To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps the Government intend to take to ensure that those disposed sexually to interfere with handicapped children are not appointed to positions in connection with children's welfare or education.
Since 1983 the Department of Health and Social Services has operated a pre-employment consultancy service which enables health and social services boards and voluntary child care organisations to check the criminal background of shortlisted applicants for posts giving access to children in certain child care settings, chiefly children's homes and day-care facilities. The service does not generally extend to posts giving access to children in facilities specifically for the mentally or physically handicapped. However, an interdepartmental working party, representative of the Department of Health and Social Services, the Department of Education and the Northern Ireland Officer, is currently drawing up proposals for a broader vetting system for the statutory sector, covering a wider range of posts, including those giving access to mentally or physically handicapped children. At a later stage consideration will be given to extending the system to the voluntary sector.