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News / October 12, 2009

Safeguarding arrangements go live for dentists in the North

by Guy Hiscott

The new Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS), which extends across Northern Ireland, England and Wales, was launched today.

A new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) will be central to the VBS and AccessNI will be key to the delivery of the scheme in Northern Ireland when it is fully operational next year.

The following increased safeguards will be introduced from today, further enhancing protection of children and vulnerable adults:
• It is now a criminal offence for barred individuals to apply to work with children or vulnerable adults in a wider range of posts. Employers also face criminal sanctions for employing a barred individual across a wider range of work
• The three current barring lists will be replaced by the creation of two new barred lists administered by the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) rather than several government departments. From now on checks of these two lists can be made as part of an Enhanced Disclosure check through AccessNI
• Additional jobs will be covered by the barring arrangements, including large numbers of staff working in the health and social care sectors, including primary care
• Employers, employment businesses and agencies, social services and professional regulators have a duty to refer information to the ISA in circumstances where they stopped or considered stopping an individual from working with vulnerable groups on the grounds that they have caused harm or posed a risk of harm.

Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Michael McGimpsey, MLA, whose department is leading on implementing the VBS on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive, said: ‘The Vetting and Barring Scheme is at the heart of government strategy to strengthen safeguards for the most vulnerable members of Northern Ireland society.

‘In recent times we have seen too many cases where those who are vulnerable, both children and adults, have not received the protection from abuse they deserve. The VBS being launched today is key to strengthening safeguards for children and vulnerable adults. It focuses on those who work with them, either through volunteering or paid employment. It benefits from the establishment of an Independent Safeguarding Authority and should offer parents, carers and the wider public the assurances they need and have the right to expect.’

Paul Goggins MP, Minister of State at the NIO, said: ‘I welcome these further developments in the safeguarding of the most vulnerable in Northern Ireland. AccessNI is ready to play its part in supporting the changes from 12 October by making sure that disclosure certificates are delivered promptly to both employers and applicants and then from 2010 when applications to register with the ISA will be made through AccessNI’.

Commenting on VBS changes that will take effect next year, Wendy Osborne of the Volunteer Development Agency, said: ‘In a number of ways the new Vetting and Barring Scheme provides a much more efficient system by, for example, drawing information together in one place and minimising the number of checks on an individual through an ongoing monitoring system”.

Further information can be found on the ISA website, including guidance from the ISA for employers on how to fulfil their new duty to refer an employee who causes harm or poses a risk of harm.