Loophole doubts emerge over the barring of staff

Safeguarding campaigners have voiced concerns about a possible loophole in the new system to protect vulnerable people.

The loophole could see people banned from working directly with children and vulnerable adults but still getting jobs that could bring them into contact with such groups.

Under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, all professionals and volunteers with direct and regular contact with vulnerable people need to be registered with the Independent Safeguarding Authority, draft proposals for which were unveiled last week. It will be an offence to employ somebody not registered with the ISA scheme or to carry out proper checks to see whether they have been barred.

Deborah Kitson quote, page 4 - 22 November issueHowever, under the plans, people barred from the ISA register could still be employed in backroom and administrative roles – called “controlled activities” – for organisations operating in the health, education, social care and family court sectors. Controlled activity applies where there is the opportunity for contact with children or vulnerable adults, or to access records or other prescribed information on a frequent basis.

The draft proposals state that controlled activity staff will only be able to work if employers put safeguards in place – these would involve carrying out an enhanced CRB disclosure, a risk assessment and ensuring there are supervision arrangements.

But Deborah Kitson, director of learning disability charity the Ann Craft Trust, said controlled activity positions should be treated no differently to jobs requiring full registration.

“If you’re an employer why would you consider using somebody who is barred to be a receptionist at a vulnerable adults centre for example? If I knew that a barred person was greeting them every day I wouldn’t be very happy,” she added.

As many as 11 million people could be covered by the scheme, with employers and parents able to check that a prospective employee is registered. The ISA is to employ 250 people and be chaired by former Barnardo’s head Roger Singleton. The consultation runs until 20 February.

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