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More than nine million people working or volunteering with children and vulnerable adults will no longer need to register and be monitored by the state following an overhaul of the checking regime. The government has unveiled plans to scale back the VBS and Criminal Records Regime to common sense levels while ensuring vulnerable groups are appropriately protected.
The proposals, which come after a comprehensive review of the existing system, include: the merging of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) to form a streamlined new body providing a proportionate barring and criminal records checking service; a large reduction of the number of positions requiring checks to just those working most closely and regularly with children and vulnerable adults; portability of criminal records checks between jobs to cut down on needless bureaucracy; an end to a requirement for those working or volunteering with vulnerable groups to register with the VBS and then be continuously monitored by the ISA; and stopping employers who knowingly request criminal records checks on individuals who are not entitled to them.
The government will also keep the scope of CRB checks under review to ensure that they are not disincentivising people putting themselves forward for volunteering. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “The Freedoms Bill will protect millions of people from state intrusion in their private lives and mark a return to common sense government. It delivers on our commitment to restore hard-won British liberties with sweeping reforms that will end the unnecessary scrutiny of law-abiding individuals. “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.”
Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone said: “I came into this department and was immediately struck by the need to look again at the VBS and Criminal Records Regime. “I feel the changes that are now being made strike the balance between our own personal liberties whilst ensuring vulnerable people are protected.”
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said: “Protecting children and keeping them safe remains our top priority, but it’s also important that well meaning adults are not put off working or volunteering with children. “The new system will be less bureaucratic and less intimidating. It will empower organisations to ask the right questions and make all the appropriate pre-employment checks, and encourage everyone to be vigilant.
“This is a common sense and proportionate approach which will ensure that children are properly protected without driving a wedge between them and adults.” Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: “Our plans will create a thorough system of checks that won’t over-burden people with bureaucracy. Vulnerable people and their families will be able to have confidence in the new safeguards, while the doctors, nurses, social care workers and many others who need to be checked will have a more user-friendly system. “I look forward to working with other departments in putting the plans into action. Together we will create a better way of safeguarding some of society’s most vulnerable people.”
The proposed changes will be introduced gradually to ensure a seamless transition. The necessary legislative changes will be included in the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Subject to parliamentary approval, the Bill is expected to become law by early 2012. The new regime would be introduced as soon as possible after this. Registration for the first wave of workers and volunteers with the VBS was halted on 15 June pending the remodelling of the system back to common sense levels. The VBS report makes a number of recommendations including a new streamlined body to provide a national barring system and criminal records disclosure service.
The new scheme will also capitalise on technological developments to provide an online checking function for employers and applicants whilst allowing checks to be transferred easily from one company to another. The review of the criminal records regime was carried out by the independent adviser on criminality information, Sunita Mason. A number of her recommendations are reflected in the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Mrs Mason is now continuing with the second phase of her review, which deals with broader issues relating to the handling of criminal records. The government will make a full response to the whole review once this work is complete. The review sought views from a range of partners and members of the public via the ‘Your Freedom’ website which called for portability of CRB checks from one job to another. This is one of the proposals that will be introduced under the new scheme.
The latest information can be found at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/