This week, Rod spoke in support of the Workers Screening Bill 2020
Mr BARTON (Eastern Metropolitan) (15:51): I rise to speak on this Worker Screening Bill 2020. I do so today because this bill may or may not in the future have some impact on the taxi and hire car industry, so it is important that the industry understands this. This bill will deliver critical improvements to the current national disability insurance scheme and the working with children check. It is clear to me that this bill is focused on protecting those most vulnerable in our community, and that is why I will be supporting this bill today. This bill will assist our most vulnerable by streamlining processes and bringing the NDIS in line with the rest of Australia through aligning our NDIS check with the nationally agreed approach. Those who satisfy our worker screening can work in other states without having to undergo a second screening process. Likewise, if an applicant was found to be ineligible for an NDIS check in Victoria, this will be known to the other states. This is a vast improvement on the previous state-by-state approach.
This bill will recognise the similarities of worker screening for NDIS and for working with children. In recognition of these similarities, those who have an NDIS check will not need to apply for a working with children check. This will reduce the cost, time and obligation for those whose work requires both checks. Not only will this bill improve administration processes but it will also consolidate the process of getting a working with children check. This will ensure that any person who works with or cares for children has the best intentions and will provide appropriate care. Through strengthening these standards we can effectively safeguard our young people, protecting them from anyone who seeks to take advantage or cause harm. This is not a controversial idea. These checks and processes are essential.
It is more important than ever that we focus on protecting those most vulnerable in our society. COVID-19 has made it difficult for everybody. However, it is clear that those with disabilities have been disadvantaged even more severely. The economic repercussions of this pandemic will make it even more difficult for those with a disability to participate in the labour force and find a job. Before this pandemic it was already twice as likely that working age people with a disability would be unemployed. I can only imagine what the rate is now and will be during our recovery. Despite this, I have heard from my constituents who live with a disability and their families of the great strength and resilience they have shown in the face of this challenge.
I have also seen the incredible programs introduced in our communities that seek to reach out to our most vulnerable and address the dynamic issues they are experiencing right now. As we recover from this pandemic it will be so critical that the government invest in these valued community assets, such as our public libraries, that use their skills and resources and geographic reach to assist those most vulnerable. COVID-19 has taken so much out of our control. The NDIS program and this bill strive to give participants a choice in and control over who cares for them. These occupational roles have so much responsibility, and it is vital that we can safeguard these positions and provide those who qualify for the NDIS with the best care and support possible.
So much is at stake in these roles, and that is why there must be strict criteria for work that relates to kids and people with disability. The NDIS intends to empower people with a disability. These safeguards mean participants do not have to worry about the intentions of the people that they choose to have work for them. With this bill in place, I can hold more confidence in our processes and procedures that aim to keep people safe.
Our disability support workers work so hard to support and empower their clients to live the best lives they can. I would like to thank them for their incredible work they do every day. These jobs have so much responsibility, and I believe those who work in this industry should feel great pride about the way they contribute to our community. This bill will assist these workers by creating a more streamlined approach, allowing them to use their NDIS checks to work around the country.
This bill is comprehensive and will bring us into line with the rest of the country, creating more consistency in our systems and processes. This bill will not undermine the existing protections in the Working with Children Act 2005, rather it will enhance the standard we apply to those who work with children and improve the clarity of the working with children check provisions. This bill protects those most vulnerable in our community and our young people. However, alongside policy improvements such as this, recovery from this pandemic demands investment in community assets that reach out and provide support to young people and people with a disability. This bill is a step towards a more inclusive Victoria, and that is why I am supporting this bill today.