Protection of Freedoms Bill
Lynne Featherstone (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Equalities Office; Hornsey and Wood Green, Liberal Democrat)
The total number of those who were involved in controlled activity who will now not be is 500,000. Because controlled activity is being abolished, they will no longer be involved in it. Nacro said:
“‘Controlled activity’ was a category to complement regulated activity and applied to posts in which people had contact with children and vulnerable adults, but did not work directly with them. An example would be a car-park attendant in a hospital. Nacro welcomes its demise as it added further ambiguity to an unclear system.”
Isabella Sankey of Liberty said:
“We were also concerned that under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, many more people would need vetting who had not previously been vetted…they would be categories that it was not necessary to vet, whether they were receptionists, cleaners or other categories of people—that extra controlled activity category.”––[Official Report, Protection of Freedoms Public Bill Committee, 22 March 2011; c. 68, Q199.]
That is the point to which we have consistently returned—whether somebody needs to be vetted depends on their opportunity, access, position and the supervision they are under.
Clause 67 abolishes the concept of controlled activity, which is defined in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 as ancillary in nature to regulated activity, and to which barring did not apply. For example, it included administrative staff employed in a social services department and those with access to sensitive records. The clause will help to scale the scheme back to common-sense levels, so that only activities that are defined as regulated activities fall under the new barring arrangements, and what would have fallen under the heading of controlled activity will not be subject to the arrangements.
The clause repeals sections 21 and 22 of the 2006 Act, which define controlled activity in respect of children and vulnerable adults, as well as section 23, which enabled regulations to be made to govern steps that employers must take when considering whether to allow a person to engage in controlled activity. As we have discussed in relation to clauses 63 and 65, regulated activities are being re-defined on the basis of risks to, and access provided to, children or adults who need those services by reason of their age, illness or disability. We do not think that a separate category, such as controlled activity, to which barring does not apply, is necessary or desirable.
Abolishing the concept of controlled activity will require all employers to actively manage any risks inherent in those types of role, rather than assume that the Government have already done that for them, as was arguably the case under the previous arrangements. Colin Reid of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said:
“Vetting in itself is only one part of good practice; it will not screen every unsuitable person out. Organisations need good practice guidance, codes of conduct, good employment practices, a culture of child protection and systems to report.”––[Official Report, Protection of Freedoms Public Bill Committee, 24 March 2011; c. 125, Q362.]
Part of that risk management process will include employers and voluntary organisations obtaining enhanced criminal record certificates in respect of persons working with vulnerable groups but in a capacity that does not constitute regulated activity. Employers will, therefore, continue to have access to any criminal convictions and relevant non-conviction information that will enable them to come to a view on whether it would be appropriate to employ the person concerned in the position in question.
Of course, an enhanced criminal record certificate will not tell the employer or voluntary body whether a person is barred. Barring does not apply in such cases, so we do not believe that it would be appropriate or proportionate to disclose barring information in respect of positions that fall outside regulated activity. Providing barring information in such cases would have an adverse impact on job applications and volunteers, because it could lead to an employer refusing a job to someone when the fact that they were barred was not relevant to the position in question—in the case of office work, for example.