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TOUGH MEASURES TO WEED OUT CHILD ABUSERS

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Child abusers should face jail if they try to find work with children ...
Child abusers should face jail if they try to find work with children

according to new proposals outlined today by a cross government

working group.

A report by the Interdepartmental Working Group on Preventing

Unsuitable People From Working With Children puts forward four key

recommendations.

To:

- identify and ban unsuitable people from working with children

- create a new criminal offence which the 'unsuitable person' would

commit if they worked with children

- provide a new definition of 'working with children'

- create a 'one stop shop', the Criminal Records Bureau, to provide

access to information on people deemed unsuitable to work with

children under the new scheme. This formed part of the Protection

of Children Act 1999, which also gives the Secretary of State

powers to ban unsuitable people from working with children in the

health and social care fields

The report provides detail for how the scheme would operate.

Implementing the measures will need primary legislation.

Home secretary Jack Straw said:

'This new scheme would represent a significant step forward in

protecting children from potential abuse, and the close co-operation

of the numerous departments involved in drawing up the plans is to be

commended.

'Such moves should be welcomed by those agencies, organisations, and

educational groups who work closely with children. This new system

would be an important child protection measure that would help

safeguard the most vulnerable people in our society.

'But it must not be seen in isolation. It forms one of a programme of

measures to protect children. Moreover it is no substitute for proper

recruitment processes and continued vigilance on the part of all

organisations which work with children.

'My colleagues at the department of health and the department for

education and employment have been integral in developing the details

of the scheme.'

'[The government accepts these recommendations and intends to bring

forward legislation in due course to implement them.']

Health secretary Frank Dobson said:

'Existing laws and practice fail top prevent children being abused.

That is why we have set about changing both. We have also recognised

that the security we wish to provide for all children cannot be

delivered by just one government department.

'So we have been working together to establish a fully integrated

system for identifying people unsuitable to work with children and to

stop them from doing so.

Education minister Estelle Morris backs the scheme:

'I welcome these proposals. The measures build on existing systems

for protecting children from unsuitable people, like my Departments

'List 99', and will provide an important new safeguard.

NOTES

1. The group was set up in July last year to consider additional

measures to prevent those who are unsuitable from working with

children. It had three original aims:

- to devise a scheme for preventing unsuitable people from working

with children

- to look at abuse of trust

- to extend this work to vulnerable adults

2. The first of these aims are presented in the report published on

25 January 1999 and in the further details announced today. The

group's work on abuse of trust formed the basis for the provisions

of a new offence contained in the Sexual Offences (Amendment)

Bill. Measures to protect vulnerable adults are under

consideration.

3. Following their initial report in January on the main principles

of a scheme to protect children, the group was asked to work up

full details of the scheme which are published in the report

today. The Protection of Children Act 1999 incorporates the

group's proposals for the creation of a 'one stop shop' by using

the Criminal Records Bureau as a central access point for checking

the records of people working with children.

4. A summary of the group's detailed proposals is attached.

INTERDEPARTMENTAL WORKING GROUP ON PREVENTING UNSUITABLE PEOPLE

FROM WORKING WITH CHILDREN AND ABUSE OF TRUST

INTRODUCTION

The main report from the working group was placed in the House

Libraries on 25 January 1999. The working group was asked to work up

the details of the scheme. The following summary sets out its

conclusions.

One part of the working group's proposals has already been acted on.

This is their recommendation for a central access point for

information about those banned from working with children. This is

contained in the Protection of Children Act. The central access point

will be the Criminal Records Bureau. The Protection of Children Act

also provides the Secretary of State with powers to ban unsuitable

people from working with children in the health and social care

fields. Statutory powers for the Secretary of State to ban unsuitable

people from working in the education field already exist.

The detailed proposals set out in the summary concern the banning of

those convicted of serious criminal offences against children under

18 from working with children; the creation of a new criminal offence

to support the ban whether the individual has been banned by the

Secretary of State or a judge; and(Exceptions)

Order.

D. Information on those banned will be made available when

applications are made for criminal record and enhanced criminal

record certificates from the Criminal Records Bureau. The

information will form part of the certificate.

E. The aim is for similar schemes to be put in place for Scotland and

N.Ireland, with access to all information on those banned in each

country to be available in all three and with reciprocal bans in

place.

A. Identification of those unsuitable

1. Proposals for identifying and banning unsuitable people from

working with children in the health and social care areas are in

the Protection of Children Act. This will give the Secretary of

State power to ban people from working with children in services

within these areas regulated in some way following dismissal or

similar sanction by their employer and after due process including

an appeal. Other organisations may also submit cases to the

Secretary of State for consideration of persons working in child

care positions, but unlike the regulated area, neither the

submission of cases nor the observance of the ban will be

mandatory.

2. The Secretary of State already has similar powers to ban people

from working in schools and educational institutions. Under the

Protection of Children Act, these powers will be refined to

identify those who are unsuitable to work with children and will

become subject to an appeal.

3. The working group recommends a third group of people to be

identified as unsuitable to work with children.

These should be people who:

- are aged 18 or over; (there would be a discretion for a judge, in

exceptional circumstances only, to apply the ban to someone under

18);

- are convicted of one of a list of criminal offences committed

against children under 18; and

- receive a prison sentence of 12 months or more.

The ban would be imposed by the judge as part of the sentence and

subject to appeal as such. There would be provision for the judge

not to impose a ban if he considered there were exceptional

reasons demonstrating the conviction did not indicate that the

individua reasonably be expected to have known that the work in question

constituted working with children. There would also be a defence

if the individual did not know, and could not reasonably be

expected to have known, he was banned from working with children.

7. The offence would be an arrestable offence, subject to a maximum

of 5 years imprisonment, unlimited fine, or both.

8. An employer or equivalent who took a person he knew was banned

from working with children for work he knew or could reasonably be

expected to have known fell under the definition of working with

children would be liable for an offence. The offence would again

be an arrestable offence, subject to a maximum of 5 years

imprisonment, unlimited fine, or both.

C. 'Working with children'

9. The definition of working with children would go beyond the

definitions for the specific health and social care and education

bans covered by the powers of the Secretary of State. It would

cover a wide range of work, including education, health and social

care, accommodation, leisure and sporting activities, religious

activities, and the criminal justice system.

10. It would apply regardless of the status of the work - it would

apply to paid and unpaid work in the public, private, voluntary

and volunteering sectors.

11. It would be based on the concept of 'role' or 'position', not

'office' or 'employment'.

12. It should focus on key providers of services, not ancillary staff

(except in particular settings such as schools and residential

children's homes where all staff would be covered).

13. Except in the specific settings, the contact between child and

adult should be a normal part of the job, not incidental or

one-off contact.

14. Immediate supervisors, managers, and those in a position to take

decisions to appoint or dismiss people working with children would

be themselves classed as working with children. This would be

limited to those with direct 'control' at 'one level up' from

'front line' child workers. In addition some specified groups in

the education and social services field, such as school governors,

directors of social services and member information

on spent convictions and the ban if the work fell within the terms

of the new Exceptions Order. However agificates issued by

the Criminal Records Bureau because of the additional information

to go on them about the Secretary of State bans. However these

should be more than off-set by savings for organisations through

having a single access point for the information. It is difficult

to make a judgment over whether organisations are more likely to

make checks because of the integrated scheme than they would be

anyway under the proposals in Part V of the Police Act 1997. Any

such possible increase should be set against the fact that the new

criminal offence should make it less likely that someone banned

would apply for work with children. Hence organisations would be

less likely to go through a full recruitment process only to find

the preferred candidate was unsuitable as a result of his past

criminal record or misconduct in previous work with children.

* see LGCnet 29/7/99 'WELCOME FOR GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS TO BAN ABUSERS FROM CHILDCARE FOR LIFE'

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