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

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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