Scottish Government
Printable version E-mail this to a friend

Extra protection for vulnerable groups

A new scheme that will better safeguard vulnerable groups and end the need for people to complete detailed application forms every time a disclosure check is required was announced yesterday.

The scheme will:

  • Improve on current disclosure arrangements by replacing the need for multiple 'one-off' checks - which currently cost £23 a time - with a system that continually updates relevant information.
  • Ensure that people who become unsuitable during their employment are quickly identified.
  • Allow employers to check records quickly and easily while reducing the time and cost demands on individuals when their circumstances change.

A consultation on key elements of the secondary legislation required to implement the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme was launched today. It is expected the scheme will be introduced before the end of 2010, with implementation being phased in to minimise the administrative burden on individual organisations.

Initial membership will cost £59 with a lower fee of £18 for subsequent records updates - substantially less than in England and less than the existing cost of an enhanced disclosure check and these will be turned around almost instantly.

All PVG Scheme Record Disclosures and Updates will continue to be free for volunteers working in regulated work in the voluntary sector.

Minister for Children and Early Years Adam Ingram said:

"Tragedies such as the Soham murders bring into focus the need to safeguard vulnerable people from the small number of unscrupulous individuals who betray the trust we place in them.

"These reforms will strengthen our ongoing work to support vulnerable children and adults by ensuring those who are unsuitable are not given positions of responsibility while those against whom concerns are raised are detected earlier and are prevented from continuing to work with them. These reforms will produce a more robust but equally a more streamlined system that strikes the right balance between protecting those who need it without hindering those looking to help."

Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland, said:

"We very much welcome the new vetting and barring scheme. This will be a more flexible scheme, reducing the need for individuals to go through multiple vetting checks, while ensuring those who are barred cannot work or volunteer with children or other vulnerable people. As a charity with a large number of volunteers, we particularly welcome the continuation of the free checks for volunteers. Together with robust child protection and safe recruitment strategies, this new scheme will help ensure we have the best possible framework in place to protect children and vulnerable adults."

Carole Wilkinson, Chief Executive of the Scottish Social Services Council, said:

"Safe recruitment of people who work in social services is vital for the public to have confidence in the sector. We understand that once individuals are members of the scheme it will be more straightforward and quicker for them to get subsequent checks. This should help with recruitment of staff. The Act will also mean that employers and any appropriate regulatory bodies will be informed if an individual is being considered for listing as unsuitable to work with children and/or adults and this should contribute to public protection."

Karen Williams, Director of Corporate Service Grampian Police and a lead representative for PVG within ACPOS, said:

"ACPOS is pleased to note the progress that is being made in implementing the scheme. We recognise and welcome the increased levels of public protection that it will offer, through better and more timely sharing and use of vetting information and through greater consistency in decision making, to continue to protect vulnerable groups in our society."

Harriet Dempster, President of the Association of Directors of Social Work, said:

"I am delighted to learn of the new measures which will be put in place to speed up and streamline how we check on people's suitability for working with vulnerable groups. Protecting vulnerable groups is a key priority. This new approach achieves a better balance between protection and practicality, removes the need for multiple checks, reduces the risk of delay and provides workable safeguards which will be welcomed by employers and volunteers."

Ministers are committed to providing up to £53 million to cover the cost of implementing the PVG Scheme. Current estimates put the final cost at £44.4 million which includes £32.7 million in IT development costs. The full cost is being met by the Scottish Government.

Similar changes are being made in England, Wales and Northern Ireland through the Vetting and Barring Scheme - VBS, which will be managed by the Independent Safeguarding Authority in partnership with the Criminal Records Bureau for England and Wales and AccessNI for Northern Ireland. Applicants to that scheme will pay £64 (£58 in Northern Ireland) then will pay £36 (£30 in Northern Ireland) for every subsequent enhanced disclosure (likely to be required whenever an individual takes on a new job).

Membership of the VBS Scheme (which covers the rest of the UK) is compulsory for regulated activity meaning an individual could break the law if they work unwittingly in a job that requires membership. Similar potential problems will be avoided in Scotland as PVG membership is non-compulsory making it impossible for an individual to unknowingly commit an offence. There will be offences for working while barred or for any employer employing a barred person. An employer can confirm someone is not barred by checking they are a PVG Scheme member.

The PVG Scheme is also narrowing the scope of those activities covered by the existing disclosure measures to ensure that only those who have the opportunity to do harm to children or protected adults are covered. For example this would not include private arrangements between parents to give each other's children lifts to school. (Details of the scope of activities are being consulted on in draft secondary legislation.)

The PVG Scheme is fully integrated, allowing employers to order a record update for new employees who are scheme members. This will be cheaper than requesting a new enhanced disclosure and from 2011, will be available on line. In the VBS Scheme, employers will be able to check that a person is a scheme member at no cost, but will need to pay the full enhanced disclosure cost (£36 in England and Wales, £30 in Northern Ireland) if they want to check whether someone has a criminal record.

On-demand webinar: How AI is helping Telford and Wrekin council answer 95% of queries