Everyone knows director responsibility extends far beyond the boardroom. Directors bear a significant duty to ensure that their organisations adhere to the highest standards of safety and care.
In April 2020, Ann Marie Smith died while in full care after being subjected to appalling living conditions and neglect.
Amy June Collins and Alison Maree Virgo, former directors of Integrity Care, were charged with criminal neglect causing death and failure to comply with a health and safety duty of care. The abuse and neglect were committed by employees hired in their company, yet the directors were held responsible. Smith’s case is a stark reminder of the severe consequences that can result from poor governance and oversight of the workforce compliance and controls.
Research continues to show that people with a disability in Australia are two to three times more likely to experience all forms of violence, including at the hands of their professional carers. Given this vulnerability, this sector can create an attraction to those with the wrong intent. We have seen this in examples such as Smith’s case.
How can a Board be confident that every worker in the organisation holds a current and valid registration at any time? Without regular validation and reporting, how confident can a director be that a worker has not had one of their right-to-work credentials revoked exposing them to liability?
In February 2022, a mother discovered that the 28-year-old support worker she had sourced from a care worker company to provide one-on-one assistance to her daughter, had pleaded guilty to eight charges related to child sex offenses. This support workers credentials were not monitored, and there was a failure in assuming responsibility for verifying his Working with Children accreditation by everyone involved.
The mother later learned that he was also inappropriate with her daughter.
It is essential to have thorough screening and monitoring processes for workers involved in the care and support of vulnerable people both on the point of hiring and for the duration of tenure for any worker. The failure to have adequate controls in place are too great a risk when the stakes are so high.
That’s why Oho was born. Oho is a credentialing software system providing initial and ongoing screening in the Care & Community sector.
Oho originated from the confronting testimonies of survivors in the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse in 2014. At this Royal Commission, the first case heard related to a CEO of a community organisation who lied to his board about the validity of his WWCC, allowing him access to commit crimes for several years.
Safeguarding is an ongoing job. It is no longer enough to verify only upon hiring. Companies must continuously scan the registration of workers and volunteers against the relevant state registry. Regularly assessing the suitability of employees and volunteers ensures that organizations maintain a standard of care that aligns with legal obligations and ethical considerations, and helps identify potential risks early on, allowing for prompt action to be taken where necessary.
Company directors across the education, aged Care, healthcare, sport, and disability sectors, are liable and could face severe penalties if they do not have systems in place to monitor worker credentials ongoing. The Worker Screening Act 2020 serves as a legislative milestone in Victoria, demanding a heightened level of responsibility from directors amongst other changes in many of the Wrongs Acts across Australia.
“Directors are responsible for setting and maintain a culture of safety within an organisation. Directors need to assure themselves that organisations have the proper controls for safeguarding. Common practice is manual efforts with spreadsheets and occasional or no checking, or relying on a HR system that simply stores the information without verification.
Oho provides screening and continuous monitoring of a wide range of credentials relevant to care and community organisations and those that support them including national coverage of working with children checks, teachers’ licences, national disability worker cards, AHPRA (health and allied health), Visa Entitlement registrations (VEVO) and other background checks.
Oho protects over 2.9 million Australians and has completed more than 5 million verifications. Oho has detected 102 revoked accreditations since inception and assisted with rectifying thousands of compliance irregularities. Oho has also saved care and community organisations many hours of manual labour and cost.
The best way to mitigate the risk to directors and organisations of charges of negligence or failure to provide adequate safeguards is by ensuring accreditations are checked, verified and monitored regularly with a reliable audit trail.
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