Eleven million names on school vetting database
Outcry grows as scale of Government's child protection register revealed
Friday 17 July 2009
Parents who help out on school trips or accept foreign exchange students into their homes will have to register on a government database in order to prove they are not a danger to children.
Within five years, more than 11 million people will be stored by the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) as part of the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS), which launches in October and is intended to protect children from paedophiles. By November next year, it will be mandatory for all individuals who work with children to be registered.
MPs who regularly visit schools in their constituencies, parents who allow foreign pupils to stay in their houses as part of school exchange programmes and builders who carry out work on school buildings during term time will all need to register, as the list includes anyone who comes into contact with children in a professional or voluntary capacity. They will have to register with the national database for a one-off fee of £64. Those who have already had a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check and are cleared to work with children will still have to sign up and pay.
People who regularly volunteer to work at schools – such as parents helping out on school trips or sports days – will also need to register, although they will not have to pay the fee.
The new rules mean that millions of people who have jobs which involve indirect contact with children will have to be assessed in case they pose a risk. School janitors, cleaners and kitchen staff will have to pay the registration fee, as will electricians, plumbers and joiners if they are regularly employed by schools. Members of the fire, police and ambulance services who tour the country talking to pupils about issues such as road safety and sexual health will need to be vetted, as will members of the armed forces who give frequent careers talks and cadet instructors.
The Home Office estimates that the database will hold the details of 11.3 million people within five years. Even if just half of the participants pay the £64 fee in this time, the Government will have raised about £360m in revenue.
The scheme is being managed by the ISA, which was set up after the 2002 murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by Ian Huntley, a college caretaker.
The VBS has already provoked anger among people who are accustomed to visiting schools on a regular basis. Yesterday, The Independent reported that a group of respected British children's authors and illustrators intended to stop visiting schools in protest at the scheme. Philip Pullman, Anne Fine, Anthony Horowitz, Michael Morpurgo and Quentin Blake all said they objected to being registered on the database. Mr Pullman described the policy as "corrosive and poisonous to every kind of healthy social interaction", while Mr Horowitz said the £64 registration fee had "a nasty feeling of a stealth tax about it".
David Lyscom, chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, which represents 1,280 schools and more than 500,000 children across the UK, said the VBS was a "knee-jerk reaction" to the issue of child protection which was "full of unintended consequences".
He said it had been mishandled in the same way as ContactPoint, the government database which holds information on every child in England under the age of 18. ContactPoint was set up following Lord Laming's inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié, who was murdered by her guardians in 2000. "Our view is that this is another example of the Government identifying a problem of limited size and producing a global solution to deal with it, using a sledgehammer to crack a nut," he said.
A Home Office spokesman said: "The UK already has one of the most advanced systems in the world for carrying out checks on all those who work in positions of trust with children and vulnerable adults. From October this year, the new VBS will ensure these regulations are even more rigorous."
The amount the Government will raise if half the 11.3 million people who will be on the database in five years pay the £64 fee.
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