Section 67 — Fees

Part of Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:15 am on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat 10:15 am, 8th March 2007

I echo Ken Macintosh's final comments. Having pursued the bill through the Education Committee, I am sure that the voluntary sector is more than capable of raising any future concerns over regulations that would significantly change the structure of fees.

We have to consider a number of key points. Adam Ingram rightly voiced concern that we might have a gold-plating system. The care commission might decide how massive an organisation it wants to have, because it knows that it has the right to charge fees that will cover costs. However, what I think amendment 14 says is that the central barring unit will not be able to do that, but will have to take account of the quality and cost of the service and the fees paid. The central barring unit will not be able to do the kind of gold plating that caused so much concern to the voluntary sector during discussions on the care commission. It is important that amendment 14 sets down that the central barring unit will be required to operate efficiently and effectively, taking into account the fee levels and the bodies that it is setting those levels for.

The debate is largely about the impact on the voluntary sector. Parliament has talked about retrospection before, and I do not dispute that if we required everyone to be checked retrospectively within a very short period, it would have a massive impact on finances in the voluntary sector. Fees and retrospection are linked. If there is not an immediate retrospective check of everyone involved, the financial impact on the voluntary sector will not be as great as has been feared. However, we should consider the fees to ensure that the voluntary sector is not put under unnecessary financial pressure. We have to acknowledge that the Executive is committed to maintaining the policy of paying the fees of volunteers within the voluntary sector. That is very important.

I am not convinced by the argument that says that people who work in the voluntary sector as paid employees should have their fees paid. Those costs should be included in any contractual arrangement for services that are provided for the statutory sector. If the costs are not covered by contracts, organisations should perhaps consider revising how they bid. It is important that workers, whether in the statutory or the voluntary sector, are all treated the same.

There are different categories of workers. There are workers who will be applying for the first time for any form of disclosure. It is fairly clearly set out in the financial memorandum that the fees for such people are unlikely to be very different from those that are currently paid.

Secondly, there are workers who can use their scheme record to passport to other applications. They must currently pay for an entirely new full-cost disclosure, but they will no longer have to do that. Because of the passporting arrangement, they will, at most, have a reduced cost short-scheme record to pay for. That bit of the equation is forgotten when we have talked about fees. Most people who are currently paying for disclosure check after disclosure check will no longer have to do that and their costs will be reduced. Ultimately, the cost to the voluntary sector will be reduced as a result.

The next category is those who may have an enhanced disclosure at present but who have not yet been retrospectively checked. When retrospection comes in, perhaps those who are already in the system under enhanced disclosure could be passported on to the new system at a reduced fee, rather than having to pay the full fee for a new check. The final category is those who have been in the system for many years and have had no disclosure check. They may have to pay the full initial cost.

The important issue about the fees is that they are affordable. There is no logic in having routine changes to fees for inflation purposes subject to affirmative resolution. If a major fee structure change were made, I would expect consultation to be carried out and that the Education Committee—or whichever committee was appropriate—would conduct an inquiry into any negative resolution. I support amendments 14 and 19 and reject amendments 36 and 37.