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The Independent Safeguarding Authority

Posted on 26th March 2010
New legislation

On 12 October 2009, increased safeguards called the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) were introduced to help protect children and vulnerable adults from harm by preventing those deemed to be 'unsuitable' from working with them. The scheme was established as a result of the Bichard Inquiry, following the Soham murders that recommended all those people who work with vulnerable groups should be registered.

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Simon Quantrill Simon
Managing Partner Telephone: 01473 688100
To help implement the VBS a new public body called the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) has been created. The ISA is responsible for making decisions over who should be barred from working with vulnerable people and for maintaining two new barred lists (covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland) for the children and vulnerable adults' sectors.

In October 2009 the scope of regulated activity was widened to cover more jobs and voluntary positions - including most National Health Service (NHS) jobs - covered by the barring arrangements. Under the VBS:

  • Anyone wanting to undertake regulated activity with children or vulnerable adults will be required to register with the ISA by law. Regulated activity is defined as working with children or vulnerable adults frequently (once a week or more except in health and social care services when it means once a month or more) or intensively (4 times per month or more with the same vulnerable group, or overnight);
  • Employers will be legally required to check that new employees are ISA-registered. When a person becomes ISA-registered their records will be continuously updated and their status reassessed against any new information which may come to light;
  • Employers can register an interest in an individual's ISA-registration status to be proactively informed of changes in an employee's registration status.
The VBS is just one part of a much bigger framework covering the use of information to support public protection. Improved information sharing across government, police forces, education and health organisations and across international boundaries is vital.

How employees and employers are affected

Obtaining ISA-registration is the employee's responsibility. It is not a difficult or time-consuming process and there is a one-off cost of £64 in England and Wales and £58 in Northern Ireland. In England and Wales, ISA-registration for unpaid volunteers is free. In Northern Ireland, registration is also free if you are entitled to disclosure certificates free of charge from AccessNI.

There is a single registration form to complete, covering working with children and with vulnerable adults. Once successfully ISA-registered, an individual is registered for life in most cases and does not need to reapply. For employers wanting to hire that person they will need to first check their registration status. This can be done online for free. Only then, when a candidate's ISA-registration has been confirmed, can they be taken on. At first, the Scheme will affect new employees and volunteers only. Over time, the registration process will be phased in to include current employees and volunteers.

Has the VBS started yet?

Yes, from October 2009 you must not knowingly employ in regulated activity, or use as a volunteer, a barred person. If you employ people or use volunteers in regulated activity and subsequently dismiss or cease using them because you think they have harmed or pose a risk of harm to children or vulnerable adults, you must refer this information to the ISA. The three old lists of people barred from working with children or vulnerable adults (POCA, POVA and List 99 [and equivalent NI lists]) have been phased out and replaced by the two new ISA-barred lists.

What happens next?

From July 2010 all new employees and volunteers, and those moving jobs who want to work with children or vulnerable adults frequently or intensively can register with the ISA.

In general, from November 2010, all new employees and volunteers who want to work with children and vulnerable adults frequently or intensively in a wide variety of settings must be ISA-registered before they can start work. From then it will be illegal to employ people who are not ISA-registered.

From April 2011 people who are already working in regulated activity may apply for ISA-registration. This will happen in phases up to July 2015 and employers will tell people when they should join.

Working with the CRB/AccessNI

The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) is responsible for processing applications for ISA-registration in England and Wales and for maintaining a list of those people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland who are registered with the Scheme. ISA-registration will not replace the CRB disclosure process, but represents an extra level of safeguarding.

AccessNI is responsible for processing applications for ISA-registration in Northern Ireland. In certain settings an AccessNI disclosure may also be required in addition to ISA-registration.

Does this affect me or my organisation?

Organisations or individuals who undertake work in a paid or unpaid capacity with children or vulnerable adults, will be affected by these changes to the law. If your organisation has an HR or a finance department, then those staff should be made aware of the Scheme and the legal requirements around ISA-registration. Smaller organisations, without these departments, must familiarise themselves with the new rules to ensure that they comply with the changes.

For more information about the Vetting and Barring Scheme, who is affected and how, please visit the Disclosure & Barring Service website.

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