ISA considers simplification of vetting

date.png Thu 29th Oct time.png 13:33 [Tag] Safeguarding

In an interview with The Guardian, Sir Roger Singleton, the chairman of the Independent Safeguarding Authority, said it would be "foolish to blindly ignore" the wave of public concern about the Vetting and Barring Scheme amid fears it could deter people from volunteering for traditional activities. He was reviewing, for example, whether host parents of pupils staying as part of a school exchange trip should have to register. They do under the current rules as they provide overnight care.

ISA considers simplification of vetting rules

The government's chief adviser on child safety is preparing to recommend changes to who will need to register under the Vetting and Barring Scheme The Guardian Kable, Monday 26 October 2009 11.35 GMT 
In an interview with The Guardian, Sir Roger Singleton, the chairman of the Independent Safeguarding Authority, said it would be "foolish to blindly ignore" the wave of public concern about the Vetting and Barring Scheme amid fears it could deter people from volunteering for traditional activities. Singleton revealed that the Department for Children, Schools and Families had received a "stream" of letters criticising the scheme but said he remained "absolutely committed" to preventing unsuitable people from working with children. 

Last month the children's secretary, Ed Balls, asked Singleton to undertake a review of aspects of the scheme after it emerged that some parents who regularly ferried children to football matches faced fines of £5,000 if they failed to register. While refusing to be drawn on the likely recommendations of his review, which is due to report in December, Singleton revealed what he described as the "direction of travel of my mind". "I would try to aim for legislation in totality that was simpler. This is quite a complex piece of legislation, although its objectives are relatively straightforward," he said. The thrust of public comment in recent weeks was a request for "common sense and local application", said Singleton. 

The scheme, which launched two weeks ago and is being phased in over five years, is designed to keep track of people whose actions towards children or young people have caused concern among employers or voluntary groups, and prevent them moving elsewhere and offending again. Doctors, dentists, opticians and others whose job brings them into regular contact with children will have to register, paying what is currently a £64 administration fee. So too will people involved in voluntary activities with children, though the fee is waived. Singleton indicated that his view was that the government should not regulate "sensible and responsible arrangements" by parents for their children. However, he drew a distinction where arrangements were made by a school or club and parents may not have been involved in the decision. 

He said most parents would expect that where a school or club was providing facilities adults should have been screened to ensure there was no known reason for them not to work with children. The range of questions coming into the DCSF suggested the scheme in its present form was not clear, Singleton added. "Once you have a broad approach then immediately you are on the receiving end of a whole range, thousands of questions, on what about this and what about that? … And obviously you cannot have legislation that is woolly. You have to be clear about whether you are breaking the law or not." The seeming complexity of the rules has drawn criticism. Currently if a volunteer group, school or club asks a parent to drive children to a venue as a one-off, the parent is exempt. But if it is part of a "regular and predictable" activity, they must register. However, if a group of parents draws up the driving rota, they do not have to register. Balls has asked Singleton to examine whether the government has "drawn the line in the right place". 
He was reviewing, for example, whether host parents of pupils staying as part of a school exchange trip should have to register. 
They do under the current rules as they provide overnight care.


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