Plans to vet millions of people working with children and vulnerable adults are to be scaled back to “common sense” levels, the Government announced today
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said existing proposals risked alienating volunteers working with the young and elderly and would be put on hold while a review is carried out.
The Home Office said it had halted plans under which all new applicants for jobs working with children and the vulnerable along with those changing posts would have to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority from July 26.
Nine million adults were due to undergo the checks by the ISA which was set up following the murder of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by school caretaker Ian Huntley.
However, criticism of the extent of the new system grew when it emerged that parents taking children to Scouts or sports events would have to comply with registration.
Headteachers complained it would deter volunteers from helping in schools.
Mrs May said:”There were all sorts of groups of people out there who were deeply concerned about this.
“It was a draconian measure when it was introduced, that’s why we have halted the process.
“What I think the problem with this is that we were finding the prospect of a lot of people who do very good work, up and down the country, were actually saying ’I can’t be bothered if you are going to treat me like that’.”
She added: “You were assumed to be guilty, in a sense, until you were proven innocent and told you were able to work with children.”
Mrs May added: “By scaling it back we will be able to introduce a greater element of common sense. What we have got to do is actually trust people again.”
The vetting system will now be “fundamentally re-modelled” and Home Office sources told The Times it would be a dramatically scaled back rather than simply “tweaked”.
The government is now contacting 66,000 organisations, including charities, voluntary groups and education authorities, to tell them that the planned registration due to start in July has been halted.
An independent review of the scheme took place last year following complaints that volunteers were being discouraged. As a result ministers agreed to only vet adults if they see the same group of children or vulnerable people once a week or more, rather than once a month.
Meg Hillier, a shadow Home Office minister, said: “Labour had already reviewed and altered the scheme. “It was never about vetting private family arrangements or infrequent contact with children.
“The scheme was designed to ensure that parents could be certain their children were safe when in the care of professionals and regular volunteers who may be unknown to them.
The Independent Safeguarding Authority, based in Darlington, was set up to run the database will still make decisions about barring inappropriate people from working with children and the vulnerable.
It will maintain the separate lists of people barred from working with children and vulnerable adults.
The existing requirements for criminal record checks will continue to apply for people seeking to work with children and vulnerable adults.
It will also remain a criminal offence for barred individuals to apply to work with children or vulnerable adults.
The scheme was intended to tighten rules to prevent unsuitable people from getting jobs which could bring them into contact with children.
As well as widening the vetting process, the registration was intended to bring together information from a number of separate lists.
Adults were going to be charged £64 to register in England and Wales and £58 in Northern Ireland.