Suitability register ‘will meet concerns’

    The government has insisted that the proposed scheme for
    preventing unsuitable people from working with children will be
    more than just a register of banned individuals.

    Following last year’s inquiry into how Ian Huntley obtained his job
    as a school caretaker, Sir Michael Bichard recommended the
    introduction of a system identifying all those suitable to work
    with children.

    But the government announced earlier this month that a licensing or
    card scheme would be unworkable and unaffordable due to the sheer
    scale and complexity of the workforce.

    Althea Efunshile, director of the safeguarding children group at
    the Department for Education and Skills, said the government’s
    proposed alternative system would meet all of Bichard’s
    requirements. The system would be “comprehensive” and prevent those
    who are known to be unsuitable gaining access to children or
    vulnerable adults through their work, she said.

    Key features of the scheme, which is still being developed, include
    suitability judgements made before employment, immediate
    notifications of new offences and allegations, and immediate
    updates to employers of any change in the barred status of an
    individual.

    Significantly, the scope of the scheme would also be extended to
    cover categories previously exempt, such as those employed directly
    by parents or personal employers. These would include nannies and
    carers employed under the direct payments scheme.

    Efunshile said the government hoped a bill would be ready by
    November, and that the whole scheme would be in place by early
    2007. The changes will “require primary legislation and significant
    resources to deliver”, she added.

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