I feel compelled to write after the article published last week regarding the youth worker who was placed on the Sex Offenders Register following conviction for sexual offences.
The report states that “because he was already in post, he was not required to make a backdated disclosure”. I assume this means that he was employed prior to the disclosure system being implemented and therefore a referral was not legally necessary.
I find this wholly unacceptable as a reason not to have anyone referred for a disclosure check if they work, have regular contact or do volunteer work with children or vulnerable groups. I believe that many similar cases and examples are yet to come to light because of the lack of robust procedures and safe recruitment processes practised by statutory, voluntary and private sector organisations.
There is no excuse not to have someone who is in regular contact with children and protected adults, either paid or unpaid, disclosed. It is not only a system to identify convictions for sexual offences, but for also identifying any kind of criminal investigation or conviction for behaviour that may make the individual unsuitable to work with children or vulnerable groups – that is, any previous violent or abusive behaviour.
The Scottish Government has committed itself to helping local communities become safer places to live and work by introducing the new PVG (protecting vulnerable groups) Scheme which is easy to access and use. There is an excellent website providing information and guidance for organisations that can be used to gain further knowledge.
The scheme gives organisations the security of checking and receiving relevant information about any convictions, spent or unspent, or criminal investigations against prospective employees or volunteers. An informed decision can then be made about an individual’s suitability for a post.
Surely this is the first thing that should be considered before anyone takes up a position where there is any contact with children or vulnerable groups.
I am aware of organisations that do not have clear guidelines regarding checks and who are regularly using individuals to carry out duties and allow them to have contact with children and vulnerable groups who have not undergone the recommended relevant checks. Organisations can contact their own governing bodies for guidance, so there is no reason for this practice to continue and I ask that any statutory, voluntary or private organisation review and implement procedures to ensure a robust and safe environment to protect children and vulnerable groups. Service users and parents should ask organisations about procedures and policies to ensure that the appropriate checks are being carried on the individuals who are working with and have contact with children and vulnerable groups.
I hope this letter highlights some important issues and alerts parents, service users and organisations to the serious implications of failing to carry out the appropriate checks on those who are working and volunteering with our children and vulnerable groups.