Research report on effectiveness of pre-employment screening

26 February 2015

The Royal Commission has released a report that examines issues related to the effectiveness of pre-employment screening in preventing child sexual abuse within institutions.

Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said the report, prepared by the Parenting Research Centre and the University of Melbourne, makes valuable findings which will be used to shape the Royal Commission’s final recommendations.

“The Royal Commission was set up to investigate where systems have failed to protect children, a core area of our work is also recommending ways to improve them,” he said.

The report summarises evidence on the effectiveness of pre-employment screening practices.

“Research on current employment screening practices helps us better understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to checking people who apply to work with children,” Mr Reed said.

“We have used this research to inform our draft consultation paper on Working with Children Checks, which is currently with Children’s Commissioners and Guardians for comment before the Royal Commission releases its report on this topic in May."

“Effective pre-employment screening practices are just one piece of the puzzle that can help prevent child sexual abuse from occurring in the first place.”

Researchers found that criminal background checks are an important component of pre-employment screening and are most effective when used with other safeguards, such as thorough reference checks and verification of the applicant’s identity, employment history and qualifications.

Read the full report.

About the report

Scoping Review: Evaluations of pre-employment screening practices for child-related work that aim to prevent child abuse

Key findings include:

  • Criminal background checks appear to be universally considered an important component of pre-employment screening practices.
  • Criminal background checks are most effective when combined with other pre-employment screening practices including:
    • thorough reference checks including direct questions about any concerns regarding the applicant's suitability to work with children
    • structured employment interviews with a focus on determining the applicant's suitability to work with children
    • checks against other sources of information on suspected or substantiated child abuse, for example child abuse registries, Children's court decisions, disciplinary body proceedings
    • critical examination of an applicant's employment history and/or written application
    • verification of the applicant's identity using, for example, photo-based documents or finger-printing
    • verification of the applicant's education and/or qualifications.
  • Given the methodological difficulties in measuring the effect of pre-employment screening on rates of child sexual abuse it is not surprising that the review did not identify any rigorous evaluations of these practices.

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