Vetting: safeguarding registration rules scaled down

Social care staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will only have to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority if they come into contact with service users at least once a week, ministers said today.

The government has accepted all the recommendations of Sir Roger Singleton’s review of the ISA’s vetting and barring scheme, including changes to the requirements for background checks on individuals.

The scheme will replace the POCA and POVA lists from November 2010, after which all professionals and volunteers will be required to register with the ISA if they come into contact with children or vulnerable adults at least once a week.

‘Relationship of trust’

It will apply to about 9m adults, including most of the estimated 1.8m social care workforce in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The total is 2m fewer than first suggested because the original proposals covered adults coming into contact with children once a month.

The requirement to register should only apply “if the contact is sufficient to allow a relationship of trust” between the staff and service user. The new once-a-week rule would be more “appropriate for the broad range of customary work with children”, Singleton said in his report.

The review by Singleton, the chair of the ISA and the government’s chief adviser on the safety of children, was commissioned by children’s secretary Ed Balls. It followed widespread concerns about the degree of contact with children that would have to be made to trigger the requirement to register.

Volunteers deterred

Media reports warned that parents who give other children lifts to activities would be affected, and that the scheme would deter people from volunteering.

Singleton said two tests should be used to decide whether people should have to register: the “frequent contact” test, when work with children takes place once a week or more; and the “intensive contact” test, when the work takes place on at least four days in one month, or overnight.

Balls said he recognised the need to “draw the line in the right place” so that the government “does not interfere in private arrangements that are rightly made between friends and family”.

Single agency

“The changes we are making today mean children will be safe but the system will not be overly burdensome.”

Registration will be open to new staff and volunteers from July 2010.

The ISA was established following an inquiry into the murders in 2002 of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by Ian Huntley, a school caretaker. This recommended the creation of a single agency to vet all individuals who wanted to work with or volunteer with vulnerable people.

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