Schedule 4

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 13 July 2006.

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vetting information

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. 187, in schedule 4, page 49, line 32, after ‘information’ insert

‘relating to children and relevant information’.

Photo of Eric Martlew Eric Martlew Labour, Carlisle

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 188 to 193 and 165 to 170.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Education and Skills 2:45, 13 July 2006

Before talking about the amendments, I should first like to comment on online checks. A key feature of the new scheme is the facility for online checks, which will allow an individual’s up-to-date status to be checked quickly by prospective employers. The checks will be available to a wider range of employers than is the case at present, and will include private employers such as parents for the first time.

We have been consistent in underlining, as Sir Michael Bichard did, that the ultimate responsibility for deciding whether to employ an individual, must be the employer’s. It is our responsibility to ensure that there is reliable, clear information to help to support that decision, but the information provided by the vetting and barring scheme will be only one element in the overall judgment. That does not remove or replace the responsibility of the employer.

As the Minister for Children and Families said on Second Reading, in our work on the design of the  vetting and barring scheme, we explored some of the details involving the security and implementation of the online check facility, which led us to amend its design. First and foremost, we must ensure that employers and parents can access the information they need to inform recruitment decisions quickly, easily and reliably.

Showing explicitly via the online check that a person is barred would require elaborate security procedures. Given the sensitivity of the information, that would seriously obstruct the speed and ease of access of the facility.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education)

Is one reason why there has been a delay that individuals can hack into the system, not just to look at information on other people but actually to change it so that it shows, for example, that a person is barred, rather than unbarred? Has the Minister encountered that problem, which has occurred in the United States?

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

No. I have worked with officials on the scheme but that has not been a principal issue. It is a matter of getting the right structure and process in place to give the right information. I will come to that in a moment, when the hon. Lady may wish to respond to what I say with further comments and questions.

We will table amendments on Report that will change the online check to show whether an individual is subject to monitoring, which is confirmation that he is being vetted by the scheme and is not barred. That fundamental reassurance will enable the employer to proceed to the other checks that are necessary on recruitment, such as taking up references and verifying qualifications. We will table similar amendments to clause 26 so that employers are notified that monitoring has ceased, rather than that the individual has been barred.

When an individual is shown as not subject to monitoring, it may mean that he has not yet applied to the scheme, that he has withdrawn from it or that he is barred. For regulated activity providers recruiting to a regulated activity, the effect is the same: they can employ only people who are subject to monitoring, as the Bill lays down. We shall ensure that the online check facility provides clear messages for employers and parents about the implications of an employee being subject, or not subject, to monitoring and the further steps they need to take in recruiting. We shall develop and test those messages as we prepare for implementation.

The revised approach to the information conveyed by the online check will ensure that it directly supports employers’ needs and helps them to find appropriate staff, and that notification will be quick. We are committed to delivering the improvements that online checks offer and to implementing them in the most effective way. No one will forgive us if we do not develop the best possible system to protect children and vulnerable adults.

Over time, we would like as many people as possible to be monitored in the vetting and barring scheme. We intend that the scheme will encourage employees in the relevant work forces to be monitored and employers to use good employment practice and recruit only those  who have been vetted and who are monitored. The monitoring will ensure that information about employees is continuously updated and that employers are notified of changes in status. That approach to the online check will help to secure the benefits of monitoring while ensuring that employers have fast and easy access to information about employees’ status.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Shadow Minister (Education)

I did not get an answer from the Minister’s comments to a very simple question. Who will be responsible for the accuracy of the online scheme and who will be responsible for any errors that are made?

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

The CRB will be responsible for the administration of the system, but the IBB will be responsible for the two barred lists.

In speaking to amendment No. 187, I said what I wished to say about online checks, although I appreciate that hon. Members may wish to return to the subject. Amendments Nos. 188 to 193 and Nos. 165 to 170 are all minor and technical amendments to the Bill. I circulated a note to hon. Members before the Committee stage in which I explained the Government’s intention behind all the amendments that we tabled, including those ones. I welcome any questions or otherwise on the online lists, and ask hon. Members to accept the amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 188, in schedule 4, page 49, line 37, at end insert—

‘Person who is considering whether to permit B to engage frequently in an activity in respect of which financial resources are provided pursuant to section 5(1) of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, if engaging in the activity gives B the opportunity to have contact with children

Relevant information relating to children’.

No. 189, in schedule 4, page 50, line 10, leave out ‘the first and second entries’ and insert ‘entries 1, 2, 5 and 6’.

No. 190, in schedule 4, page 50, line 11, after ‘if’ insert ‘—

( ) ’.

No. 191, in schedule 4, page 50, line 12, at end insert ‘or

( ) it were not merely incidental to another activity.’.

No. 192, in schedule 4, page 50, line 12, at end insert—

‘( ) In entries 3, 4, 7 and 8 in the table the reference to controlled activity includes a reference to an activity which would be a controlled activity if it were carried out frequently.’.

No. 193, in schedule 4, page 50, line 35, at end insert—

‘ Regulations may make provision requiring a local authority which makes or proposes to make payments to or on behalf of a person in accordance with regulations under section 17A of the Children Act 1989 or section 57 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001 to inform the person of his right to obtain relevant information in pursuance of this Schedule.’.—[Mr. Dhanda.]

Schedule 4, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.