Charities say charge for vetting staff, volunteers will cost in sector where ‘every cent counts’.

Charities and volunteer groups are warning the Government they will have to cut back on their services if a proposed charge on criminal checks goes ahead.

Non-profit organisations such as the Cancer Society, Age Concern, the Blind Foundation and others have asked to be exempted from a proposed $5 to $7 charge for police vetting, which is currently provided at no cost.

They say organisations which provide a public good, depend solely on donations and have a large proportion of volunteer staff should not have to cough up for the service.

A parliamentary select committee began hearing submissions last week on the law change which would allow the Government to charge for police services. Ministers have promised that vetting will be the only service to incur a charge.

Advertisement

Some cash-strapped groups estimated new costs of $5000 to $10,000 a year if they needed to pay for criminal checks.

Cancer Society chief executive Claire Austin said her organisation, which had "extremely limited funds", needed to vet about 1500 people a year for volunteer jobs such as supporting people in the final stages of cancer and driving them to treatment.

In a sector where "every cent counts", the society would face a bill of about $10,500 unless exempted by the Government.

The Blind Foundation said it looked after a large number of children, and under a law change last year it was required to vet all its staff. It estimated a new bill of at least $2500 a year.

The Police Association agreed with the groups. Its members supported moves to reduce the strain on the frozen police budget but believed cost recovery should be limited to private commercial interests.

The bill would give powers to the minister to make exemptions but it's not yet clear how these will be used.

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse could not be reached yesterday, but his predecessor, Anne Tolley, emphasised that the proposed charge was much lower than the $50 to $60 paid for criminal checks in parts of Australia.

The Teachers Council, which is legally required to vet teachers and makes 40,000 checks a year, also opposed the bill.

Acting director Rob McIntosh said vetting was one of the police's core functions and it should not be considered an additional service such as dealing with lost and found property or running the Police Museum.

He said police vetting of teachers was one of the key tools for protecting children and young people.

Criminal checks

• Between 450,000 and 500,000 criminal checks a year

• Estimated cost to police of $2.2 million

• Some organisations, such as those that work with children, legally required to vet staff

• Government wants to charge $5 to $7 for checks.