It’s just too easy to escape the list

On 26 July the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (Pova) list of
people who are banned from working with vulnerable adults came into
force, and on that date my organisation – Ealing Consortium – made
its first referral. But I wonder how many abusers will slip through
the net.

People about to be appointed to a care position involving regular
contact with vulnerable adults are now to be checked against the
list. But only if they have applied to work in a care home or with
a domiciliary care agency.

There will be no such checks for NHS staff as it is claimed that
this would create “disproportionate and unnecessary resource and
administrative burdens”. Yet the scheme creates similar burdens for
smaller employers, especially where there is a high turnover or
regular use of temporary staff.

Staff in the NHS and day centres will not be checked on
appointment, and people known to have abused users of these
services cannot be referred to the Pova list – so they can still
move around the care sector. The Department of Health plays down
these faults, instead it promotes good recruitment practice in
taking up references and carrying out ID checks. If this always
worked, we would not need the Pova list at all.

It’s likely that most people referred to the Pova list will have
been dismissed since 26 July because they harmed, or put at risk of
harm, a service user in a care home or in domiciliary care.
However, in making our 26 July referral, we used a provision that
enables, but does not require, employers of care workers to refer
people dismissed before that date.

The referral went like clockwork. Within four days the person was
provisionally listed. The listing will be confirmed or cancelled
once the person’s comments have been considered – we expect it to
be confirmed. But if at that time the person is working with
vulnerable adults, their current employer will not be tracked down
and told. And if the person goes to work in a day centre or the
NHS, no one will know about their past. Imagine the tabloid
headlines when a known and listed abuser does it again.

Nigel Turner is chief executive of Ealing Consortium, a
provider of supported housing services for people with learning
difficulties across west London.

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