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Protection of Freedoms Bill

Part of Resource Extraction (Transparency and Reporting) – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 1st March 2011.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities) 6:12 pm, 1st March 2011

This is really weird. It means that somebody—a teacher, for example—who has been working with children and has been barred for grooming a child, may then apply for a job, perhaps a voluntary post as a teaching assistant, and the school will not be told whether they are barred, but the Home Secretary thinks that that is okay because the school may be able to get some of the information that led to the barring in the first place if it is summarised on the CRB check. Why not give the school the information about the fact that someone has been previously barred?

The Home Office guidance says:

“Some people who may previously have been barred…may be able to gain posts in other areas where they are able to work less closely with children or adults. It will be up to employers to weigh up the risks involved”,

but let us think of the position in which that puts employers. They will not even know if they have got the full information; nor will they have the judgment of the experts at the safeguarding authority who have made a decision, based on their professional experience and expertise, that the person should be barred. The guidance also says that

“employers will not be able to find out the barred status of people who are not working in regulated activity roles.”

A lot of parents will find this puzzling and worrying. Why should they not be able to find out whether someone has previously been barred for working with children if they are going to be working with children again in a similar way?

Let us consider the other consequences. If a voluntary teaching assistant is caught grooming a child, then as long as they have never been a teacher, worked in regulated activity, or expressed a desire to do so in future, they will not even be added to the barred list. So two years later they can apply for teacher training and no one will know that they were kicked out of another school for deeply inappropriate behaviour. Future employers may be able to get a criminal records check but, as the NSPCC has made clear,

“This is highly concerning as most people who pose a risk to children are not prosecuted, and thus future employers may not be alerted to the risks they pose.”

I have to say to the Home Secretary that most parents will not just think that it is “highly concerning”—they will think, like me, that it is wrong.