Blacklist 'will save innocence'

THE Education Minister said this week that she believed the Scottish Executive had struck the right balance between "protecting children and allowing them to enjoy the innocence of childhood".

Cathy Jamieson was commenting on the publication of the Protection of Children (Scotland) Bill which will give legislative backing to a List of Persons Unsuitable to Work with Children.

The list will be available to employers such as education authorities which will be compelled to consult it before offering teachers and others a job.

It will be an offence if anyone named on the list is caught working with children.

Crucially, records will contain the names of those who have not been convicted of a criminal offence as well as those who have. Employers will be obliged to refer anyone who has been sacked or moved on because of unsuitable behaviour towards children.

Irene Audain, chief executive of the Scottish Out of School Care Network, welcomed the Bill. "With this last piece of legislation falling into place, we hope the system will be as robust as it can be."

The Disclosure Scotland agency, which allows checks to be made by employers on those with a criminal record, will hold the list and will have access to the "List 99" of names held by the Department for Education and Skills.

In Scotland, there will be three types of disclosure - basic, which omits convictions incurred before 1974; standard, which relates to all convictions including minor ones; and enhanced, which covers both convictions and non-convictions.

Teachers will be among those who come into the enhanced category because of the sensitivity of their work with children. This means that non-conviction information may be passed on from police files, including cases waiting to go to court.

In England, a backlog of checks has built up and new teachers in one Essex school were effectively quarantined in the staffroom while clearance was obtained.

Brian Gorman, director of Disclosure Scotland, said: "We have a self-imposed service agreement to process 90 per cent of disclosure checks within 10 working days of the date of receipt, that is a written request from an organisation or registered body (such as the General Teaching Council for Scotland or a local authority).

"We are meeting that agreement. In cases where we don't meet the 10-day deadline, it is mainly because we have to make enquiries outwith Scotland."

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