Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2006)
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act was created in response to recommendations made in the Bichard Inquiry arising from the Soham murders in 2002. The Inquiry questioned the way employers recruit people to work with vulnerable groups, and particularly the way background checks are carried out. Recommendation 19 of the Inquiry highlighted the need for a single agency to vet all individuals who want to work, or volunteer to work, with children or vulnerable adults and to bar unsuitable people from doing so.
The Act which received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006, lays foundation for the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) which began rolling out on 12 October 2009. Copies of the Act and an explanatory note can be downloaded from the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) website.
The Independent Safeguarding Authority
The Independent Safeguarding Authority (the ISA) is an independent non-departmental public body set up by the Home Office to provide new safeguarding arrangements for children and vulnerable adults.
The ISA will take all discretionary decisions on who should be placed on the barred lists both prior to an individual's employment and, if necessary, following a referral into the VBS. The application process for decisions will be run by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).
Vetting and Barring Scheme
On the 1 April 2008, the Home Office made an announcement which outlined the requirements under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act and the launch of the new Vetting & Barring Scheme (VBS).
The UK already has one of the most advanced systems in the world for checking those who work in positions of trust with children and vulnerable adults. The implementation of the new VBS will introduce further increased safeguards to prevent unsuitable people gaining access to vulnerable adults and children through work or volunteering, and builds on current legislation around pre and post employment checks.
Additional safeguards include:
- replacing the current Government lists under the Protection of Children's Act (PoCA), Protection of Vulnerable Adults Act (PoVA) and List 99. Introducing two main registers, one to cover working with children and one to cover working with vulnerable adults
- the introduction of barring from regulated activities. People included on the new barred lists by the ISA will be barred from a far wider range of jobs and activities than previously, e.g. extending to people working with vulnerable adults in the NHS
- placing a new duty to share information. Employers, social services and professional regulators will have to notify the ISA of all relevant information so individuals who pose a threat to vulnerable groups can be identified and barred from working with these groups
- employers will commit an offence if they knowingly employ someone who is barred from working with vulnerable adults or children. It will also be a criminal offence for barred individuals to seek or undertake work with vulnerable groups.
NHS Employers will continue to work closely with the Home Office/ISA, DH, and CRB to provide regular updates through this web page and the NHS Workforce Bulletin as more information becomes available.
The service will extend to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, although arrangements for application and appeals may differ slightly in Northern Ireland.
A separate but aligned scheme is being set up in Scotland under the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Bill. Anyone included on a barred list in Scotland will also be barred from working with children and vulnerable adults across the UK.
Next steps: registration with the ISA
Those who work with children or adults who may be vulnerable to abuse or exploitation in a wide range of settings, in both paid and unpaid work, will eventually be required to register themselves with the ISA. The scheme will ensure that those who are known to present a risk of harm to others are prevented from entering the workforce in the first place.
It is important to note that the new scheme does not mean an automatic barring of all individuals who may have a criminal conviction. The ISA will only bar people who are identified as posing an obvious risk, it is therefore essential that where there is a current mandated requirement in the NHS to carry out a CRB check, these should continue to be obtained to ascertain that the individual does not have a criminal conviction that may deem them unsuitable to work in the position being offered.
Registration with the ISA was intended to come in from 26 July 2010 for all new appointees working within regulated activity with children and vulnerable adults - see 'important notice for employers' below which outlines the recent Government announcement which affects the timetabling for the launch of ISA registration.
Once enforced, individuals will be able apply for ISA registration through an employer/professional body or an umbrella body. A list of umbrella bodies can be found on the CRB's website.
Once the individual is registered they will be issued with a unique ID number. In disclosing this to a prospective employer, the employer will then be able to check the individual's ISA status and register their interest to automatically be kept up to date should any subsequent criminal activity be committed and they became barred.
Important notice for employers
Home Office announces deferment of ISA registration
The Home Office announced on 15 June 2010 that there will be a deferment of the requirements for ISA registration which was due to come into force from 26 July 2010 for all new appointees working or volunteering within regulated activity under the terms of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2006). See FAQ section below for what this means for employers, further details can be found on the ISA website.
Updates will be published in the NHS Workforce Bulletin as soon as further information is issued by the Home Office.
Employers are strongly recommended to register themselves to receive the ISA's newsletter for the latest updates, further information can be found on the ISA website.
Further information for employers
The Home Office have published generic guidance on the Vetting & Barring Scheme (March 2010). Copies of this guidance, alongside guidance on duty to make referrals; decision making processes; and general communication tools (such as leaflets, presentations and email templates) can be downloaded from the ISA’s website. Employers may also download the Home Office's 'Imagine' DVD for internal communications about the reasons behind the scheme.
Employers may also find it useful to read Sir Roger Singleton’s review of the definitions and frequency test and subsequent report 'Drawing the Line' which was published Jan 2010.
A revised version of the NHS Employment Check Standards will be available through this website at the end of June 2010. The standards will include an update on the legal requirements for criminal record checking from 12 OCtober 2009 under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act.
Sector specific guidance on the scheme will be published for Health, Adult Social Care and Housing following outcomes of the Government's review. Updates will be published through the NHS Workforce Bulletin as soon as further information becomes available from the Home Office.
If any of your queries cannot be answered within the references given above or in the FAQs, please contact:
- The ISA’s helpline by telephoning 0300 123 1111 or emailing them at: firstname.lastname@example.org if your query relates to duty to refer or barring decisions
- NHS Employers by emailing email@example.com if your query relates to requirements for criminal record checking
Frequently asked questions
Q1. Why was new legisltation introduced?
Q2. Which government bodies are involved in the scheme?
Q3. What guarantees are there that the ISA will make the right decision?
Q4. Are the ISA's barring decisions different to those previously made under the old system by the Secretary of State?
Q5. Are the ISA's barring thresholds as rigorous as those used by Secretary of State?
Q6. What changes came into force from 12 October 2009?
Q7. The new scheme introduces extended scope for checking individuals across regulated and controlled activities - wont this mean we could potentially find large numbers of staff suddenly becoming barred?
Q8. What legal framework supports the scheme?
Government review of the scheme
Q9. What are the implications for employers following announcements made on 15 June 2010?
Q10. Will ISA still be introduced?
Q11. When will employers be expected to refer to the ISA?
Q12. Where do employers need to send their referral forms?
Q13. What is relevant conduct?
Q14.When do I refer?
Q15. What information is required when referring to the ISA?
Q16. Are employers required to send retrospective referrals to the ISA about investigations or incidents which occurred prior to 12 October 2009?
Q17. Is there a legal duty for employers to provide information to the ISA if they are asked for it?
Q18. Where do employers stand in relation to employment law if they have to dismiss or suspend someone?
Q19. What happens if an employer, following the issue of a formal warning, decides to re-instate someone?
Q20. What if an employee resigns before any final internal disciplinary decision has been made?
To ensure that we have the most robust system possible for preventing those who seek to harm children, or vulnerable adults, from gaining access to them through work or volunteering.
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2006) and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Order (Northern Ireland) 2007 were created in response to recommendations made in the Bichard Inquiry arising from the Soham murders in 2002 and lay the foundation for the new Vetting & Barring Scheme (VBS) which came into force on 12 October 2009.
The new Scheme will provide a more comprehensive and consistent measure of protection for vulnerable groups across a wide range of settings, and will apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A separate but aligned scheme will cover Scotland.
Information will be shared across the two schemes and barring will be recognised in any part of the UK.
The Home Office is the sponsoring body and leads on the implementation of the Scheme.
The Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), and the Department of Health are funding the development of the Scheme as well as leading on policy and legislation. In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) is leading on policy areas and legislation.
The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) will have overall responsibility for making barring decisions and all applications to the scheme will be administered by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).
The members of the founding board of the ISA are experts from a wide range of specialist fields, covering all aspects of safeguarding. The ISA will be working under the current legislation and it has many experienced case workers.
No. A barring decision by the ISA will have exactly the same effect as a Secretary of State bar on List 99, PoCA or PoVA for unsuitability.
Yes. The members of the founding Board of the ISA are experts from a wide range of specialist fields, covering all aspects of safeguarding.
Full guidance on the ISA's decision making process can be found on the ISA website.
This is the first phase of the Vetting & Barring Scheme and will provide increased safeguards that will further enhance the protection of children and vulnerable adults. The key changes employers need to note are as follows:
- The three previous barred lists (POCA, POVA and List 99) have ceased to exist and have been replaced by two new barred lists administered by the ISA, the ‘Children’s List’ and the ‘Vulnerable Adults List’
- Employers, social services and professional regulators will have a duty to refer information about individuals who may pose a risk to children and vulnerable adults to the ISA. This will ensure that any potential threats to vulnerable groups can be identified and dealt with effectively
- There are now criminal penalties for barred individuals who seek to undertake work with vulnerable groups in regulated activity and for any employers who knowingly take them on in a regulated activity
- The eligibility criteria for enhanced CRB disclosures have been extended to include anyone working/volunteering in a regulated activity, this will also include certain controlled activities - where the activity is being carried out in a 'specified place'
- The previous POVA First service has been replaced by the ‘ISA Adult First’ service. This service was intended to replace existing services offered to social care (i.e. care homes, domiciliary care agencies and adult placement schemes) where CRB disclosures are required by law.
This service must only be used in very exceptional circumstances and in accordance with the terms of Department of Health guidance. The ISA Adult First service will cost £6.00.
Whilst this service may be carried out in the NHS, it is important to stress that this check will only confirm that the individual is not barred from working with vulnerable adults, it will not give you any details about any criminal offences that may need to be considered, and will not give you any details about whether or not the individual is barred from working with children so it is not appropriate for NHS positions which involves working with both children and vulnerable adults.
There is no equivalent service to check against the children's barred list.
Checks against the pre-existing PoCA List have always been carried out in the NHS, the Vetting & Barring Scheme introduces nothing new around the requirements for checking staff who work with children. The impact for the NHS is more likely to be with staff who work with vulnerable adults where they will be barred from working within regulated activity for the first time.
It is not possible to say how many staff working within the NHS will be barred by the ISA for automatic offences, or for behaviours which harm, or poses the risk of harm, to children or vulnerable adults. It is therefore essential for NHS organisations to continue to carry out their pre-employment checks (including CRB checks) in compliance with the NHS Employment Check Standards.
The scheme is underpinned by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2006) and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (Northern Ireland) Order 2007.
Government review of the scheme
the Government's decision to review the scheme takes forward the recommendations made in Sir Roger Singleton's report 'Drawing the Line' (January 2010) which looked at the Children's provisions under the scheme and review of definitions of 'frequent' and 'intensive' across government guidance.
Key messages for employers:
- The requirements under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act (2006) which came into force from 12 October 2009 i.e. extended scope of enhanced CRB checks, the duty to refer to the ISA, barring decisions and offences, remain unchanged
- The introduction of ISA registration, continuous monitoring and on-line checking of an individual's ISA registration status has now been deferred pending the outcomes of the review
- Employers must continue to carry out pre-employment checks including CRB checks, where there is a legal or mandated requirement for them to do so (as outlined within the NHS Employment Check Standards)
- Checks against the barred lists will continue to be made as part of an enhanced CRB disclosure
NHS Employers will be working closely with the Department of Health, Home Office, and CRB to ensure that this has minimal effect on service delivery.
Updates will be published on this website, the NHS Workforce Bulletin and through our usual communications channels as soon further information is made available by the Home Office.
A revised Criminal Record Check Standard will be published at the end of June which clearly outlines the legal and mandated requirements for criminal record checking under current legislation.
It is not yet clear how the Government's review of the Vetting & Barring Scheme will impact the introduction of ISA registration. NHS Employers will be working closely with the Home Office and the CRB over the coming months and will issue further updates through this website and the NHS Workforce Bulletin as soon as information is made available.
The ISA referral guidance came into force from 12 October 2009, organisations should use the new single ISA feferral form which is downloadable from the ISA website. New duties to share information and make referrals to the ISA affect all:
- Regulated Activity Providers (e.g. health and social care bodies)
- Personnel Suppliers
- Keepers of Registers
- Supervisory Bodies
- Local Authorities
- Education and Library Boards and HSC bodies
The above bodies also have a duty to provide any information they currently hold to the ISA on request.
Once completed, the referral form as well as any supporting evidence you may have, should be posted to:
Independent Safeguarding Authority
PO Box 181
Relevant conduct is any conduct which endangers, or is likely to endanger, a child or vulnerable adult. Such conduct includes emotional, psychological, sexual and verbal abuse. Financial abuse, e.g. unauthorised withdrawals from a vulnerable adult’s account, theft and fraud. Also neglect, which would include failing to meet basic physical and or psychological needs including treatment of any medical conditions.
A referral should be made to the ISA when a regulated activity provider such as an employer or volunteer coordinator removes a person from regulated or controlled activity, or that person resigns, retires, is made redundant or is transferred to a position which is not regulated or controlled activity. Because the regulated activity provider ‘thinks’ that a person has carried out one or more of the following:
- Engaged in relevant conduct
- Satisfied the 'harm test' - this is met when a relevant person (an employer) believes that an individual may harm, cause to be harmed, put at risk of harm, attempt to harm or may incite another person to harm, a child or vulnerable adult
- Received a caution or conviction for a relevant offence.
If the above criteria have been met the information must be referred to the ISA.
This is regardless of whether the action or offence was in connection with their work. The referral should be made to the ISA when the employer has gathered sufficient evidence as part of their own investigations.
The referral form outlined the information and documents you should provide at the time you make a referral. If you do not hold the information requested on the form then this particular section of the form should be left blank.
Employers are not required to obtain information from other sources or draft any documents to meet it's responsibilities to the ISA. If you are aware of relevant information that is held by another source you should indicate this where required on the ISA referral form.
Although there is a legal duty to refer in certain circumstances from 12 October 2009, there is also the power (but not a mandatory duty) for local authorities, Education and Library Boards, health and social care bodies, keepers of registers and supervisory authorities to make a retrospective referral to the ISA.
This is when there is evidence that an individual has engaged in relevant conduct prior to 12 October 2009 and that the person is engaged or may engage in regulated or controlled activity.
Yes, the ISA has the legal right to receive information where it asks for it from Regulated Activity Providers and Personnel suppliers. There may be occasions during an investigation when the ISA will ask you for additional information to assist it with its decision making. However, this legal right only extends to existing information that you might hold. Employers are not required to undertake any additional investigations or inquiries.
If an employee becomes barred from working in regulated activity, that would amound to a fair reason for dismissing that person from a regulated post. The employer would still be under a duty to follow a fair procedure. If an employer needs to investigate allegations of harm, it would usually be prudent for them to suspend that individual or, where appropriate, transfer them to a non-regulated activity whilst a full investigation is carried out.
However, employers should be minded that care needs to be exercised in cases where they become aware that an employee is under consideration of barring by the ISA for reasons unconnected with that person's employment. In such cases, the employer needs to carefully balance it's duty to protect children and vulnerable adults against the balance of risk against the roles and responsibilities of the job they are undertaking. Where a decision is made to bar them from regulated activity with children and/or vulnerable adults, they should be removed from that activity.
If following an internal disciplinary investigation the employer decides the best course of action is to issue a formal warning and return the employee to a regulated activity with additional training, they would still have a duty to refer to the ISA.
Q20. What if an employee resigns before any final internal disciplinary decision has been made?
If the criteria to make a referral to the ISA are met then you must make a referral irrespective of whether the employee is still employed by the organisation.