School fundraisers, tuckshops, school functions and out-of-school-hours care. Most if not all of these things would not be possible without a Parents and Citizens’ Association (P&C Association) to organise them.
The following will discuss whether you, as a member of the P&C Association at a State or non-State school, may need a Working with Children Check. The requirements outlined in this article for P&C Associations could be, due to the similarity, considered by School Councils.
Working with Children Check
A Working with Children Check, known as a “Blue Card” in Queensland is a detailed national check of a person’s criminal history, including charges or convictions. This is to promote safety and protection of children and young people from those who are involved in “child-related” services.
Working with Children Check requirements for people in a variety of roles and circumstances can sometimes be difficult to navigate. With no national framework for Working with Children Checks, those in Queensland (and some outside of Queensland) are bound by the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000 (Qld) (the Act) requiring employees and volunteers to obtain a Blue Card in certain circumstances.
“Child-related” services can, as defined in the (Queensland) Act, include services in: schools, churches, clubs or associations primarily directed towards children and extend to members working within a P&C Association, who may be subject to obtaining a Blue Card. As an ordinary member of a P&C Association, you will require a Blue Card unless you fall under a legal exemption.
One notable exemption to a P&C Association member requiring a Blue Card is if they have a child attending the school; in this case they will not require a Blue Card. Subsequently, if you are a member of a P&C Association who volunteers in an after school care service (out-of-school-hours care) operated by the P&C Association, you will not require a Blue Card if you have a child receiving these services.
However, if your child does not receive education and care from the licensed “child-related” service, or if you are an executive officer, you will require a Blue Card unless you fall under some other exemption.
Executive office holders of P&C Associations generally require a Blue Card, even where they do not live in Queensland but still within Australia. An executive officer means any person who is concerned with, or takes part in, the management of the “child-related” service. Executive officers require a Blue Card regardless of whether they are the parent of a child who regularly receives education and / or care at the service.
Other exemptions under the Act include if you are a registered teacher, police officer or health practioner, because you would already be checked by a similar scheme.
In spite of all of the above, however, the Act only governs your legal liability to obtain a Blue Card. In addition to the law, a P&C Association member must strive to comply with the policy documents of the Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens’ Associations Inc. (QCPCA).
QCPCA’s policy document Operations Manual for P&C Associations 2011, Section 4 Legislation, Policy & Forms states that:
- “All P & C employees must have a blue card (whether parents of children of the school or not).
- All volunteers to the school or P & C, who are not parents of children at the school, must have a blue card before they start volunteering, regardless of how often they come into contact with students.
- All teachers, who are volunteering to help the school or P & C, outside the scope of their employment agreement, must have a blue card.
- All volunteers who are Executive members of the P & C (i.e. President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer) if the P & C has a licensed OSHC [out-of-school-hours] facility, even if they have children at the school, must have a blue card.”
So although there is some divergence on where the law requires a P&C Association member to have a Blue Card and where QCPCA requires it, QCPCA’s catch-all policy document clause “All P & C employees must have a blue card (whether parents of children of the school or not)” means that all P&C Association members must obtain one.
Renewing your Blue Card is extremely important. If the application for renewal is not lodged thirty (30) days prior to the card expiring, you can no longer be a P&C Association member once the card has expired.
A director of the governing body, who holds a valid Blue Card, can continue as a director after the expiry of the card. This will only occur if the card was not suspended or cancelled and the application for renewal was lodged at least thirty (30) days prior to expiry. The card will remain valid until the application for renewal is decided.
To ensure compliance, you may consider the following questions:
What is the P & C’s policy on Blue Cards?
- Does this policy comply with the Act and the QCPCA requirements?
Who needs a Blue Card?
- Does an exemption apply?
How can a Blue Card be obtained?
- What is the process to ensure compliance?
Ensuring compliance with Blue Card requirements is protection for students, peace of mind for parents and best practice by P&C Associations.