The Home Office is concerned that, because of a loophole in the law, it is sometimes difficult to check whether sex offenders are attempting to work with vulnerable young people and children in places such as schools and care homes.
Alun Michael, the Home Office Minister, said yesterday that a single register may be established to replace the existing three registers, held by the police and the Departments of Education and Health. A newly created inter-departmental working group is also to consider creating a new criminal offence for anyone on the list who seeks to work with children.
In addition the group will examine extra measures to protect 16- and 17-year-olds who may be vulnerable to abuse by people in positions of trust.
Since last September, all sex offenders convicted or released from jail have to register their names and addresses with police. The Department for Education holds a separate register, "List 99", listing paedophiles who cannot be employed by schools. The Department of Health maintains a "consultancy index" of people suspected of preying upon children, whom statutory agencies are warned against employing.
The three lists could be placed on one register, although there are bound to be questions about who has access to the information and who will ensure that innocent people are not mistakenly included.
The group's recommendations are expected to be passed to ministers by the end of the year.