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The Home Office has announced that registration with the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) will be halted to allow the government to remodel the scheme.
Voluntary registration with the VBS for new employees and job-movers working or volunteering with children and vulnerable adults, which was due to start on 26 July, has now been put on hold.
The scheme aims to protect children and vulnerable adults by stopping those who pose a known risk from working with them. It was designed as a response to the Bichard Inquiry into the Soham murders by Ian Huntley which called for better information sharing by police and vetting organisations.
Under the scheme, adults in England and Wales who take part in any formal agreement to look after children - even if it is as little as once a month - would have had to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and failure to do so could have led to prosecution.
The scheme came under criticism from businesses, community groups and individuals for being disproportionate and overly burdensome, and that it would unduly infringe on civil liberties.
A prominent critic was Esther Rantzen, the founder of the Childline charity, who voiced her concerns that the scheme would deter adults from volunteering with children's organisations and create a climate of paranoia.
"This is less about protecting children than about organisations protecting themselves. Of course we need to be alert to the safety of our children. We don't want a convicted child abuser taking a job as a tennis coach, a youth worker or a police officer. But we have to be sensible about this and I don't think we are," she said.
The Children's Minister, Tim Loughton, said today that although the safety of children and vulnerable adults is of paramount importance, they must be protected in a way that is proportionate and sensible.
"Any vetting system should not be a substitute for proper vigilance by individuals and society. At the moment we think the pendulum has swung too far.
"We shouldn't be driving a wedge between children and well-meaning adults including people coming forward to volunteer with young people. Such individuals should be welcomed, encouraged, and helped as much as possible, unless it can be shown that children would not be safe in their care," the Minister said.
The ISA will continue to make independent barring decisions. It will also continue to maintain two constantly updated lists, one for those barred from working with children, the other for those barred from working with vulnerable adults
The Home Office confirmed that existing requirements concerning Criminal Records Bureau and Access Northern Ireland checks will remain in place, and those entitled to such checks can continue to apply for them.
Employers are also still legally obliged to refer information to the ISA if they have moved or removed an individual because they have harmed or there is a risk of harm to a member of a vulnerable group.
The scope of the remodelling process - to be co-ordinated by the Home Office in partnership with Department of Health and Department for Education - is currently being finalised and will be announced shortly.
More than 66,000 employers, charities and voluntary groups are being informed of the change.
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