The much criticised vetting and barring scheme is to be significantly scaled back under the Protection of Freedoms Bill (the Bill) which is expected to receive Royal Assent by early 2012. The new scheme, said to reduce vetting to “common sense levels”, significantly narrows the definition of a “regulated activity” under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (SVGA) to require that only those in sensitive posts or those who have intensive contact with children or vulnerable people will need to undergo criminal record checks and be cleared. The changes are expected to free a significant number of people from the scheme, and under the new scheme, employers could face fines of up to £500,000 for knowingly or repeatedly demanding inappropriate checks.

The Bill also amends the definition of “vulnerable adults”, alters the test for barring decisions and repeals the regulation of controlled activity and monitoring set out under the SVGA.

The onus will now shift to employers to ensure that employees have passed the necessary checks, and results of the criminal record checks will be sent to the individuals first to allow them to challenge the findings. Minor past offences will no longer be included in the results.  

The Government also plans to merge the Criminal Records Bureau and the Independent Safeguarding Authority to form a new body providing a vetting and criminal records service.