Millions of people working or volunteering with “vulnerable adults” and children will no longer need to have their criminal records checked under new government proposals.
The government said it wanted to “scale back” the Labour government’s plans for the vetting and barring scheme (VBS) – which was to cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland – to “common sense levels”.
Last June, the government announced that the planned implementation of the VBS was to be halted, pending a “thorough review”.
Now the government has published its review and has concluded that more of the responsibility for “safeguarding” should be placed on individuals and employers, rather than the state.
Changes to the VBS will be introduced as part of the government’s protection of freedoms bill, which had its first reading on 11 February.
As part of the changes, there will be a merger between the Criminal Records Bureau – the public body that checks people’s criminal records – and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), which decides whether someone is a risk to “vulnerable groups” and should be barred from working or volunteering with them.
Checks will in future be restricted to those working “most closely and regularly” with “vulnerable adults” – defined as those who need support or healthcare services – and children.
Those working or volunteering with “vulnerable groups” will also no longer have to register with the VBS and be continuously monitored by the ISA.
People will also be able to take their checks with them between jobs, through a system allowing for continuous updating of criminal records disclosures that will “cut down on needless bureaucracy”.
Deborah Kitson, director of the Ann Craft Trust, which works to protect people with learning difficulties at risk of abuse, said it “made sense” to reduce the numbers needing checks but that she had concerns about “how far this may be taken”.
She raised concerns about the “portable” CRB checks, and said she would “need to be convinced that the CRB updates referred to are efficient and prompt and so do not leave people at risk”.
Kitson said she welcomed “a balance of responsibility for safeguarding to be shared by the state and the employer” so employers also have to be “diligent in their recruitment and safeguarding strategies”.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said: “We inherited a messy criminal records regime that developed piecemeal and defied common sense.
“Our reviews concluded that the systems were not proportionate and needed to be less bureaucratic.
“They will now be scaled back to sensible levels whilst at the same time protecting vulnerable people.”
17 February 2011