVP registration card.
  4. It appears there is no current pathway for a registered health professional with APHRA pre-approval to apply for a discounted WWVP card without paying full fees for an additional government police check and the card issue.
  5. Is the situation the same in the other states & territories where your readers reside?

The key, as always is to go to the law. In the ACT the law is the Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011 (ACT). A person is required to be registered to engage in a regulated activity (s 12). A person is not required to be registered (s 12(2)(i)) if they are engaged in the regulated activity in their capacity as—

(i) a police officer, including a police officer (however described) of another jurisdiction; or

(ii) an AFP appointee within the meaning of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 (Cwlth); or

(iii) a health practitioner; or

(iv) a lawyer; or

(v) a staff member of, or volunteer for, an approved provider under the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cwlth); or

(vi) a financial services licensee under the Corporations Act.

What is a regulated activity is defined in Schedule 1 to the Act. It includes ‘An activity or service … if the activity is conducted, or the service is provided, by— (a) an emergency service; or (b) a person acting on behalf of an emergency service.’ The Legislation Act 2001 (ACT) says that the term ‘emergency service’ in ACT legislation ‘means the ambulance service, the fire and rescue service, the rural fire service or the SES’. It also defines ‘ambulance service’ to mean ‘the ACT Ambulance Service established under the Emergencies Act 2004’. A ‘health practitioner’ is ‘a person registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (ACT) to practise a health profession (other than as a student)’ and so includes a paramedic.

What follows is that a paramedic (a ‘health practitioner’) working for ACT Ambulance (‘an emergency service’) is not required to be registered (ie to hold a working with vulnerable people registration card).

It’s true that the exemption only applies if the health practitioner is engaged in a regulated activity (and there are lots of them) in his or her capacity as a health practitioner (s 12(2)(i)).  If he or she is engaged in some other activity (eg working in childcare or as a part time party clown or providing respite care for vulnerable persons) then they would need to register for that activity.

The Access Canberra website says

An application fee of $135.00 applies to people who are employed to work with vulnerable people. Registration is free for volunteers, however if the volunteer also works in a regulated activity they are still required to pay the $135.00 fee.

It’s true, there is no discount for a person who is a registered health professional.  If the person is going to work in regulated activities in a capacity other than a registered health professional will have to pay the fee unless he or she is a volunteer.

Is the situation the same in other jurisdictions?

One cannot really answer the question for each jurisdiction. One obvious difference is that the ACT legislation is about working with vulnerable children.  NSW, on the other hand, has the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (NSW).  Clearly the NSW Act is limited to children!  Section 8 says:

A worker must not engage in child-related work unless:

(a) the worker holds a working with children check clearance of a class applicable to the work…

Work as a health practitioner (which includes a paramedic) providing child health services (which includes ambulance services) is child-related work (Child Protection (Working with Children) Regulation 2013 (NSW) r 6).  There is no exemption for a ‘a working with children check clearance’ for registered health practitioners other than ‘a health practitioner in private practice, if the provision of services by the practitioner in the course of that practice does not ordinarily involve treatment of children without one or more other adults present’ (r 20(i)).  Accordingly, a paramedic in NSW must have a clearance whereas a paramedic in the ACT is not required to have one.

An ACT paramedic who crosses the border into NSW to provide services to a child is not required to have a NSW clearance, provided that the ‘period of [child-related] work does not exceed a total of 5 days in any period of 3 months’ (r 20(l)).

An ACT firefighter or other emergency service member working in NSW is not required to have a NSW clearance provided the ‘period of the child-related work in New South Wales does not exceed a total of 30 days in any calendar year’ (r 20(n)).

That does not answer the question for ‘every’ jurisdiction, but it does show that the situation is not the same in all jurisdictions!