A New Disclosure and Barring System to Protect the Vulnerable

When people who should not be in such work manage to slip through the cracks in the pavement and enter professions where vulnerable children or adults are involved, this is an issue that is always guaranteed to create a high level of controversy in society. After all, the vulnerable are the people we should always make every effort to protect the most, and when there has been a breach of trust, this is something we have to learn from and we must ensure the same thing never happens again.

Following a spate of problems in nurseries in recent years, this is something that pushed the coalition government into action, and as a consequence of investigations into the current regulations surrounding the disclosure and barring system, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 was conceived and very recently given Royal Assent. The first parts of this statute come into force on 10 September 2012.

This new statute has been legislated in an attempt to make the laws surrounding the disclosure and barring system appear to make more common sense. Under the previous legislation, there were two separate bodies dealing with these issues: the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). One of the main features of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 will be to merge these bodies together to form what is known as the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). However, this merger will not take place in September 2012; instead, it is thought most likely that this will transpire in December of the same year.

The most significant changes to come into force on 10 September 2012 will be a new definition of what is considered to be a ‘regulated activity’. In other words, which types of jobs are considered to involve working with any people who may be classified as vulnerable. At present, the current definitions are thought to encompass a total of 9 million staff across the country; however, following the implementation of the new definitions, it is thought the affected workforce will drop down to some 5 million staff.

Other features are also being repealed in the new statute; these include the classification of a ‘controlled activity’, which was basically a role that was considered to be less likely than a regulated activity to bring a member of staff into contact with vulnerable people. The registration and continuous monitoring procedures were intended to ensure that a member of staff working with vulnerable people registered with the CRB and was continually monitored; however, this never officially came into force and is now being completely repealed. One other important new feature of the 2012 Act is the fact that it will no longer be possible to apply for a CRB check for anyone who is under the age of 16 years.

There are a number of exceptionally important laws and regulations connected with the barring and disclosure system that will not be in any way affected. These include when an employer takes on a member of staff for a regulated activity and they know the person would be barred from working in that role. This is and will remain against the law. Further, it is always a legal obligation for an employer to submit any knowledge of a staff member’s abuse in a regulated activity position to the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

For the most part, the disclosure and barring system in the United Kingdom appears to be effective. However, any system may be open to abuse, and it is a very unfortunate fact of life that one or two undesirable individuals will slip through the net from time to time. Hopefully now, the implementation of these new ‘common sense’ regulations and the fact that the two bodies are merging into one will lead to an even more protective system for the vulnerable people within our society in the future.