Readers are reminded about certain changes to safeguarding which came into effect on 10 September 2012. By way of a summary, the key changes introduced under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 on that date are as follows:

  • A revised and narrower definition of regulated activity which focuses on unsupervised and regular contact with vulnerable groups. (The Home Office estimates that the new definition will result in a significant reduction (from 9 million to closer to 5 million) of those needing to be checked against a barred list before being permitted to work with vulnerable groups.)
  • The previous category of "controlled activity" (in respect of which a barred list check was required) has been abolished.
  • The registration and continuous monitoring schemes originally envisaged (but never implemented) under the Vetting and Barring Scheme have been abolished and will not, therefore, come into force at all.

Independent schools, as a provider of regulated activity, must still make appropriate referrals to the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) in relation to anyone who has been dismissed or removed from a regulated activity role (or would have been dismissed or removed if they had not already left) because they have harmed or pose the risk of harm to a vulnerable group (including children). Failure to do so still amounts to a criminal offence, as does knowingly engaging a barred person in regulated activity. This means that schools must still check if any individual being employed or engaged to undertake regulated activity is not barred by doing the appropriate barred list check (alongside an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.

The activities and work which have now been taken out of regulated activity following the recent change to the definition will still be eligible for enhanced CRB checks (but they will no longer be eligible for barred list checks).

As reported in a previous edition of Assembly, the Disclosure and Barring Service will replace the CRB and the ISA from December 2012.

Further changes to safeguarding are scheduled for April 2013 when a new Criminal Records Update Service is to be introduced, allowing applicants to apply for updates to existing CRB checks in return for a small fee rather than having to make a repeat application. In addition, CRB disclosures will be sent to individual applicants only who will have the chance to dispute the contents before information under the CRB check is provided to a third party, including a prospective employer.

More information on the matters covered above can be found at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/crime/disclosure-and-barring/.