Tough New Measures To Protect Northern Ireland Vulnerables

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Further details of a new scheme which will put in place stronger safeguards to protect children and vulnerable adults were announced by the Health Minister.

The Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS), which is at the heart of a cross-government strategy to increase the protection of the most vulnerable members of society, comes into effect on 12 October 2009. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, in co-operation with departments in England and Wales, is leading on the implementation of the VBS in Northern Ireland.

The Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Michael McGimpsey said: “The protection of children and vulnerable adults is a top priority for my department and the wider government. Northern Ireland already has one of the most advanced systems in the world for checking those who work in positions of trust with children and vulnerable adults.

“The extra safeguards which will come into effect from 12 October 2009, will provide even greater protection. Around 125,000 more jobs and voluntary positions, including most jobs in the health sector, will become subject to checks meaning many more people posing a risk to vulnerable people will be excluded from the workplace.”

Additional safeguards starting in October are:

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* reduction of red tape - two barring lists will be administered by a single organisation, the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), rather than the three lists currently maintained by two different government departments;

* the introduction of ‘regulated activities’ – a much wider range of jobs and activities can be checked, meaning more unsuitable people can be barred, particularly in areas of work with vulnerable adults such as the Health Service;

* a new duty to share information - employers, social services and professional regulators will have to notify the ISA of relevant information so individuals who pose a threat to vulnerable groups can be identified and barred from working with these groups; and

* improved enforcement – it will be a crime for a barred individual to seek or undertake work with vulnerable groups; and for employers to knowingly take them on. It will also be a crime for employers and professional regulatory and registration bodies not to fulfil a statutory duty to refer individuals considered to be a risk to children and vulnerable adults to the ISA.

From 26 July 2010, all new entrants to roles working with vulnerable groups and those switching jobs within these sectors will be able to register with the VBS and be checked by the ISA.

Registration will include employers being continuously informed of an employee’s suitability to work. To ensure robust testing and maximise the safety of vulnerable groups, the mechanism that keeps employers informed of an employee’s suitability to work will also be introduced in July next year rather than October 2009.

The legal requirement for employees to register with the VBS and employers to check their status will come into force in November 2010.

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