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Vetting and Barring

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 20 January 2009

Following the coming into force of secondary legislation made under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and debated and approved by Parliament, I can confirm that from today new arrangements come into effect which mean the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) will from now take barring decisions on new referrals under the current barring schemes. This is a further important step towards the full implementation of the new vetting and barring scheme which is being established under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.

The safety of children and young people is our top priority. Today’s transition is an important part of our reforms to ensure we have the toughest ever vetting and barring system for all those working with, or seeking to work with, children and vulnerable adults.

Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA)

The ISA was formally established in January 2008 to take forward transitional and preparatory work in readiness for the new vetting and barring scheme. The ISA is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Home Office. Chaired by Sir Roger Singleton, the ISA will be responsible for making all barring decisions under the new vetting and barring scheme, to be established by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. This scheme will replace the current List 99, Protection of Children Act (PoCA) list, the Disqualification Orders handed down by the courts, and the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (PoVA) list with new lists barring individuals from working with children and vulnerable adults.

On 17 March 2008, I reported that, as part of the transition, we would begin to transfer the administration of List 99 casework to the ISA, which, since 31 March 2008, has advised the Secretary of State on the barring decisions, under the provisions of paragraph 1 of schedule 8 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act.

From today, under transitory provisions, the ISA will receive all new referrals made under the current barring schemes—List 99, PoCA, and PoVA—on safeguarding grounds and consider these cases for possible inclusion on the lists maintained by the ISA for barring individuals from working with children or vulnerable adults. In cases where action has been taken to consider a case before 20 January 2009, the decision will remain with the Secretary of State. The ISA will also be responsible for automatically including all individuals on the barred lists who have committed relevant offences, defined in regulations that were approved by Parliament in December 2008.

In addition to considering new referrals the ISA must, in accordance with statutory instruments which came into force on 7 April 2008, include, or consider including, in the new barred lists all those individuals who are barred under the current schemes. It is our intention that, where possible, this work will be completed before the new vetting and barring scheme is in place.

Progress on List 99

I would also like to update the House on progress on List 99 further to my statement on 17 March 2008.

Amended List 99 regulations came into force on 28 February 2007. These regulations extended the range of offences that will result in automatic inclusion on List 99 to include cautions as well as convictions for sexual offences against children. These changes have ensured that anyone aged 18 or over who is convicted of, or cautioned for, a relevant offence from 28 February 2007 will be automatically included on the list regardless of whether there is evidence that they have been in previous employment in the education and children’s work force.

The regulations have been implemented vigorously and effectively since they came into force.

In my statement of 17 March 2008, I reported that, as at 13 March 2008, the number of individuals on List 99 was 8,036. As at 19 January 2009 the total number on List 99 is 12,992. The vast majority of the further increase in the number of individuals on List 99 is as a result of the implementation of the amended List 99 regulations that came into force on 28 February 2007.

In my March 2008 statement I also reported further progress made in following up the commitment made on 19 January 2006 by the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly), to ask Sir Roger Singleton to examine cases where Ministers or officials had decided since 1997 not to include individuals on List 99 where there were sexual offences that indicated a risk of harm to children. I also reported that my predecessor had decided to extend this examination to include all cases where there were sexual allegations between 1997 and 2005, in addition to all cases involving sexual offences or allegations before 1997. The aim of this was to establish whether any individual posed a risk of harm to children and if any action should be taken.

This important and painstaking work has been given the highest priority. In total 2,560 relevant case files have been reviewed by Sir Roger Singleton’s panel 1,741 of these files were from the period 1940 to 1997 and 819 were cases from the period 1997 to 2005. In my statement of 17 March 2008 I reported that as a result of the panel’s examination of these cases, and further information gathered from the police, 46 individuals had been barred. This work is nearing completion and the number of individuals who have been barred has now increased to 50.

I am extremely grateful for the work of Sir Roger Singleton who has continued to advise me on these cases.

I am also particularly grateful for the assistance of the police in providing information on individuals who have committed relevant offences to my officials in order that barring can be undertaken.

I am also grateful to the ISA for their advice on List 99 cases and wish them every success in the next phase of this vitally important work.

A Home Office Minister will make a statement to the House in due course on the ISA’s work and progress towards the implementation of the new scheme.