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Scotland presses on as Vetting & Barring Scheme is put on hold

The UK government’s decision to place the planned Vetting & Barring Scheme (VBS) on hold for England, Northern Ireland and Wales has been swiftly followed by confirmation that a similar initiative in Scotland is to go ahead from 30 November 2010.

Voluntary registration with the VBS outside of Scotland was due to start on 26 July but will now be halted to allow for a remodelling of the scheme to what the government described as “common sense levels”. Short-term the change means independent social workers will not have to pay the £64 fee to register in England or Wales, or £58 if they live in Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, however, a new scheme aimed at strengthening protection for vulnerable groups is set to commence on 30 November 2010, children’s minister Adam Ingram revealed on 29 June. Confirming the launch date for the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (PVG Scheme) he also announced the publication of a number of guidance and training materials [visit http://www.disclosurescotland.co.uk/pvg_index.html for details]. The Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (PVG Scheme) is a new membership scheme that will replace the current disclosure arrangements for people who work with vulnerable groups.

During the first year after the PVG Scheme goes live, it will only be available to those who are joining the vulnerable groups’ workforce for the first time, moving posts, or whose employment circumstances have changed. Existing members of the vulnerable groups’ workforce will then be phased in over a three-year period. The phasing in period is expected to commence towards the end of 2011, subject to legislation in the Scottish Parliament.

In Scotland news of the plans to scale back the VBS in other parts of the UK were broadly welcomed as offering a chance to introduce a more ‘proportionate’ model closer to the Scottish PVG Scheme.

A number of other related reforms introduced in England, Northern Ireland and Wales in October 2009 remain in place, however. Organisations that are engaging individuals to work in regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults should continue to use their existing safeguarding practices, including the use of enhanced CRB disclosures where these are required by law or regarded as appropriate by employers [see summary below].

A summary of the changes still in place as a result of the formation of the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) last year.

 

  1. It is now a criminal offence for barred individuals to apply to work with children or vulnerable adults in a wider range of posts than previously. Employers also face criminal sanctions for knowingly employing a barred individual across a wider range of work.
  2. The previous barring lists have been replaced by two new barred lists administered by the ISA rather than several government departments. Now, checks of these two lists can be made as part of an Enhanced CRB check.
  3. Additional jobs and voluntary positions are covered by the new regulations, including moderators of children’s internet chat rooms and large numbers of NHS and justice sector staff.
  4. Employers, local authorities, professional regulators and inspection bodies are now under a duty to refer to the ISA any information about an individual where they consider them to have caused harm or pose a risk of harm to vulnerable groups, such as why they stopped, or considered stopping, an individual working with vulnerable groups.