In a recent bulletin from the Home Office on the Protection of Freedoms Bill, an update was given on the changes to the Vetting & Barring Scheme and to criminal records checks.
On 11th February 2011, the Protection of Freedoms Bill was introduced into the House of Commons and it is currently being reviewed by a number of consultants as it moves towards 'Report Stage'.
The Bill offers changes to the Vetting and Barring Scheme and criminal records checks, including:
- scrapping registration and continuous monitoring
- scrapping controlled activities
- enabling those with convictions for consensual sexual relations between men aged 16 or over (which have since been decriminalised) to apply to have them disregarded
The last bullet point is proposed for England & Wales only, though the criminal records check changes and ISA safeguarding changes will for the most part be mirrored in Northern Ireland.
Other issues were discussed at a recent reading of the Bill, including barring information not being provided on certificates for persons not engaged in regulated activity, and checks on those under 16 years of age in England & Wales.
Discussing 'regulated activity', the bulletin highlighted “The Government does not consider that it is proportionate to require or allow barred list checks on activities that are currently in regulated activity but will not be within the revised scheme, for example, supervised volunteers in schools or activities which entail incidental contact with children or vulnerable adults or work that is ancillary to, or supports others, for example, a hospital cleaner or a caterer within a Further Education college."
On the subject of those under 16 years of age, the bulleting states “this proposal responds to criticism of checking and providing certificates for those aged 15 and under. By no longer issuing certificates, there will be a more proportionate approach to this age group."
The Government has agreed to a number of changes to the original Protection of Freedoms Bill, including:
- The merging of the Criminal Records Bureau and the ISA. This new organisation will be called the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS)
- Extending regulated activity to those working with 16 / 17 year olds
- The police and/or the Prison and Probation Service will have access to barring information if they need it
- In England & Wales, changes will be made to disputes procedures. Where non-conviction information is contained on an enhanced CRB check, an independent element can be brought in to make the final decision on whether such information should be disclosed. The Independent Monitor from the Criminal Records Bureau will review the information, seek a view from the police and then make the decision.
These changes will not be finalised until the Protection of Freedoms Bill receives Royal Assent. Once this has been granted, the Government will notify us when the agreed changes will take effect. The final Bill is expected in Spring 2012.
If you need any advice regarding criminal records checks and the changing legislation, please call us on 01443 799 900.