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New vetting and barring scheme could force employers to alter their hiring practices

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The vetting and barring scheme, launched yesterday, aims to protect children and vulnerable adults by requiring any worker in 'frequent' or 'intensive' contact with either of these vulnerable groups to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority. Those not on the register are barred from these activities.

Many employers stand to have their recruitment practices dramatically altered by the imposition of the new scheme and it is to be hoped that any changes that need to be made will be made quickly and unambiguously to enable employers to properly understand to whom the scheme applies.

The Government announced Sir Roger Singleton was to review the new scheme. His report, entitled Drawing the Line, was released yesterday and suggests some fundamental changes to the vetting and barring scheme. It is thought these changes could affect as many as nine million people.

Nicola Bennison, partner at Eversheds, said: "Sir Roger Singleton's report recommends significant change. For the most part, the recommendations deal with narrowing the scope of those required to register, so reducing the impact of the new scheme. Fundamentally, by way of example, activities with children and/or vulnerable adults are only covered if they are carried out ‘frequently' and ‘intensively'. ‘Frequently' is currently defined in guidance as ‘once a month or more' but the recommendations say that it should be defined as ‘once a week or more'.

"This can be achieved by the Government simply redrafting guidance issued earlier in the year. However, other changes will require amendments to legislation, which has already been enacted. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 currently sets the line for activity to be considered ‘intensive' as more than two days in any period of 30 days and/or overnight. The report recommends that this should change to four days in one month or more and/or overnight. These two changes, when combined, will significantly reduce the scope and impact of the new scheme for affected employers.

Anne Fairweather, head of public policy at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, added:  "We are pleased to see that fewer people will be checked on the scheme as a result of these changes. Our recruitment agency members were concerned that people engaged on very short contracts in schools and hospitals would not want to spend the £64 fee to be registered with the new scheme. This could have led to difficulties around supplying staff for maintenance services such as building contractors.
 
"Now that these changes have been made it is vital that there is clear guidance for all concerned before the scheme goes live in July. No vetting scheme will work unless the duties under the scheme are fully understood by employers, recruitment agencies and workers alike. These duties need to be communicated clearly and we remain concerned that recent developments may have confused rather than clarified the situation."