Better links need to be made between children’s and adults’ protection lists, writes Rebecca Seden

Much of the recent coverage about unsuitable people working with vulnerable groups, seems to have been focused on those working with children.

It is dangerous to assume it is only children who are vulnerable to such abuse. We are currently supporting several adults with learning difficulties who have been abused by those employed to care for them.

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, which is going through parliament, establishes two new lists, one of individuals barred from working with children, and one of those barred from working with vulnerable adults. The children’s list will combine List 99 and Protection of Children Act (Poca) list. We welcome that the link has been made here between social care and education.

The bill is a significant development, but we are concerned that the children and adult barred lists remain separate.

During a Lords debate on the bill, the minister argued that a reason for having separate lists is that some people who abuse adults, for example, financially, are not likely to abuse children as well. So why bar them from the children’s workforce?

We believe that abuse is about power, not age. Those people who abuse vulnerable adults could also abuse children, and vice versa. Therefore, there should either be a single list for all people who are unsuitable to work with vulnerable adults or children, or failing that, there should be a clear duty contained in the bill to consider each barred individual for placement on both lists.

Research by the Ann Craft Trust shows that one in five perpetrators of sexual abuse against older people had previous convictions for sexual offences against children. In some cases professionals saw the linking factor as a belief in the unlikelihood of disclosure, in others the offender was willing to break any moral boundaries.

More links must be made so that all vulnerable people can be safeguarded from abuse.

Rebecca Seden is policy and campaigns officer for Respond, Voice UK, and the Ann Craft Trust

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