Chaplains in shake-up

SCHOOLS will be able to use Federal Government funds to choose whether to employ a chaplain or a secular youth worker under a major overhaul of the national school chaplains program.

All new chaplains or youth workers employed under the program will also require a minimum qualification of a Certificate IV in youth work.

Existing chaplains must have at least completed the mental health and making referrals units of the course.

The changes, announced by Schools Minister Peter Garrett yesterday, included renaming the scheme the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program.

Previously schools could only use funds to hire a youth worker if they showed that efforts to find an ordained chaplain had failed.

The government also announced it would budget an extra $222 million to expand the scheme by an additional 1000 schools on top of the 2700 schools already involved.

The maximum grants in remote and regional areas will be increased from $20,000 to $24,000.

The changes, to take effect from January, have not appeased Toowoomba man Ron Williams, who has launched a High Court challenge to the scheme.

Mr Williams, whose case was heard in August, said it was "still just as silly an idea as what it started out with".

He said his challenge was 90% about how funding for the program was appropriated and that had not been changed.

Mr Garrett said plans to allow schools to employ secular youth workers with federal funds had been under consideration before Mr Williams' case.

Scripture Union Queensland CEO Tim Mander said he was confident the majority of schools would continue to opt for a school chaplain despite the change.

Scripture Union is the largest employer of school chaplains in Queensland. Fifty of its chaplains are employed on the Coast.

Mr Mander welcomed the clarification of qualifications. He said every SU Queensland chaplain already exceeded the minimum standard.

"It is our hope any new employing authorities wishing to deliver a secular option in pastoral support will uphold the high standards of governance, management, training and supervision already in place within the existing chaplaincy authorities," Mr Mander said.

KEY CHANGES:

  • Schools will be allowed to choose whether they employ a federally-funded chaplain or a secular student welfare worker
  • The program name will be changed to National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program
  • New minimum requirements will be introduced. The minimum qualification will be a Cert IV in Youth Work, Cert IV in Pastoral Care of equivalent
  • All existing chaplains who don't meet new minimum qualification requirements will be required to complete two units on referral and working effectively in mental health
  • The complaints procedures will be amended to strengthen management processes and transparency
  • The program will be expanded to include an additional 1000 schools
  • The maximum grant for schools in remote locations will be increased to $24,000 per year


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