Vetting and Barring Scheme Update (VBS)

By admin at October 28, 2010 19:14
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Terms of Reference for the review of the Vetting & Barring and criminal records regime announced.

Following her announcement in June, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has today, 22 October 2010, issued a statement to the House of Commons which confirms the terms of reference for a review of the Vetting & Barring and criminal records regimes to ensure that they are scaled back to common sense levels.

The Written Ministerial Statement reads:

22 OCTOBER 2010

VETTING AND BARRING SCHEME REMODELLING

I announced on 15 June that further implementation of the Vetting and Barring Scheme would be halted pending a review of the scheme. Together with my Rt Hon Friends the Secretaries of State for Education and Health, I am today announcing the terms of reference for this review which we have collectively agreed.

The Review will be thorough and consider afresh the principles and objectives of the scheme and recommend what, if any, scheme is now needed. The Review will be developed by officials working jointly across our three departments and recommendations are expected early in the New Year. In parallel, a review of the criminal records regime will take place, led by the independent Government Advisor for Criminality Information Management, Mrs Sunita Mason. This will be undertaken in two phases and will report firstly on employment vetting systems which involve the Criminal Records Bureau, followed by a report on the broader regime. The terms of reference for this review are also below.

The protection of children and vulnerable adults must be paramount. But we must also ensure that arrangements are proportionate and support a trusting, caring society where well meaning people are encouraged rather than deterred.

THERESA MAY

Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone said:

"While it is vital that we protect the vulnerable, this scheme as it stands is not a proportionate response. There should be a presumption that people wishing to work or volunteer with children and vulnerable adults are safe to do so unless it can be shown otherwise.

"Today we are also announcing a review of the criminal records regime which has developed piecemeal for years and is due for an overhaul to ensure that a balance is struck between protecting civil liberties and protecting the public."

Commenting on the announcement, Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said:

"We have to strike the right balance in safeguarding vulnerable people. The risk of abuse can come from people close to victims not just from paid staff and volunteers. No one can subcontract responsibility for protecting at risk people, we all have a part to play. This review will help strike that balance and to consider afresh whether the scheme is the best way of moving forward."

Children and Families Minister Tim Loughton said:

"Children must be protected when vulnerable and this is everyone's responsibility. Any vetting system should not be a substitute for proper vigilance by individuals and society. At the moment the pendulum has swung too far and threatens to drive a wedge between children and well-meaning adults. Such individuals should be welcomed and encouraged as much as possible, unless it can be shown that children would not be safe in their care."

Further information about the Reviews

Please see the separate sections below for further information about each review

1/ Re-modelling the Vetting & Barring Scheme, including frequently asked questions

2/ The review of the criminal records regime, including frequently asked questions

Business as usual

During the review process, it is business as usual at the CRB, AccessNI and the ISA. Their websites will be updated with any new information. These website addresses are as follows:

CRB/AccessNI
For information relating to the current Disclosure process visit: www.crb.homeoffice.gov.uk or www.accessni.gov.uk You can also contact the CRB Customer Services team on 0870 90 90 811

Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA)
For information relating to referrals and barring decisions : www.isa-gov.org.uk

The latest guidance about the other aspects of the scheme is available via www.direct.gov.uk or www.nidirect.gov.uk/vetting or www.businesslink.gov.uk.

The VBS contact centre can also provide you with guidance if you call them on 0300 123 1111 (this is a lo-call number and will only cost you the same as making a local call).

Stay informed

Over 66,000 employers, charities and voluntary groups have registered an interest in being updated on the Vetting & Barring Scheme, and this newsletter is being circulated as an update to those individuals and organisations. Once the outcomes of the reviews are known this approach will be used to communicate further information.

Therefore if you know anyone else who would like to be kept updated, please forward this newsletter to them and ask that they complete their details on the ISA website (click here) to receive information directly in the future.

How can I feed into the review process?

The Government is committed to ensuring that the Scheme is set at a level which is appropriate to protect both children and vulnerable adults. As with all Government business, organisations are welcome to contact any of the relevant departments to express their opinions.

We therefore welcome e-mails with your comments. Any contributions to the VBS review process should be sent to VBSreview@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk. The Independent Advisor also welcomes e-mails with your comments about the criminal records regime. These should be sent to CriminalRecordsReview@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk Please note that these mail boxes will only be active until 22 November 2010 and that we will be unable to enter into any individual correspondence.

1/ Re-modelling the Vetting & Barring Scheme

Introduction

On 15th June 2010 the Home Secretary announced that further implementation of the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) would be halted pending the remodelling of the Scheme to scale it back to common sense levels. This will ensure that it strikes the right balance between respecting civil liberties and protecting the public.

The terms of reference for this review process have been agreed by Ministers and the proposals for remodelling the Scheme will now be developed by officials working jointly across the Home Office, the Dept for Education and the Department of Health.

Their recommendations are expected early next year. The Review will take account of parallel MOJ reviews of sentencing and rehabilitation policy and of the associated criminal records regime review.

The terms of reference for the VBS remodelling:

In order to meet the Coalition's commitment to scale back the vetting and barring regime to common sense levels, the review will:

  • Consider the fundamental principles and objectives behind the vetting & barring regime, including;
  • Evaluating the scope of the scheme's coverage;
  • The most appropriate function, role and structures of any relevant safeguarding bodies and appropriate governance arrangements;
  • Recommending what, if any, scheme is needed now; taking into account how to raise awareness and understanding of risk and responsibility for safeguarding in society more generally.

Questions and Answers about the remodelling of the VBS

1. Which Government departments are involved with the remodelling of the VBS?

The Department of Health (DH), the Department for Education (DfE) and the Home Office will be working together on the remodelling of the Vetting and Barring Scheme.

2. Why has this taken so long - you halted registration in June?

It was important to ensure that the review was able to consider the fundamental principles and objectives behind the Scheme so that appropriate recommendations could be made to deliver a common sense and proportionate system. It would have been irresponsible to rush out the terms of reference before considering the balance that needs to be struck between preserving civil liberties and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

3. Where or how will the remodelled approach be tested and validated?

Ministers from the three relevant central Government departments will need to consider any recommendations that emerge very carefully. We need to wait for the outcomes of the review before we can comment in detail, but Government is committed to taking a robust and creative stance to ensure that effective, proportionate and affordable arrangements are in place.

In addition to gathering views from key stakeholders during the review itself, Government will present any proposals for changing the current VBS legislation for scrutiny by Parliament.

4. How long will it take to create a new system ?

We expect the review to report within three months so that we can consider recommendations with a view to deciding what, if any, scheme is needed now. Depending on these decisions we may need to introduce primary legislation to ensure that vulnerable groups are adequately protected whilst ensuring that individual civil liberties are maintained. This could take some months.

5. Could the remodelling impact the organisations delivering the Scheme?

Clearly, if the review produces a Scheme which needs to cover substantially fewer people then it would be sensible to look at the roles of the organisations involved. As the NDPB review indicated, we need to consider the outcomes of this review and then consider what would be the right approach.

Whatever the outcome, we will look to ensure that there is no duplication between the bodies and that the processes are as efficient as they can be.

6. Will there need to be new legislation to make changes happen?

The Government will need to carefully consider the need for further primary or secondary legislation. Of course, this aspect cannot be considered until the final outcomes of the review are known.

7. Do we still have to make referrals to the ISA whilst the remodelling is underway?

Yes. Whilst the Scheme is being remodelled existing duties to make referrals to the ISA remain in force. Further information on the duty to refer can be found on the ISA website

8. Is the appeal process fair? Will it change?

We will look at a range of processes including that for appeals and making representations.

9. What is happening to ISA Adult First while all this is happening?

Whilst the remodelling process for the Vetting & Barring Scheme takes place, access to the ISA Adult First service will continue. We will maintain this service until the ultimate scope of the Scheme is finalised and alternative arrangements are in place.

10. Will the remodelling process take into account compatibility with the Scottish Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Legislation ?

Yes. Ministers have kept their counterparts in the devolved administrations informed and officials will continue to work closely together.

2/ The review of the criminal records regime

Introduction

In parallel to the remodelling of the VBS, a review of the criminal records regime will take place, which is being led by the Government's Independent Advisor on Criminality Information Management, Sunita Mason.

This will be undertaken in two phases. Mrs Mason will report in December 2010 on those elements of the current system which impact on the Vetting and Barring Scheme, with a full review of the criminal records regime being completed early next year .

The terms of reference for the Criminal Records Review

The Criminal Records Review will examine whether the criminal records regime strikes the right balance between respecting civil liberties and protecting the public. It is expected to make proposals to scale back the use of systems involving criminal records to common sense levels.

The review will include consideration of the following issues:

In phase 1:

(i) Could the balance between civil liberties and public protection be improved by scaling back the employment vetting systems which involve the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB)?

(ii) Where Ministers decide such systems are necessary, could they be made more proportionate and less burdensome?

(iii) Should police intelligence form part of CRB disclosures?

In phase 2:

1. How should the content of a "criminal record" be defined?

2. Where should criminal records be kept and who should be responsible for managing them?

3. Who should have access to criminal records databases, for what purposes and subject to what controls and checks? To what extent should police intelligence be disclosed?

4. What capacity should individuals have to access, challenge and correct their own criminal records?

5. Could the administration of criminal records be made more straightforward, efficient and cost-effective?

6. Could guidance and information on the operation of the criminal records regime be improved?

7. How effective is the integration of overseas data into the criminal records regime?

Questions and Answers related to the Criminal Records Review

1. Why is the Government undertaking a review of the Criminal Records regime?

We have already announced our intention to review the Vetting & Barring Scheme and scale it back to common sense levels. That will inevitably draw in fundamental questions around the broader issues about the disclosure of criminal records, so we have commissioned this review to look at these issues as well.

2. What issues will the review concentrate on?

Initially, the Criminal Records Review will focus on issues around the extent and demands of the employment vetting systems and the role of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), in particular, what information it should be disclosing and to whom.

As a second phase, this Review will turn to the broader issues, such as the legal definition, storage and management of criminal records. Overall, the aim will be to inform our decisions on the proportionate and effective use of criminal records in supporting public protection arrangements.

3. When will these recommendations be implemented?

Ministers will, naturally, need to consider any recommendations that emerge very carefully, in order to reach balanced judgements based upon the reviews' findings. The timetable for implementing any changes will depend on whether there is a need for legislation.

In the meantime, it should be noted that the CRB continues to provide criminal records checks for employers, within the existing legal framework, and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) will continue to be responsible for decisions to bar those considered unsuitable for work with children and vulnerable adults, until such time as decisions have been made by Government in the light of these two reviews.

4. Why will part two of the Criminal Records Review take longer to complete?

The second element of the review will focus on the broader issues such as the definition, storage and management of criminal records. This will involve consideration of complex questions around the legality and governance of criminal records and who should have responsibility for this. Although Ministers are keen to address the question, it is also recognised that sufficient time is needed to undertake a proper assessment of these complex and interrelated issues.

5. Will the Government accept Mrs Mason's findings?

Although not bound by Mrs Mason's recommendations, as the Government's Independent Advisor, Ministers will consider them carefully before deciding on the best course of action.

6. The Treasury has announced that CRB checks will become portable. What impact will this have on the review?

The review is being undertaken to ensure that the current regime is scaled back to common sense levels whilst ensuring that appropriate measures to protect the most vulnerable in our society are in place. The development of more portable CRB checks should ensure that appropriate checks are in place whilst minimising the paperwork and administration that organisations need to undertake.