Could red tape kill our Meals on Wheels? 171



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Meals on Wheels staffers who have been volunteering for decades are being increasingly restricted by red tape. A new “one in-all” policy means that even experienced volunteers will be forced to get a police check.

An 82-year-old volunteer who has been preparing Meals on Wheels for 20 years refused on principle to have a police check. At least half a dozen volunteers followed suit, forcing Meals on Wheels leaders to explain their policy.

“We are aware of instances where people are upset (about the police checks) and we have offered to discuss it with them”, explained Meals on Wheels spokesman Peter Neal.

“Under our Commonwealth funding (arrangements) our volunteers are required to have a police check regardless of what their role is”.

“For some years we argued on the basis it should only apply to people who have client contact such as volunteer co-ordinators and client co-ordinators”, he added.

Successive federal governments have accepted this rationale, but now changes at the Department of Social Services has meant that police checks are mandated across the board.

Around 7000 police checks have already been carried out within Meals on Wheels, with several volunteers being “let go” because of past offences. The police checks are free for volunteers, and have taken about one week each to complete.

Mr Neal said that despite this police check policy, volunteer numbers at Meals on Wheels are still healthy.

“We’ve noticed an increase in young volunteers, particularly students, and also a pleasing increase in corporate volunteers in the past couple of years”.

“Places like banks, telcos, accountancy firms, insurance companies and so on release staff for a couple of hours once a month or even once a week to help out”, Mr Neal added.

Do you think charity volunteers should be submitted to a police check? Or is this “red tape” choking charities and simply unnecessary?

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  1. Two minds about this. I can see the reasoning behind it particularly with the people entering homes to deliver the meals. I do not see why the people who prepare the meals need to be checked. They are not going into people’s homes. Are the powers that be scared that one of the cooks will poison the food? This will deter a lot of older volunteers from volunteering and as this article says some of them have left because of this. I think they should have left it like it was. All people delivering meals should have a police check done. All other volunteers should not be forced to agree with a check, if they don’t mind then that is fine.

    3 REPLY
    • Sometimes the kitchen staff are called on to do the delivery if someone doesn’t turn up for their run.

    • The kitchen staff includes paid qualified cooks etc to ensure the food is properly cooked and making sure the volunteers in the kitchen are working to health standards.

    • If a deliverer or offsider can not attend at the last minute and one of the kitchen helpers has to deliver then they need to have a police check. It’s free so where is the problem. I started delivering meals on wheels in 1979. No problem.

  2. I guess given that they are preparing food for people and the fact some may also be delivering the food into homes with people with special needs, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  3. Guilty until proven innocent

    1 REPLY
    • No Stuart, common sense really. There have been many incidences of abuse of the vulnerable in the past and this is a step to reduce the incidence. I was a healthcare worker and had to have them myself. It was never an issue with me.

  4. I work as a volunteer in an op shop and prior to starting I had to have a Police check. It didn’t bother me at all. It’s no big deal this is common practice these days and I for one would want there to be checks on people especially where they are entering people’s homes or even interacting with them in certain cases. Sadly there are people out there who are unsuitable in some circumstances. Too late once something untoward happens.

  5. I agree that a police check is warrented, given that they are going into very vulnerable peoples’ homes; however I think that those who’ve been ‘let go’ due to issues that occurred in their distant past is a bit heavy handed. Surely, if they’ve had no further convictions it should be accepted that they have become good citizens.

  6. You have to have a police check for any type of volunteer work now. I had to have one for Working with Children and it also covered all types of volunteer work. I believe it is a good thing.

    1 REPLY
    • I volunteer for RSPCA Qld, and have not had a police check.

  7. Why ? Nothing happened years ago , are they saying that people from today can’t be trusted , don’t get it

    6 REPLY
    • There have been many incidences of abuse in the past , including sexual abuse. Surely it is better to lessen the chances of it happening? As a healthcare worker I was had police checks every time I changed job. No big deal.

    • I’m assuming that it’s the same as the health dept checks. Serious driving offences, drug charges, sexual offences and theft.

    • Its all bullshit and even though I have no convictions of any kind I would refuse a police check on the grounds that people have all gone crazy with PC and fucking bureaucracy wants to control us all from cradle to grave and I’m sick to death of the bullshit every one has to face every fucking day of their lives , thank god I’m at the ending end

    • Don’t you know all these volunteers are potential terrorists committed to killing their customersHow stupid can the Australian Government be? Oh that’s right…….silly question.

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