Vetting and barring scheme

As part of the coalition agreement, the government committed to reviewing and reforming the vetting and barring scheme and criminal records regime and scaling it back to common sense levels.

The government announced provisions to revise its vetting and barring arrangements, to ensure fair and proportionate regulation of those who want to work with vulnerable groups.

Mason report

As part of these plans, Sunita Mason the independent advisor on criminal records management has presented two reports, called 'A common sense approach' - phase one and phase two.

In December 2011, the government responded to the recommendations of the phase two report.

What was the vetting and barring scheme?

The vetting and barring scheme (VBS) had been created to help safeguard children and vulnerable adults, by introducing new measures including monitoring and registration requirements following the Bichard inquiry. 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. Following a thorough review in February 2011, a number of its recommendations have been built in within the Protection of Freedoms Bill.

The key changes include:

  • maintaining a barring function
  • abolishing registration and monitoring requirements
  • redefining the scope of 'regulated activities'
  • abolishing 'controlled activities'

The provisions also mean that the services of the Criminal Records Bureau and Independent Safeguarding Authority will be merged and a single, new non-departmental public body created. The new organisation will be called the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The planned operational date for the DBS is November 2012.

Disclosure and barring services

The government has made commitments to improve disclosure and barring services by scaling them back to 'common sense levels', while ensuring a continued service to help safeguard children and vulnerable adults by those who work or volunteer with them, but that they operate in a way which reduces the burden on employers and better respects the civil liberties of the individual. 

Business as usual continues

Until the Protection of Freedoms Bill receives royal assent and decisions are made on when specific measures are implemented, the safeguarding regulations introduced in October 2009 continue to apply, including the following:

  • a person who is barred by the Independent Safeguarding Authority 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 that knowingly employs a barred individual to work with children or vulnerable adults  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 refer this information to the Independent Safeguarding Authority

The Criminal Records Bureau will continue to be responsible for the disclosure of criminal records and the Independent Safeguarding Authority for the barring function.

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