Fit & Proper Screening in Aged Care

Introducing a 'fit and proper person' test for key personnel of approved aged care providers is one of the recommendations made in the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. It's an acknowledgement of how vital it is for providers to understand more about their workforce's skills and experience.

While there are no universally accepted criteria for what constitutes a 'fit and proper person', it is a concept employed by many registration and licensing regimes to determine a person's capability, honesty, integrity and reputation. To be granted a credit licence in Australia, for example, a person must first be deemed fit and proper to engage in the activities contemplated by the particular licence. The same concept applies to building practitioners, waste export licence holders, real estate agents and so on. It's not hard to see why a screening test is recommended as part of sweeping proposals for reforming the aged care sector.

Having adequate background screening process in place can help aged care providers to satisfy Fit and Proper requirements. These processes must be robust enough to identify potential concerns about applicants at the recruitment stage and provide an ongoing assessment of propriety during employment. Conducting background checks of new hires, existing employees and contractors, allows aged care providers to ensure their personnel have the appropriate competency and character to match their job duties.

An advantage of background screening processes is a likely improvement in the quality of applicants that apply for positions of responsibility. When it comes to caring for our vulnerable elderly population, this is essential protection. For providers, hiring people of good character and integrity with the necessary qualifications, skills and knowledge, is crucial for restoring public confidence and trust in the sector.

What is a Fit and Proper Persons check?

While the final report does not spell out the exact criteria for a Fit and Proper Persons check, it does advise:

Key personnel should be good at their jobs, competent and qualified. They should also be of good character and reputation. They must act with integrity and exercise sound judgment in their work and in the oversight of care delivery.

The report recommends background searches and inquiries are carried out into matters relating to:

  • Previous involvement in delivering aged care
  • Criminal offending
  • Insolvency and other financial mismanagement
  • Adverse finding and decisions by courts, tribunals and government regulators.

Providers can find out the above information by conducting qualification, employment history and bankruptcy checks with an accredited background screening provider like fit2work.

The report advises that aged care legislation should require an approved provider to undertake due diligence when engaging a person as one of its key personnel. It also recommends providers implement due diligence on an ongoing basis, such as annually and whenever there is a personnel change.

What about a criminal history check?

Criminal history (police) checks are mandatory for all staff members and volunteers in Australia who have duties that give them access to the care of the aged. The final report recommends a continuation of this practice for all aged care staff members, including key personnel.

An issue with one-off criminal history checks is that they reflect a single point in time. They can't account for current and future behaviour as records are checked up until the date of issue, not after. If a new infringement occurs, the employer may have no way of  knowing it until the next police check is conducted. Aged care providers are currently required to renew criminal history checks every three years.

Fit for purpose screening

When deciding the type and frequency of background screening, providers  may develop policies that cover both the recruitment process and the entire employee lifecycle.

To ensure information about their key personnel is easily accessible for reporting or auditing purposes, records should be streamlined and centralised in a single, secure platform. This includes identification documents, qualifications and multiple check results. A re-screen alert feature is valuable where ongoing compliance is required.

In the absence of a 'one size fits all' method, providers must tailor their approach to the specifics of their organisation. This includes determining which checks are genuinely relevant to the core function of each job role. Also, deciding which convictions or offences should automatically preclude a candidate from a position.

A robust screening framework provides a sound basis for helping providers know whether the responsible people in their workforce are Fit and Proper.

fit2work is Australia's leading provider of background screening checks. Use our fast, easy-to-use online screening platform to certify that your new hires and employees are compliant, up to date with screening and fit to work.

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