Records relating to vulnerable persons

Public authorities have specific legal and moral responsibilities, including through recordkeeping, to proactively protect the legal rights and entitlements of vulnerable persons.

In particular, you must:

  • keep the best interests of the person uppermost in all aspects of your conduct, including recordkeeping
  • maintain records which may provide evidence for any incidents, allegations, disclosures and investigations relevant to the interaction with vulnerable persons.

The new guidance and disposal authorisations place the protection of children and vulnerable people at its core and highlights the responsibility of institutions to identify and mitigate the risk to vulnerable persons from all forms of abuse.

The creation of complete and reliable records relating to interactions with vulnerable persons is vital to ensure the proactive protection of vulnerable persons and ensure appropriate records are available to support legal claims and redress applications.

It is important that public authorities take a whole-of-organisation approach to consider how your public authority interacts with vulnerable persons as well as to identify what records may be required to document the interaction.

Guideline on creating and keeping records for the proactive protection of vulnerable persons

The Guideline, issued by the State Archivist under section 25(1)(f) of the Public Records Act 2002, applies to ALL Queensland public authorities.

This includes paid staff, volunteers, visitors, contractors and outsourcing arrangements. The advice is also applicable to public authorities that infrequently interact with vulnerable persons.

The guideline provides:

  • advice on the creation and management of reliable and accurate records in relation to:
    • the proactive protection of vulnerable persons, including records of interactions between vulnerable persons and your agency or staff
    • an incident, allegation or disclosure of abuse.
  • guidance on identifying records that may provide corroborating evidence of contact with vulnerable persons in support of an incident, allegation, disclosure and investigation of abuse
  • definitions of who is considered a vulnerable person and the forms of abuse covered by the guideline and relevant disposal authorisations
  • advice on identifying, assessing and mitigating risks relating to interactions with vulnerable persons in order to support their proactive protection
  • sentencing and implementation advice to determine how long to keep relevant records
  • guidance on implementing broader whole-of-government initiatives related to the protection of vulnerable persons.

Note: The advice outlined in this guideline should be considered as an extension of your existing recordkeeping responsibilities under the Public Records Act 2002–not a new set of requirements that your public authority is responsible for adhering to.

The guideline was developed to meet recommendations 8.1 from the Final Report, Volume 8: Recordkeeping and Information Sharing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (RCIRCSA). It also provides a practical response for recommendations 8.2 to 8.4.

The scope of the guideline and disposal authorisation was expanded to ensure coverage was provided for records that may be relevant to the:

  • Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
  • Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

Disposal authorisation for relevant records

The General Retention and Disposal Schedule (GRDS) contains disposal authorisations (1558, 1559 and 1560) for records of:

  • incidents and allegations of abuse–vulnerable persons (1558–keep 100 years after the creation of record)
  • evidence of interactions and contact with vulnerable persons (1559–retain until 31 December 2028, see additional detail below)
  • governance practices (1560–keep permanently).

Disposal authorisation 1558 covers any records relating to incidents or allegations of abuse of vulnerable persons. The temporary retention period:

  • ensures these records are available for a sufficient amount of time to be a source of justice and support for the life of the vulnerable person, and
  • supports the needs and wellbeing of survivors and victims of abuse by protecting the confidentiality of the records, including people's right to be forgotten.

Disposal authorisation 1559 requires all public authorities to retain evidence of interactions and contact with vulnerable persons until 31 December 2028. This applies to interactions a public authority may have with a vulnerable person where there is a higher risk of abuse occurring due to the nature of the interactions.

This recommended retention period allows time for vulnerable persons to request access to records during the course of the National Redress Scheme.

See the Guideline for advice on applying a risk-based approach to identify potentially relevant interactions and records.

Disposal authorisation 1560 applies to the records you create that document the steps your agency takes or has taken to meet your obligations and responsibilities to proactively protect vulnerable persons. These records have been given a permanent retention period as they support government accountability and have ongoing value and interest to the people of Queensland.

See the Guideline and the record classes in the GRDS for full details and lists of example records and exclusions, and for advice on how to apply a risk-based approach to identify potentially relevant interactions and records.

Which schedule to use

If your agency's core retention and disposal schedule contains disposal authorisations that also apply to records of vulnerable persons, you should always apply the longest retention period. For example:

  • if your core schedule says to keep records of incidents for 120 years, versus the GRDS that has a retention period of 100 years–you should use your core schedule
  • if your core schedule specifies records relating to investigations should be kept for 50 years, whereas the GRDS says 100 years–you should use the GRDS.

Note: This applies to records relating to vulnerable persons. For any other records created by your agency that are covered by both your core schedule and the GRDS, your core schedule takes precedence.

Disposal freeze

The disposal freeze issued on 1 June 2018 for all records which are relevant to, or may become relevant to, an allegation of child sexual abuse has now been lifted.

The disposal freeze has been replaced by the following new disposal authorisations in the GRDS:

  • 1558–Incidents, allegations, disclosures and investigations of abuse–vulnerable persons
  • 1559–Evidence of interactions and contact with vulnerable persons
  • 1560–Governance practices for proactive protection of vulnerable persons.

Records covered by this freeze can now be sentenced under one of the new disposal authorisations if they relate to interaction with vulnerable persons.

We strongly recommend you carefully assess these records in line with the guideline and the above disposal authorisations before sentencing and destroying records that were covered by the freeze.

If you determine the vulnerable persons disposal authorisations are not applicable, records can be sentenced as normal under the appropriate class in the GRDS or your agency's core schedule.

More information