Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 12:56 UK

Q&A: Vetting and barring scheme

CRB office
Checks will be carried out on millions of employees

The head of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority, Sir Roger Singleton, has published his review of the government's controversial Vetting and Barring scheme to assess those working with children.

What is the vetting scheme?

It is a scheme that has been created to help prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults and it runs alongside the Criminal Records Bureau.

The new Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland was created as a response to the murders of two schoolgirls by school caretaker Ian Huntley in Soham, Cambridgeshire, in 2002. It is designed to close loopholes that allowed inappropriate people to work with children.

A separate but aligned scheme is being introduced for Scotland next year.

The scheme bars unsuitable people from working with children or vulnerable adults, by making it a criminal offence for them to do so, and it vets those that apply.

It covers a wide range of posts - including most NHS jobs, Prison Service, education and childcare. Employers also face criminal sanctions for knowingly employing a barred individual across a wider range of work.

What came before?

The system replaces the three current barring lists in England and Wales (Protection of Children Act (PoCA) List, List 99 - the list of those prohibited from working with children in education- and the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (PoVA) List) with two new barred lists administered by the Independent Safeguarding Authority rather than several government departments.

Mark Easton
The government's Vetting and Barring Scheme is a child of moral panic
Mark Easton
BBC's home editor

In Northern Ireland it replaces the Disqualification from Working with Children (DWC) List, the Unsuitable Persons List (UP List) and the Disqualification from Working with Vulnerable Adults (DWVA) List

The Scottish scheme places the onus on the employer or organisation to make sure vetting is carried out - individuals will not be held responsible.

Anyone barred in any part of the UK will also be barred from working with children and vulnerable adults anywhere else.

The scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was launched on 12 October 2009 and is being phased in. Individuals will be able to apply to register from July 2010. Registration and the checking of people's status will be mandatory from November 2010.

How does it work?

If you work or want to work with children or vulnerable adults you will need to apply to be registered with the ISA. There is a one-off £64 fee for those seeking employment.

You can apply for registration through your employer, if you have one, or if you are applying for a job, through your prospective employer. If you are self-employed - as a childminder, for example - you will need to apply yourself.

Priority is given to anyone working with children who has not had a Criminal Records Bureau check. They have to register by July 2010.

In the next wave are new starters and those seeking new jobs who have to register by November 2010.

If someone is working with children and have already had a CRB check, they will still need to apply for ISA registration by January 2011.

So the scheme covers teachers, private tutors and sports coaches but also people such as doctors and nurses, opticians and dentists and taxi drivers on education contracts.

A statutory body, established by Parliament, called ISA, takes the decisions on who should and should not be barred.

This has a board of 10 members with expertise in safeguarding, chaired by Sir Roger, and more than 200 caseworkers/decision makers.

They make their decision after assembling information from the police national computer, employers, local authorities, voluntary organisations, professional bodies such as a the General Teaching Council.

Some people who volunteer with children or vulnerable adults also have to apply but they do not have to pay to be registered.

Much of the focus has been on how volunteers are affected. Which sorts of volunteers have to apply?

Volunteers who are defined as having frequent or intensive contact with children will need to be registered.

Following Sir Roger's review, frequent is now defined as contact that takes place once a week or more often with the same children. This was previously defined as an activity that happened once a month.

Intensive is now defined as contact that takes place on four days in one month or more with the same children or overnight. Previously this was defined as three times in every 30 days or overnight - between the hours of 2am and 6am.

As such someone volunteering with a class on behalf of a sports club or a charity, for example, on a weekly basis has to be registered with the scheme. They will not have to pay to register.

But someone who went in to a school to help different classes with reading a couple of times a year would not have to register.

Parents making informal arrangements to give lifts to children to and from school, for example, will not have to be vetted.

What other changes did Sir Roger make?

He said individuals going into different schools or similar settings to work with different groups of children should not be required to register unless the contact with the same children is frequent or intensive

Exchange visits of 28 days or less have been exempted from the scheme. But only where the responsibility for the selection of the host family is accepted by the overseas parents. This is because this will now be regarded as a private arrangement.

Overseas visitors bringing their own groups of children to the UK, such as to international camps or the Olympics, are to have a three months' exemption from the requirement to register.

The minimum age for registration has been raised to 18. So young people aged 16, 17 or 18 year olds in education, who volunteer to work with other pupils will not have to register.

How will it work - can anyone check an ISA registration?

No, all information held by the ISA about individual applications and cases will be secure.

Prospective employers, whether they are individuals or organisations, are only able to check whether a person is ISA-registered if they have the explicit consent of the individual, along with a unique reference number and other personal data.

A feature of the scheme is that the status of individuals will be continuously updated on receipt of new information, such as convictions or referrals from employers. The registration lasts for life.

So who and what is deemed unsuitable?

Anyone who engages in conduct that endangers a child or vulnerable adult - or is likely to endanger them - by causing physical, sexual, emotional or financial harm.

This includes having sexual material relating to children or depicting sexual violence against people, or conduct of a sexual nature involving a child or vulnerable adult if the ISA thinks it is inappropriate.

Some practices will result in automatic barring. Others are deemed to represent a very probable risk of harm but not necessarily in every conceivable case - so people will get a chance to make representations to the ISA.

Does it replace CRB checks?

The picture appears to be somewhat confused and it is one that Sir Roger has asked, in his report, the government to clarify.

Home Office guidance says that the ISA will prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults.

It also says the CRB will continue to support employers, by providing them, through CRB checks, with access to an individual's full criminal record and other information so that they can asses their suitability for a particular post or position.

If this is what the ISA is doing, it begs the question why would head teachers, for example, want to carry out a further CRB check.

But there does appear to be an on-going statutory requirement for CRB checks to be carried out and this is what Sir Roger asks the government to reconsider.

Is there an appeal against barring?

Yes, via the UK-wide Upper Tribunal .

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