The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007 (SVG Order) has established new safeguarding arrangements in Northern Ireland aimed at strengthening protection for children and vulnerable adults in workplace situations.
These increased safeguards came into effect in Northern Ireland on 12 October 2009. The key features of the new arrangements are:
The establishment of a new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) which will register those working with children and vulnerable adults and maintain lists of those barred from such work on the basis of harm or risk of harm.
A requirement for employees (both paid and unpaid) working in specified positions to register with the ISA and pay a registration fee (the fee in Northern Ireland for ISA registration is £58).
A requirement for employers to check whether an individual working in specified positions (carrying out Regulated or Controlled activities – see below) is registered with the ISA prior to employing them.
Phased ISA registration of the existing children’s and vulnerable adults’ workforces.
Continuous monitoring of those registered with the ISA.
A requirement for employers, professional registration bodies and inspection authorities to refer relevant information to the ISA.
Offences for not meeting the requirements created by the legislation.
A regulated activity is:
Any activity which involves contact with children or vulnerable adults frequently, intensively and/or overnight. This includes teaching, training, care, supervision, advice, treatment and transportation.
Any activity allowing contact with children or vulnerable adults that is in a specified place frequently or intensively, for example, schools, youth detention centres and care homes.
Fostering and childcare.
Any activity that involves people in certain positions of defined responsibility, for example, school governor or director of children's services or adult social services.
It will be an offence for individuals who are barred to seek or undertake regulated activity work with vulnerable groups. Criminal penalties will also apply to employers who knowingly take on barred individuals in regulated activity.
Controlled activity covers:
Frequent or intensive support work in further education, the NHS and adult social care, for example, cleaners, caretakers, shop workers.
Individuals working for specified organisations, for example, a Health Trust or Education and Library Board, who have frequent access to sensitive information about children and vulnerable adults.
It will be a criminal offence for an employer to take on an individual in a controlled activity without first checking that individual’s status. However, an employer can allow a barred individual to work in a controlled activity if sufficient safeguards are put in place.
Further details regarding the new vetting and barring scheme and employment and criminal convictions issues can be obtained from your local CAB. In addition, the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO) can be contacted on 028 9032 0157 for advice on matters relating to people with criminal convictions. NIACRO offers the service of a confidential advice line to employers, job applicants/employees and other external organisations wishing to seek information and support in relation to employment and disclosure issues.
Siobhan Harding is an Information and Policy Officer with Citizens Advice