Safeguarding bill promises tighter controls on workforce

Employers of anyone who has regular or close contact with children will face up to five years in prison or fines of up to £5,000 if they fail to adhere to new vetting rules, the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill published last week has revealed.

Under the bill, it will become an offence for both employers and employees working with children not to comply with the new single vetting system.

The system will bring together under the administration of the Criminal Records Bureau the list of people barred from working in schools, known as List 99, and the Protection of Children Act List. A new body – the Independent Barring Board – will be established to take final decisions on who to include on the list, removing the responsibility from government ministers.

Many more employees will have to be checked than at present, including those who have contact with children over the internet or through helplines. It will also be possible for parents to check on privately employed workers, such as tutors, care workers and music teachers.

The long-awaited measures follow several high-profile stories earlier this year about a small number of individuals on the sex offenders register who had been cleared for teaching posts by the Department for Education and Skills. The bill will come into full effect in 2008, some four years after original recommendations were made by Sir Michael Bichard following his inquiry into the employment of Soham murderer Ian Huntley as a school caretaker.

Child protection charity the NSPCC welcomed the bill, but voiced concerns over the potential cost to the voluntary sector.

“The government has incorporated into this important bill many of the changes that we have called for,” said director Mary Marsh. “However, we remain concerned about the level of fee that will be charged for each check as this will be a problem for small voluntary and community organisations.”

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