Last month’s high court decision in proceedings launched by the Royal College of Nursing on behalf of four of its members has exposed a major flaw at the heart of the new barring system introduced just over a year ago. Subject to any appeal, it now appears that the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which is responsible for administering the new regime, will no longer be able to bar workers from working with vulnerable groups automatically if they have been convicted or cautioned for prescribed criminal offences.

The high court has ruled that the current system is incompatible with the Human Rights Act because it automatically bars workers who have been cautioned for, or committed, a range of offences. In all the cases under review representations resulted in workers being removed from the barred list because they clearly posed no threat, but only after they had been unable to work for a number of months. No doubt this decision will be added to the long list of problems with the new regime that the Government review is considering when formulating its recommendations on the future shape of the scheme. These are expected to be announced early next year. In the meantime employers, workers and service providers all face a period of uncertainty.