Volunteers are very important in sustaining the life and ministry of the church. It is critical, however, that volunteers abide by Safe Church practice to ensure a safe ministry environment, especially for children. All people wishing to work with children under 18 in the PCV must undergo the Volunteer Approval Process prior to commencing in such a role.
Best practice for appointing people in volunteer roles working with children under 18 years is to only appoint people who have been in the congregation or organisation for more than a year. By adhering to this practice congregations and organisations reduce vulnerability to being targeted by potential abusers as providing an avenue to groom and access potential victims. The SCU highly recommends that all PCV congregations and organisations embrace this practice as the standard approach to appointing volunteers in roles working with children under 18.
From time to time some congregations have visiting mission or ministry teams. These teams may come from another PCV congregation or from another Christian organisation entirely. For PCV congregational teams there is no need to fulfil any extra Safe Church requirements. For teams from Christian organisations outside the PCV there are Safe Church requirements which must be met. Contact the SCU for further details and to ensure your congregation is covered in such an instance.
Volunteer Approval Process
The following process must be followed when a new person volunteers to work with children under 18 years of age in the PCV in either a congregation or organisation:
A person wishes to join a ministry that works with children under the age of 18 years within a PCV congregation or organisation.
The person must:
- Complete the ‘Initial Registration’ form, provide proof of identification and also provide contact details of two referees. Referees should ideally be people who have known the person for a significant amount of time (years rather than months) and who are not relatives.
- Complete an application for the Victorian Working with Children Check or provide proof of holding a current Victorian Working with Children Check.
- Read and sign the ‘Children's Ministry Role Description’ form
- Agree to attend Safe Church Basic Training
See the Supporting Material section below for links to the required forms.
It is the responsibility of the Safe Church Representative of the congregation or organisation to
- contact the referees and complete the ‘Confidential Record of Reference Checks’ form
- document sighting proof of photographic identification, such as a current driver’s license
- forward copies of the forms to the SCU – copies must be kept by the Safe Church Representative of the congregation/organisation
The Safe Church Representative must treat as strictly confidential all applications and records of contacts with referees. Such information may only be accessed by the Safe Church Representative, the Session (if necessary) and the SCU. The information should be marked “confidential” and all personnel files should be kept in a secure facility (for both electronic and paper records) for purposes of confidentiality. Access is limited to those so authorised, and the applicant, who may view only their own file.
Upon receiving the forms the applicant is screened. If through screening the applicant is approved the person is then registered with the SCU database of persons who work with children under 18 in the PCV. The SCU notifies the Safe Church Representative of the congregation/organisation of the approval. The person must attend Safe Church Basic Training within the first 12 months of being approved.
If the applicant is not approved by the SCU OR fails to secure a Victorian Working with Children Check the person cannot minister or work with children under 18 in any PCV congregation or organisation. A person who has applied for a Victorian Working with Children Check must not commence in their role until the approval and number has arrived and been communicated to the local church and SCU (via the Safe Church Representative). The SCU notifies the Safe Church Representative of the congregation/organisation if the person is not approved.
questions to ask referees
When completing the "Conversation summary" section of the Confidential Record of Reference Checks Form, the following recommended questions to ask each referee are helpful:
- In what capacity have you known the applicant and for what length of time?
- How would you describe their reliability and competency to work with children under 18 years of age?
- How would you describe the applicant's general maturity as a person?
- Are there any physical, mental or spiritual concerns you may have with the applicant?
- Do you have any reasons to believe that the applicant is not suitable to work with children and if so what are they?
Always inform the referee that the information supplied by them will only be used for assessment of the applicant under the PCV Volunteer Approval Process and remains strictly confidential.
Remember: to complete the process above a series of forms are to be completed and forwarded to the SCU when a new person applies to work with children 18. These forms should be collected and forwarded by the congregation/organisation not the individual applying to work with children.
These forms are accessible via the links below:
- Initial Registration with the SCU form
- Children's Ministry Role Description
- Confidential Record of reference checks form
- Evidence of holding a current Victorian Working With Children Check (ideally a photocopy of the Working With Children Check card)
Exemptions for Teachers and Police volunteering in the PCV
Under Victorian legislation teachers and police are exempt from requiring a Working with Children Check. Current serving police and teachers holding a current registration with the Victorian Institute of Teaching are exempt from requiring a Working with Children Check within the PCV upon providing proof of their employment/registration. They are however required to complete all other steps in the Volunteer Approval Process.
If a person who is exempt from requiring a Working with Children Check is either suspended or dismissed from their employment they must inform their congregation or church organisation about this. This must take place to comply with sections 30 and 31 of the Working with Children Act Victoria (2005) - failure to do so results in police prosecution and a fine for the person who has failed to inform. Such a person is no longer exempt from the Working with Children Check and must apply for a check and discontinue in their role with the congregation or organisation while awaiting approval in the form of a current Working with Children Check.
Adding the local church to an existing Working with Children Check
Where a person applying already has a current Working with Children Check they must add the congregation in which they are applying to volunteer in to their card record. This is done by visiting the Victorian Working with Children Check website and selecting 'Update my details' on the home page.
All VAP documentation must be kept securely to ensure privacy for the applicant. Secure storage entails keeping the VAP documentation in a secure facility (for both electronic and paper records) that can only be accessed by the Safe Church Representative and one other nominated person (for example, the Session Clerk).