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Vetting and barring scheme

In its programme for government, the coalition committed to reviewing the vetting and barring scheme to scale it back to common sense levels. The government has now announced provisions to revise its vetting and barring arrangements, to ensure fair and proportionate regulation of those who want to work with vulnerable groups.

As part of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has unveiled a new scaled back employment vetting scheme and a fundamental reform of criminal records checks as summarised below.

  1. to maintain a barring function
  2. to abolish registration and monitoring requirements
  3. to redefine the requirements of 'regulated activities'
  4. to abolish 'controlled activities'

What is the vetting and barring scheme?

The VBS had been created to help safeguard children and vulnerable adults, following the Bichard inquiry and was designed to check the records of those who wanted to work with vulnerable groups.

Many thought the VBS, while well intentioned, was a disproportionate response to the risk posed by a small minority of people who wished to commit harm to vulnerable people. In June 2010, ministers announced that the planned implementation of the VBS was to be halted, pending a thorough review.

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 sets out a framework for the scope and operation of the vetting and barring scheme.  New primary legislation will amend this to scale back the scheme, in particular, through the abolition of the registration and monitoring requirements and the re-definition of the range of posts to which barring arrangements apply.

Safeguarding regulations continue

The current situation is that the Criminal Records Bureau is responsible for the disclosure of criminal records and the Independent Safeguarding Authority for the barring function.

Both of these functions will be retained when the changes set out in this review are implemented, but economies can be made if we move to a situation where we have one body responsible for pre-employment checking and barring unsuitable people from working or volunteering with vulnerable groups, rather than two.

On commencement of the relevant parts of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, therefore, the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority will merge. In essence, this will combine the criminal records disclosure responsibilities of the CRB, with an independent barring function which is currently the responsibility of the ISA.

However the safeguarding regulations introduced in October 2009 continue to apply. These include:

  • if your organisation works with children or vulnerable adults and you dismiss or remove a member of staff or a volunteer because they have harmed a child or vulnerable adult (or there is a risk of harm), or you would have done so if they had not left, you must tell the Independent Safeguarding Authority
  • a person who is barred by the ISA from working with children or vulnerable adults will be breaking the law if they work or volunteer, or try to work or volunteer with those groups
  • an organisation which knowingly employs someone who is barred to work with those groups will also be breaking the law 
  • if your organisation works with children or vulnerable adults and you dismiss a member of staff or a volunteer because they have harmed a child or vulnerable adult, or you would have done so if they had not left, you must tell the Independent Safeguarding Authority

The Independent Safeguarding Authority

The Independent Safeguarding Authority will continue to carry out its work as an independent decision making body as well as continuing to maintain its two barred lists. They will also continue to accept safeguarding referrals from employers and other regulatory bodies.

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