Vetting scheme 'to return to common-sense levels'

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The Independent Online

Home Secretary Theresa May promised today to scale back "draconian" plans for vetting people working with children and vulnerable adults to bring in more "common sense".

She said present plans unveiled by the last Labour government risked alienating volunteers doing valuable work, and they would now be put on hold while a new scheme was worked out.

The announcement comes as a landmark date approaches when all newcomers to regulated posts can register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

From July 26 all new entrants to regulated activity or those changing jobs would have been able to sign up, although it was not due to become mandatory until November 1.

The ISA scheme was developed in response to the murder of two schoolgirls by caretaker Ian Huntley and launched last October.

It was designed to prevent unsuitable people working with children and vulnerable adults, and employers would face prosecution for breaches.

An independent review of the scheme took place last year following complaints that volunteers were being discouraged.

As a result ministers agreed to only vet adults if they see the same group of children or vulnerable people once a week or more, rather than once a month.

But Mrs May told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "There were all sorts of groups of people out there who were deeply concerned about this.

"It was a draconian measure when it was introduced, that's why we have halted the process.

"What I think the problem with this is that we were finding the prospect of a lot of people who do very good work, up and down the country, were actually saying 'I can't be bothered if you are going to treat me like that'."

She said: "You were assumed to be guilty, in a sense, until you were proven innocent and told you were able to work with children."

Mrs May added: "By scaling it back we will be able to introduce a greater element of common sense.

"What we have got to do is actually trust people again."

Under the existing scheme it would be a criminal offence for individuals barred by the ISA to work or apply to work with children or vulnerable adults in a wide range of posts.

Around nine and a half million people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, were expected to eventually register with the ISA.

Last week The Royal College of Nursing said it was seeking a judicial review of the scheme, claiming it could breach the human rights of nurses and undermine their work.