A scheme to prevent care workers abusing people such as the elderly and mentally ill is being launched by ministers.
All care home staff will be checked against the register
Under the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (Pova) scheme, people who have abused, neglected or harmed vulnerable adults will be put on a register.
Care home owners and care agencies in England and Wales will have to check those they employ are not on the list.
The measures were welcomed by care homes and charities for the elderly.
However, they do not apply to staff working in the NHS or in day care, which has concerned care professionals.
Care groups estimate that up to half a million vulnerable adults are victims of abuse at any one time.
This could take the form of sexual, physical and financial abuse, neglect and
The scheme will be run by the Department of Education and Skills on behalf of the Department of Health.
Care homes and agencies can already check with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to see if potential employees have any convictions.
But the Pova scheme will also allow them to check if a person is known to have abused, neglected or harmed a vulnerable person.
It will operate in a similar way to police checks already carried out on those wishing to work with children.
There will be two levels of checking.
A "quick check" can be done on a potential employee's current name and address, which will mean employers will have the results within a few days.
This is because home owners - who have to maintain certain staffing levels - were concerned that patients could be put at risk if they were unable to recruit staff because they were awaiting full checks.
Under this option, if no match is found, the employee will be allowed to start work pending receipt of a full CRB report and Pova check - and as long as other supervisory measures are in place.
If results are inconclusive, the employer will be told to await the results of a full investigation of all of someone's names and previous addresses before taking them on.
This will be the kind of check which Pova will usually carry out.
Launching the scheme, Health Minister Stephen Ladyman said: "Together with existing CRB
disclosures, references and other good pre-employment practices, the Pova scheme
will mean that those intent on harming vulnerable adults will find it extremely
difficult to find jobs in care homes and domiciliary care settings."
'Relaxation of rules'
Frank Ursell, chief executive at the Registered Nursing Home Association, said the scheme was "an essential additional safeguard".
Hilary Scott, chair of Action on Elder Abuse, welcomed the scheme but said there was "more to do if vulnerable people are to be protected in all social and health care settings".
Rachael Childs, Health and Social Care Policy Officer for Help the Aged, said the register would be a "step in the right direction" but was concerned about older people receiving care in their own homes.
"The first stage of the Pova register coincides with a relaxation of the CRB checks which may leave some older people vulnerable when receiving care in their own home where most abuse occurs," she said.
"Older people who have care workers coming to their home are in a vulnerable position.
"While the majority of home care workers are excellent, the opportunity for abuse is much greater when staff work on a one-to-one basis with clients in their own homes.
"To truly offer older people a safeguard against abuse Help the Aged call for a rapid introduction of the Pova register for all health and social care teams together with full criminal records checks on care workers."
Sandra Gidley, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on older people, welcomed the scheme, which she said had the potential to combat elder abuse.
But she added: "It is vital that the government extends implementation of the Pova scheme to the NHS as a matter of urgency.
"In failing to integrate the Protection of Children Act and Pova lists the government has missed an opportunity to provide even greater protection for the vulnerable across our society."