Schedule 3

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 11th July 2006.

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Regulated Activity

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 125, in schedule 3, page 42, line 38, leave out sub-paragraph (a).

No. 126, in schedule 3, page 46, line 34, leave out from ‘adults’ to end of line 35.

No. 127, in schedule 3, page 47, line 15, leave out sub-paragraph (a).

Government amendments Nos. 146 to 148.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I shall address only amendments Nos. 112 and 113. It is a long string of amendments, and I want to concentrate on our two amendments. They are quite complex but nevertheless important.

The amendments seek to address the concerns that I mentioned on Second Reading about the definition of “frequency”. I have great concerns about it. I have read closely the notes issued by Lord Adonis, and the more I read them, the more I become convinced that there are potential loopholes. If you will forgive me, Mr. Martlew, I will go through the matter in some detail, because I sincerely believe that there is a big potential loophole in the protection of vulnerable people.

It is important to consider the two amendments together and to see the need for flexibility, particularly in monitoring. A consequence of the Bill for flexibility in monitoring is that it could impose a huge administrative difficulty on organisations for one often limited contact. I understand that that is why the clause includes the rather tortuous “frequent and occasional”—to get the right balance so that it does not impose too much  bureaucracy. Proportionality and balance are an issue, but if the loophole is present, one would have to err at the end of the day toward less flexibility. I shall consider some examples of what could happen.

It is possible, for example, that a barred individual who has harmed children and poses a risk could get access to regulated activity lasting less than a week. That is the main problem. As I read the suggested regulations, “frequently” could mean once every six months or once a month, but it must be less than a week. If that is accepted and the word “frequently” is included in the clause, I envisage that a holiday play scheme lasting five days could pose a real danger.

I have mentioned unregulated crèches, which again, for the most part must be unregulated. Nevertheless, if a crèche facility were provided at a week-long conference somebody could get quite involved with some of the children. I was particularly concerned when I thought about a youth group going away for a five-day camp. As far as I see it, the definitions here would allow a person who is on the barred list to be involved. It is a question of how much monitoring there is. I am not sure that I would be happy if someone on the barred list went away on a youth camp for five days. I hope that the Minister can be clear about the grouping of days within a week because that is where the concern arises.

I should like to move on to the definition of an occasional basis, which comes under clause 10, and whether a regulated activity provider may use a person not subject to monitoring. There is a problem again because, under the Bill, it is an offence for a barred individual to engage in regulated activity in a regulated position. However, more latitude is given to regulated activity providers who are not required to carry out a check under clause 10(4) when the contact is for less than a week or for less frequent intervals than once per month. That seems rather bizarre, because it is clear that a dangerous banned adult, let us say a paedophile who wishes to access children in certain settings, could exploit the loophole for the monitoring of posts of short-term duration. That might even be in the setting of a children’s home.

The two amendments are meant to be taken together. In a sense, the second amendment on the use of the word “occasional” is trying to loosen things up slightly. I should like the Minister to concentrate on our first amendment, which removes the term “frequently”. By taking a very drastic step, we would remove the possible loophole altogether. I hope that the Minister can look at this again because there is probably a way of closing that loophole in a less bureaucratic manner. I want to be assured that what I am pretty certain is a loophole is closed before the Bill reaches the statute book.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education) 6:00 pm, 11th July 2006

I wish to speak to amendments Nos. 112, 125 and 127. I may also comment on some of the Government amendments too. It does not often happen, but great minds think alike on this. The Liberals and the Conservatives tabled exactly the same amendment in amendment No. 112. That perhaps shows the strength of feeling on this matter. Certainly it was an issue that was debated at length in the other place. Amendments  Nos. 112, 125, 126 and 127 would remove the concept of “frequently” from the Bill. Ultimately, the amendments have been tabled to probe further on who the Bill seeks to monitor. Given the strength of feeling on Opposition Benches and among other interest groups, it would be interesting to hear the Minister’s response.

Before the Bill comes anywhere near the statute book, the situation with regard to who should be CRB checked is less than satisfactory for a number of organisations. I know from speaking to teachers in my constituency that they find it difficult to understand the concept of “regular” in connection with those who need to be CRB checked. The current situation causes concern, which was reiterated in the consultation on the matter.

We all understand the Government’s intention in trying to grapple with the concepts of “frequently” and “occasionally.” It is interesting that the Liberals and the Conservatives have come up with the similar solution—it is worthy of the Government’s further consideration—of removing the concept of activities carried out “frequently” and encouraging consideration of the word “occasionally.” I tabled an amendment that would have enabled us to examine further the use of that word, but unfortunately it was not selected. The matter should be considered with this group of amendments to understand fully our thinking.

The probing amendments would remove the word “frequently”. The amendment that was not selected would have enabled people and employers to define what constituted occasional activity in a particular setting. We felt that that was an interesting concept to play with. The Minister jokingly asked me on Second Reading—or perhaps he was not joking—to define “frequently” for him, which we have found difficult to do. The debate in the other place and the subsequent communication from Lord Adonis showed that a number of enormous loopholes are created by such definitions. I think of my own children, who are in a holiday club lasting for five days. It falls into the category that the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole mentioned and, under the Bill, the people running it would not need to be checked at all. That is a concern.

The amendments are intended to challenge the Government on whether we need the word “frequently” in the Bill. Would it not be simpler to remove it so that monitoring relates to the extensive list of settings and positions in the Bill and so that it is left to local employers, whether schools, youth clubs or whatever, to identify exceptions to the broad need for monitoring and decide when they need exemptions for people who occasionally help out?

Within the many settings to which the Bill will apply, the definition of “occasional” could vary. In some organisations, an individual working with children for five days alongside a member of staff would not cause any problems. As a school governor myself, I have seen instances in which outside organisations have come into the school without ever being left in sole charge of the children with whom they come into contact. There will be activities that do not need to be monitored, but equally there will be circumstances, such as those outlined today, that would fall foul of Lord Adonis’s definitions of “frequently” and “occasionally.” Those terms do not help to clarify the situation.

For clarity and for the record, I say that the amendments that we are considering are not the full set of amendments that we tabled. We recognise the need for people to go into monitored settings occasionally, but there should be an opportunity for local employers to decide for themselves whether that should be monitored.

I shall give the Minister another example of the need to be aware of the implications of the Bill. There is a very successful community school in my constituency that has an open access policy for parents. How should its head teacher interpret the Bill? Will parents going on to the campus of the school regularly—on more than five consecutive days or more than once a month—need to be monitored? According to the Bill, it appears that they would need to monitored, although I am not entirely sure that that is the intention, nor is it absolutely necessary.

The intention behind the amendment is to consider the issue from the point of view of those who have to implement the legislation on the ground—in our schools and our playgroups, and in other settings as defined in the Bill—to ensure that they have a clear idea of who should be monitored and that they are empowered to identify those groups that feel should occasionally be allowed within the school. However, we would force governing bodies and other groups to think that through for themselves. If the Minister could give us a positive response on those issues, it would be a most welcome addition to the Bill.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

I can say with a degree of confidence that the issue is complex. There is no easy answer, and I think that we can all understand the reasons why. Before I comment on the amendment, I should mention something that we shall come to with schedule 4. Areas of activity such as the one that the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole mentioned might not fall under the category of regulated activity, but instant online checks for such activities could provide us with new solutions. Where a group want to make checks, even though an individual might not be seen as a frequent supervisor or visitor, online checks offer a way of doing so properly.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education)

I understand the Minister’s point about online checks but, to take the example of the summer camp that my children are attending, I have no way of knowing the names of the people who will be looking after them. As a mother, I assume that the organisation has checked the people who will be looking after my children for five days this week, albeit for only two and a half hours each day. There is no way that I would know the names of those people to them check online. Surely that will be a potential problem.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

I will not go down that line until schedule 4. I was using a different example, in which a group that has an arrangement with somebody under which it employs them infrequently wants to be sure that they are checked. However, there is no one-size-fits-all policy, so perhaps I should not have opened the issue up for debate. We could discuss a million different examples, but I am sure that we will return to the issue in greater detail on schedule 4, as the online register opens up real opportunities.

Amendments Nos. 112 and 125 to 127 focus on a key element of the Bill—the definition of “regulated activity”, which underpins the effective functioning of the new vetting and barring scheme. It is important that we get the definition right, and I welcome the opportunity that the amendment affords us to debate the issue. The group of amendments focuses on a central element of the definition of regulated activity, namely the frequency test.

The intention behind the group of amendments is to disapply the test in a range of circumstances, so that specified activities in relation to children and vulnerable adults are classified as regulated activities, regardless of whether they are carried out frequently. For example, certain activities that bring an individual into close contact with children and vulnerable adults—such as teaching, caring, advising and supervising—have to be carried out frequently to be defined as a regulated activity.

An individual who was not engaged in those specific types of activity but who still worked in a specified setting—for example, a care home or a school that gave them access to children or vulnerable adults—would also have to be carrying out their duties frequently for that to be classified as a regulated activity. The amendments have major implications for the circumstances in which a barred individual may engage in regulated activity during which they are subject to monitoring and the employer has to check their status in the scheme.

On the frequency test and the scope of the bar, I recognise the concerns of hon. Members that if an activity—for instance, teaching children, caring for a vulnerable adult or rebuilding a school history block while having access to pupils—is carried out on an occasional basis, it might fall outside the definition of regulated activity. I recognise also that risks are associated with a barred individual working with children or vulnerable adults, even on a one-off basis.

I should like to reassure hon. Members that protecting children and vulnerable adults from those who work with them is the most important consideration of the scheme. However, it is important also that we do not place unreasonable burdens on employers, managers and employees, as well as on volunteers—the latter are important. We should not make the lives of individuals impossible. We want the scheme to be proportionate.

I have some examples: should an aerobics teacher on the children’s barred list be charged with an offence if a 16-year-old turns up occasionally for their class, which is otherwise made up of adults? Should a TV producer on the barred list be charged with an offence if they instruct a school group that comes to the TV studios to learn how TV is produced? Should a nurse in a care home barred from working with children be charged with an offence if they treat in an emergency a child visitor who has fallen over in the care home? I am sure that hon. Members will agree that those are not easy questions with which to grapple.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education) 6:15 pm, 11th July 2006

May we return to the example of the TV producer and the visit to the studios by a school group? That is not a controlled setting. Will the Minister help me: would the regulations apply in those circumstances?  Presumably, they would if the teacher was going to the school, but as we have discussed, methods could be put in place to allow that to happen on an occasional basis.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

The point that I was trying to make to the hon. Lady was that teachers going to a school and contact with children in a studio are both issues tobe debated in relation to prescribing regulated or controlled activities because, either way, children could be put in a vulnerable position. Placing severe or absolute restrictions on barred individuals criminalises them even though they did not seek to work with children or vulnerable adults.

It is clear, however, that determining the scope of the bar in relation to the frequency with which an activity is carried out is a complex issue, and we shall continue to listen to the concerns of hon. Members in forums such as this one. We shall continue also to work with key stakeholders. I am not pretending that there are easy answers.

I should like also to consider the amendments in the context of their effects on the requirements on individuals to be subject to monitoring and on employers to carry out appropriate checks. We need to consider carefully the requirements that we impose on employers and managers to make checks, and on employees to go through the scheme.

To extend the requirements on an occasional basis to individuals who teach, care for or engage in other activities mentioned in paragraphs 2(1), 5(1), 1(3) and 5(4) of schedule 3 would place unreasonable burdens and bureaucracy on employers and managers, and might create a barrier to the effective provision of services. For example, an adult gym might not be able to include a child attending with their parent because their staff have not been through the scheme, and hence checked. However, under schedule 4 employers will be able to check an individual’s status if they are considering whether to permit an individual to teach, care for children or vulnerable adults or otherwise engage in an activity mentioned in paragraphs 2(1) and 5(1) or an activity on an occasional basis caught by parts of schedule 3.

In the light of those considerations, I hope that hon. Members will see fit to withdraw the amendments, which do not answer the question either.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education)

The Minister rightly said that it is not our desire ever to put unreasonable burdens on employers, but implied that the amendments would put such burdens on them. I put the contrary argument: simplifying the system would ensure that employers knew exactly where they stood in respect of the need to monitor individuals.

I am thinking particularly of schools; it has been widely reported that schools are finding it, or have found it, difficult to understand who should be CRB-checked and who should not, given the current requirement for those regularly in contact with children. Surely the opposite of what the Minister is talking about could happen; instead of the burden being unreasonable, things might be simplified for employers.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

We could say that, but if the frequency test had been removed and a parent visited the school to give a one-off lecture on her career as a lawyer, she would fall foul of the process and have to be cleared by the scheme. That would be an added problem for the school; that parent would have to go through the vetting and barring scheme.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

All the examples given by the Minister have been about a one-off occasion rather than the examples on which I was concentrating. My concern is about what happens when consecutive days stack up within a week, and I should like the Minister to address my examples. He gave the example of the online check. However, the hon. Member for Basingstoke is right; if the organiser does not do an online check, the parents or relations of anybody involved in the activity would have no knowledge of that.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

The hon. Lady makes a fair point, and I do not disagree. We could stipulate an activity that happens three times a week or three days a month. We have said that, typically, more than one day a month and a contract of more than a week defines frequency. Equally, the hon. Lady could argue for an intermittent period of less than a week. That becomes apparent when we take a closer look at the issue, and I am happy to do that.

However, I say to her that removing the frequency test would place a burden on schools, which, for example, would have to check everybody who turned up on the one-off basis that I described. I do not believe that the removal of the frequency test is the way forward.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education)

If the Minister is considering the issue again, may I remind him of my amendment No. 128, which I was not able to discuss today? It reads as follows:

“Based on an assessment made in reference to guidance issued by the Secretary of State the employer will clearly set out what constitutes occasional activity for which monitoring is not necessary in relation to that specific setting.”

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

I am afraid that the hon. Lady is out of order; her amendment was not selected.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

Thank you, Mr. Martlew; I was about to start probing an amendment that had not been selected. I do not want to digress down that path, but if it were down to employers to set the level of frequency, we—[Interruption.] Perhaps we should enter into correspondence. I am quite happy to consider what the hon. Lady was saying.

I return to the earlier point about the TV producer. If the producer were barred and the frequency test removed, the producer could not instruct children either in school or elsewhere. That is another example of how things would work if we did away with the test.

I turn to Government amendments Nos. 146 to 148, which also deal with the definition of regulated activity. They are intended to ensure that an individual under the age of 16 engaging in regulated activity is not required to be monitored and that those permitting or supplying such individuals to engage in regulated  activity are not required to check. That will ensure that 15-year-olds who go on two weeks’ work experience at a primary school, for example, will not be required to go through the scheme and that the school will not be required to check.

Given the importance of clarifying the definition of regulated activity, I commend the amendments to the Committee. I hope that hon. Members will consider this useful debate as well as my desire to reconsider the issue and hold further discussions with stakeholders before Report, and will withdraw their amendments.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am afraid that I am going to disappoint the Minister. I shall press the amendment to a Division simply because I feel that it is so important. I welcome his statement that he will reconsider it, but a Division on the issue will give further force to the concerns of Opposition Members about the loophole that we are convinced exists in the Bill.

I know that the Minister said that we could reconsider the issue in different forums, but I must point out that there is only Report. We will only have one more go at this, and that is why I shall press amendment No. 112 to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 10.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

I beg to move amendment No. 178, in schedule 3, page 43, line 7, leave out from ‘children’ to the end of line 8.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendments Nos. 179 to 182.

Amendment no. 118, in schedule 3, page 46, line 3, leave out sub-paragraph (b).

Government amendments Nos. 183, 184, 144 and 145.

Amendment No. 113, in clause 10, page 6, line 20, leave out subsection (4) and insert—

‘(4) A person does not commit an offence under subsection (1) if—

(a) the activity is a regulated activity by virtue of paragraph 1(1) or 5(1) of Schedule 3, and

(b) B is entitled to engage in a regulated activity mentioned in that paragraph only on an occasional basis.’.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills 6:30 pm, 11th July 2006

The amendments are designed to improve the Bill’s coverage by ensuring that the definitions of regulated activity relating to children and requirements to check are focused where individuals have the greatest opportunity to harm children.

Amendment No. 178 is a minor drafting amendment. Amendments Nos. 145 and 179 will bring requirements for Welsh child minders into line with those for child minders in England. AmendmentsNos. 180 and 181 will ensure that CAFCASS officers and family proceedings officers in Wales and their managers are covered by the bar and the requirement to check. As those officers are likely to have unsupervised contact with children, the amendment ensures that the functions of such officers and their managers are covered by regulated activity.

Amendments Nos. 144 and 182 ensure that those who act as deputies on behalf of children and vulnerable adults are within the scope of the scheme. Amendment No. 182 adds deputies to the definition of regulated activity in schedule 3, paragraph 4(1) in relation to children. That means that a person who is barred from working with children cannot act in that capacity. Amendment No. 144 means that those appointed as a deputy are treated in line with other positions such as those of local councillors and charity trustees in situations in which there is no regulated activity provider.

Amendment No. 183 clarifies the drafting to ensure that operators and administrators of the information sharing index are engaging in regulated activity in relation to children. Amendment No. 184 ensures that where an activity is carried out by a member of a group of children and possibly others on behalf or under the direction of an adult engaging in regulated activity with the group, the group member will not be engaged in regulated activity. That will ensure that school prefects, who supervise other school pupils, will not be required to be subject to monitoring and the school will not be required to check their status.

My hon. Friend will later be moving an identical amendment in relation to vulnerable adults. Those amendments set out real improvements in the coverage of this Bill. They will increase the protection afforded to children and ensure that the coverage is appropriately targeted. I commend those amendments to the Committee.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education)

I should like to speak briefly to amendment No. 118 within the string, which is tabled in my name and the names of my hon. Friends. It is an important amendment because it relates to local authorities. I will just read out the part of the Bill that it relates to. It states that one set of positions that would be monitored is that of

“an executive of a local authority”.

The amendment would in effect remove that line from the Bill in order that members of an executive of a local authority would not be included in the monitoring process. There are provisions within that particular section of the Bill that already cover any member of a local authority who discharges any educational or social services function, so that line is unnecessary.

In the previous string of amendments, the Minister was at pains to suggest that we should not place unreasonable burdens on employers. I am not clear why we would want to single that group out to be monitored, given that any people within that particular group that had authority with regard to vulnerable people and adults would already be covered in the previous sub-paragraph (2)(a). I hope that he understands why we have tabled amendment No. 118. We feel that it is not a helpful clause to have within the Bill.

In my own local borough council, there are only a few people within the Conservative-controlled authority executive who have any duties to do with either vulnerable adults or young people. As the Minister is no doubt aware, the local borough council has limited influence or policy or financial obligations towards those groups pf people. Anyone who is involved in activities regarding those groups of people will be caught in a previous section of the Bill. It is an unnecessary burden on local authorities.

Returning to the example of TV producers not being able to teach children because they are barred, it may not be entirely equitable that some councillors may, perhaps, stop being involved in activities relating to vulnerable adults or children and may not be able to be members of executives.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

Amendment No. 118 would mean that an individual who is a member of an executive of a local authority that discharges any educational or social services functions for a local authority should not be engaged in a regulated activity. That issue was raised in the other place. I reiterate the sentiments of my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey, vice-president of the Local Government Association, in saying that no member of a local authority cabinet should be allowed to serve on that body if they are on the barred list. An individual may not have direct responsibility for social services or education functions, but he may help to set the overall strategic direction of the council and he will have the opportunity to influence, at least indirectly, the lives of children in the local area.

I understand that it is unlikely for an individual to have no responsibility for education or social services functions. If an executive member sitting on an executive with education or social services functions requested information or required access to particular material or individuals, that would provide the opportunity for close contact with children.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education)

At the risk of opening a can of worms, as was hinted at on Second Reading, if local authority executive members should be monitored because they may have access to certain information or materials or have close contact with children or vulnerable adults, perhaps hon. Members should consider whether they should be monitored. This is the start of what could be an expansive process. If local authority members who have no direct responsibilities for such matters should be monitored, why should not Members of Parliament be monitored? Will local authority members not ask that question?

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

The point about local authority members having influence over social services and education functions is interesting and comes from the vice-president of the LGA, so we need to take it seriously. The Bill as drafted takes the right approach on the issue.

Amendment No. 113 would change the focus of the exception in clause 10 so that employers of individuals engaging in a specified activity in a key setting would have to ensure that the person is subject to monitoring. Those employing individuals to carry out specified activities outside key settings could do so occasionally without that person being subject to monitoring. I hope that hon. Members will take on board what I have said.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 179, in schedule 3, page 43, line 23, at end insert—

‘(5A) Each of the following, if carried out in Wales, is a regulated activity relating to children—

(a) acting as a child minder so as to give rise to a requirement to register under section 79D of the Children Act 1989;

(b) an activity which would give rise to such a requirement if the child in relation to whom the activity is carried out were under the age of eight.

(5B) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (5A), “acting as a child minder” must be construed in accordance with section 79A of that Act.’.

No. 180, in schedule 3, page 43, line 23, at end insert—

‘(5C) The exercise of any function of the following is a regulated activity relating to children—

(a) officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service;

(b) Welsh family proceedings officer (within the meaning of Part 4 of the Children Act 2004).’.

No. 181, in schedule 3, page 44, line 6, after ‘(3),’ insert ‘(5C),’.—[Mr. Dhanda.]

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education)

I beg to move amendment No. 117, in schedule 3, page 44, line 31, leave out sub-paragraph (a).

This is a simple amendment. I am interested in the Minister’s view on this aspect of the Bill. As the Committee knows, schedule 3 defines regulated activity under the Bill, and paragraph 2 of the schedule states that there are exclusions to monitoring for activities relating to employment. It excludes from monitoring those who are involved specifically in the

“care for or supervision of a child in the course of his employment”.

However, paragraph 3 states that that exemption does not apply to a child who has not attained the age of 16. It is possible that I have not interpreted the schedule correctly because it seems rather counter-intuitive. There are one or two double negatives in those two paragraphs.

However, under the Bill as drafted, if a person was employing someone under the age of 16, that person could be open to the need to be monitored. Will the Minister clarify how the provision may affect children? We need to tease that out because I am not sure that the Government intended to legislate in such a way or, if that is their intention, perhaps the hon. Gentleman  could outline what effect the provision may have on the employment opportunities of those young, budding paper boys and girls who rely on the money that they receive as a source of income. I should welcome his comments.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills

I shall certainly come back to that point and give the hon. Lady a clear answer. I shall need a moment to think about it.

Paragraph 2(2) and (3) of the schedule provide that individuals will be engaged in regulated activities if they principally care for, train, supervise, give guidance to or treat children under the age of 16 during the child’s employment. If those people have the particular role of caring as a chaperone for an actor who is under 16 years, for example, they will fall within a regulated activity.

The aim of amendment No. 117 is to ensure that, when individuals are frequently teaching, training or otherwise working closely with children aged 16 or 17 during their employment, they are also engaged in a regulated activity, which brings with it a requirement for the employer to check their status before permitting them to engage in such activity. The amendment is not appropriate. The provisions under schedule 3 provide a careful balance between protecting children and not discouraging employers from offering work with children due to the burdens involved in checking the staff.

Requiring checks on those working with 16 and 17-year-old employees may be particularly damaging to school leavers who are trying to earn a living. Generally, people who work with 16 and 17-year-olds do not make a choice to work with children and do not have the same duty of care.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education)

I wish to be clear. It is a bit of a complex area for some reason, but if children aged 14 or 15 years are employed by their corner shop to deliver newspapers, will the newspaper shop owner whogives the papers to them in the morning need to put himself forward to be monitored? If not, why is paragraph 2(3)(a) of schedule 3 in the Bill?

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills 6:45 pm, 11th July 2006

I do not believe that the employment by newsagents of paper boys will come within the Bill’s provisions. It is not a regulated activity—it is not a case of one-to-one interaction between the employer and the paper boy. We would also have to consider the frequency. Nevertheless, though the point is a technical one, it is well made. There may well be issues about that and it is probably best if I write to the hon. Lady to flesh it out.

Nevertheless, we do not believe that the amendment is appropriate. Schedule 3 provides a careful balance between protecting children and not discouraging employers from offering work to 16 and 17-year-olds. Let us suppose that hon. Members’ concerns relate to army instructors of 16 and 17-year-olds. In that case, schedule 4 already allows employers to check the status of individuals who frequently teach, train, care for, or otherwise work closely with under-18s who are employed in the armed forces.

We shall continue to work with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that there is sufficient awareness in the armed forces of the requirements on child protection, and to ensure that support and advice are given on such issues during implementation of the Bill. I believe that the Bill takes the right approach on the issues and I urge the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment. Having said that, I shall examine the point that she made on newsagents employing paper boys.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education)

I am heartened that the Minister will do that. The Bill appears to say clearly that there will need to be monitoring of people who care for or supervise a child, or who do so in the course of their employment, and paragraph 2(3) clearly states that the exclusions do not apply in the case of children who have not yet reached the age of 16. Children or people entering employment will receive instruction during the course of that employment, or may be in their employer’s care, whether they are a newspaper boy or girl or anybody else in the relevant age group. If I were an employer, I would have great concerns, and if the Bill indeed implied that children of 14 or 15 would need to be in the care of somebody who was monitored during employment, it would put me off employing someone in that age group.

Based on the Minister’s remarks this evening, it seems that that would be a wholly unintended consequence of the Bill. As somebody who employed people for 17 years—albeit perhaps not of that age—such a consequence would cause me concern, so I am pleased that the Minister will examine the matter further. When he does, perhaps he will put himself in the position of an employer reading the Bill, and ensure that it is amended to clarify the point for employers.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 182, in schedule 3, page 45, line 45, at end insert—

‘(ma) a deputy appointed in respect of a child under section 16(2)(b) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005;’.

No. 183, in schedule 3, page 46, line 17, at end insert—

‘( ) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)(k), a person is the operator of a database if he—

(a) establishes or maintains the database, or

(b) otherwise, exercises any function in relation to the management or control of the database.’.

No. 184, in schedule 3, page 46, line 31, at end insert—

‘ A person who is part of a group in relation to which another (P) engages in regulated activity relating to children does not engage in regulated activity only because he assists P or does anything on behalf of or under the direction of P which, but for this paragraph, would amount to engaging in regulated activity relating to children.’.—[Mr. Dhanda.]

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Labour, Bridgend

I beg to move amendment No. 129, in schedule 3, page 47, line 11, at end insert

‘or any other establishment which is exclusively or mainly for people who are entitled to community care services.’.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 130, in schedule 3, page 47, line 13, after adults, insert

‘or any other establishment which is exclusively or mainly for people who are entitled to community care services.’.

Amendment No. 104, in schedule 3, page 47, line 35, at end insert—

‘(ba) a day centre providing more than six hours per day of provision for vulnerable adults and operating two or more days per week,’.

Government amendments No. 185 and 186.

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Labour, Bridgend

I promise not to keep the Committee long. I will endeavour to be as brief as I can.

It has been said during today’s debate that people who are abuse are clever. In fact, in my experience, abuse often arises from ignorance, and more specifically from institutionalised bad practice. The two probing amendments in my name would cover establishments that are not currently regulated and do not have specific standards set for them. In particular, I wish to include organisations and establishments where there are opportunities for staff to set their own standards of practice in working with client groups, appearing to make life easier for staff but in fact allowing institutionalised abuse to become normal practice due to a lack of training, supervision and skills.

The probing amendments would extend the range of establishments defined as providing regulated activities covered by the Care Standards Act 2000. As the Bill stands, day care establishments in particular do not appear to be covered. The definition should be extended to such establishments, at which vulnerable people would otherwise not receive protection.

Photo of Annette Brooke Annette Brooke Shadow Spokesperson (Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I will also endeavour to be brief. Amendment No. 104 is a probing amendment. It comes from practical experience, but I suspect that amendments Nos. 129 and 130 approach the problem in a much more satisfactory manner. I tabled the amendment, plucking hours and days out of a hat. When my father was elderly, I was encouraged to keep him in his own home. He went to a church day centre, with which I had no problems or worries, for up to six hours a day. He went to the stroke club one afternoon a week; again, I had no problems and knew everybody. He also went to a local authority day centre two days a week. They were very kind and carried out a great deal of personal care, and I was horrified to see that such a centre seems to be excluded from the Bill.

Equally, I have visited many training establishments and day centres for adults with learning disabilities and feel that they should fall within the Bill. I can see that the wording is much better in amendments Nos. 129 and 130, which I hope the Minister will support. I have practical experience of different types of day centre for elderly people, and it is crystal clear that some need regulation because it is possible for someone who is doing the cooking, for instance, to befriend vulnerable elderly people.

Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) (Care Services)

It is a pleasure finally to get to my feet after sitting for so long.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon) on her probing amendments and the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole on her constructive contribution. It is difficult to get the definition of day care right, and I shall try to explain why I think the Bill gets it about right, despite the understandable reservations that have been expressed.

I shall speak first to amendments No. 129 and 130. They seek to define day care in terms of an establishment in the same way that elsewhere we have defined care homes, but the term “day care” covers a wide range of very different types of services provided to old and disabled people, as has been acknowledged. It can be provided in a variety of ways: by a local authority or voluntary sector provider, a private sector organisation or local faith group, for example. Because of the disparate nature of day care services, we do not believe that seeking a definition based purely on setting works. We have therefore tried to capture “day care” in the Bill by identifying it in terms of activity rather than in terms of a specific establishment. I reassure hon. Members that the definition of regulated activity already includes those working in day care settings whose responsibilities include the provision of care, supervision, training, assistance, advice or any other activity listed under paragraph 5(1) of part 2 of schedule 3.

Amendments Nos. 129 and 130 seek to achieve their aim by defining day care as an establishment for people who are entitled specifically to community care services. Community care services are those services provided to or commissioned by the local authorities defined in the relevant 1990 Act. We have already made provision for all posts within this sector to come within the scope of the scheme. The Bill provides that all posts within community care services which are not covered by the bar but which give the opportunity for contact with those receiving services or access to records will be covered by “controlled activity”. That means that all staff working in local authority-provided day care settings but who are not undertaking regulated activity will still be subject to vetting processes under the new scheme.

It will be up to individual employers to decide whether to employ a barred person in a job involving controlled activity. When an employer takes a decision to engage a barred person in a controlled activity, we shall obviously expect extra safeguards to be put in place. We are currently looking at the most appropriate mechanism for the enforcement of the requirements related to controlled activity. Extra safeguards are likely to include additional supervision of a barred person which prevents him or her from having the opportunity for unsupervised contact with those individuals attending the day care group.

I hope that to some extent what I have said provides some reassurance. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend and the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole that we need to give greater detail about what the safeguards may be to allay their concerns.

I deal now with amendment No. 104, which was tabled by the Liberal Democrats. It raises similar issues. Under the Bill, the definition of a regulated activity includes inspection functions carried out by those bodies listed in sub-paragraphs (5) and (6) of part 2 of schedule 3. This is to ensure that those individuals with responsibility for inspecting an establishment, agency, person or body which provides any form of care, treatment or therapy for vulnerable adults are subject to the bar and will need to be checked and subject to monitoring. Sub-paragraph (7) lists establishments, agencies and so on which are subject to inspection by the relevant listed regulatory bodies.

As hon. Members know—this is a legitimate topic for debate but not necessarily in the context of the Bill—day care is not currently regulated under part 2 of the Care Standards Act 2000. Very often, as hon. Members have said, day care is provided in a community setting where a range of other activities takes place. As such, it would be very difficult to define day care in terms of an establishment or an agency appropriate for inspection by the Commission for Social Care Inspection. I accept that the nature of inspection and regulation of day care is not a closed debate, but I do not think it appropriate to deal with it under the Bill.

Government amendment No. 185 is a minor, technical amendment relating to the definition of regulated activity in terms of vulnerable adults. It would bring the functions of the chief executive and other members of the IBB within the definition of “regulated activity” in relation to vulnerable adults. Its omission was an oversight, and I am sure that all Committee members will accept that it is a common-sense amendment.

Finally, Government amendment No. 186 is identical in its application to vulnerable adults to amendment No. 184 in relation to children, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend has already spoken. It specifically ensures that, where an activity is carried out by a member of a group of vulnerable adults and possibly others on behalf of or under the direction of an individual engaged in regulated activity with the group, the group member will not be engaged in a regulated activity. For example, it would ensure that where residents of a care home provide help and assistance to other residents of that care home, they will not be required to be subject to monitoring and the care home would not be required to check their status. Again, it is not a simple or easy issue but, I hope, a common-sense outcome.

I urge my hon. Friend to withdraw her amendment and the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole not to press her amendment, and I urge the Committee to support the Government amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 185, in schedule 3, page 47, line 46, at end insert

‘( ) The exercise of the functions of a member or the chief executive of IBB is a regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults.’.

No. 186, in schedule 3, page 47, line 46, at end insert—

‘( ) A person who is part of a group in relation to which another (P) engages in regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults does not engage in regulated activity only because he assists P or does anything on behalf of or under the direction of  P which, but for this sub-paragraph, would amount to engaging in regulated activity relating to vulnerable adults.’.—[Mr. Ivan Lewis.]

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Cawsey.]

Adjourned accordingly at one minute past Seven o’clock till Thursday 13 July at Nine o’clock.