Vetting scheme revised after pressure from heads

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Child safety rules have been revised after pressure from head teachers' leaders to narrow the vetting range.

Sir Roger Singleton has made a series of recommendations on how best to change the rules governing the Government’s Vetting and Barring scheme to ensure it strikes the right balance between offering protection without being overly burdensome.

Although the revised rules have been announced as a reduction in the people who will need to be vetted, the registration list is set to increase each year - with more people being added than are likely to leave.

There had been plans for some 11.3 million adults to be vetted. But after criticism from school leaders the rules on frequency of contact have been eased, reducing this to an estimated nine million.

The amount of contact needed with children before an adult needs to be vetted, in a workplace or voluntary setting, has been changed to at least once a week. In addition, groups such as foreign exchange students are no longer covered by the vetting scheme.

In his report, ‘Drawing the Line,’ Sir Roger confirms that the scheme is right not to intervene in private arrangements made between parents and friends. But where organisations make decisions on which adults should work with their children, the requirement to register should apply if the contact is sufficient to allow a relationship of trust.

Specific recommendations include:

  • individuals should register with the scheme if their work with children takes place once a week or more, rather than once a month, or on 4 or more days a month,
  • individuals who go into different schools or similar settings to work with different groups of children will not be required to register;
  • older pupils participating in work experience and community placement schemes should not have to be registered;
  • overseas visitors bringing their own groups of children will only have to register in relation to the work they do with those children if they are here for 3 or more months; and
  • parents hosting pupils on exchange visits lasting less than 28 says will not have to register where the overseas parents accept the responsibility for the selection of the host family.

Sir Roger Singleton said: "The normal, everyday practical arrangements which parents make with other parents, family members and friends to care informally for their children such as sharing the school run, arranging sleepovers and generally helping each other out are wholly unaffected by the scheme.

“It is when parents hand over to schools, clubs and organisations the responsibility for deciding exactly who should provide the teaching, transport or care that the requirement to register clicks in. Most parents want to be sure that there are no grounds for believing that the adults involved may be a risk to their children.

“However, there has been a great deal of discussion and comment as to who should have to register over the last few months. I believe that once adjustments to the rules have been made, this scheme will provide a good balance between ensuring the need to protect children without being an unnecessary burden.

“I also urge Government to undertake a robust communications exercise to improve the general public’s understanding of the nuts and bolts of the scheme, as well as its intrinsic value in protecting the members of our society who are the most vulnerable and deserve our action to ensure they are kept safe."

Responding to the changes in the scheme, ATL teachers' union leader, Mary Bousted, said: "We still have major concerns about the scheme, particularly the duplication of running a CRB and ISA scheme alongside one another.

"We are unhappy that there is still no right of appeal in person for anyone who is barred by the scheme - this seems to go against the laws of natural justice."