by MICHAEL OTTO
Christian social services have voiced their opposition to legislation aimed at recovering the cost for vetting services provided by the New Zealand Police.
The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services made their opposition clear in a submission on the Police (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill before Parliament’s Law and Order Select Committee.
The NZCCSS includes Catholic Social Services.
The bill would enable cost recovery from users for the Police Vetting Service only, not for any other police service that is currently free of charge.
The vetting service is considered by Government to have a degree of “private benefit” to the users of the service.
Police estimate the change would enable recovery of $3.5 million a year. Each check would
cost an estimated $5-7.
The NZCCSS submission pointed out that the current children’s workforce is estimated to be about 370,000 people.
The Government requires all of the workers in this sector to be vetted every three years, the submission stated.
Therefore, “the cost implications are high”.
“With the big influx of additional services, mandated by the Vulnerable Children’s Bill, to have their workforce vetted, this is likely to rise dramatically.
“It is easy to foresee a situation where many more millions are being taken away from the education, health and welfare sectors in order to pay for the vetting services.”
The submission also noted that when NZCCSS members are carrying out their work under
Government contract, these contracts usually require all staff to be vetted by police.
So a better system would see the Government directly fund Police for the cost of regular vetting, especially “for services which are Government funded and for which the Government has created a legal requirement for this vetting to occur”.
“The Police screening process is not conducted in a market situation,” the submission concluded.
“Rather, it is a monopoly exercise largely conducted for service users who are mandated to use the service.”
In 2013, there were more than 450,000 requests for New Zealand Police vetting of employees
and volunteers, from nearly 6000 agencies.
The preamble to the bill noted that the New Zealand Police is “one of the few police services in comparable overseas jurisdictions that does currently have legislation allowing some degree of cost recovery for certain services”.
According to Police, a proposed expansion of criminal history sharing with Australia is likely to increase pressure on the vetting service.
The bill passed its first reading in Parliament by 105-16, with the Green and Maoriarties opposed.
Some Labour and New Zealand First speakers also expressed reservations, but voted to send
the bill to select committee for consideration.
The select committee’s report is due back before the House before June 29.