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Cost of disclosure checks could reduce number of volunteers

New legislation to protect children and vulnerable adults could hit the number of businesses and parents involved in schools, it has been claimed.

The cost of carrying out employee disclosure checks under the new Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme could drastically reduce the number of volunteers for pupil mentoring, says Scottish Business in the Community.

The legislation is also open to inappropriate use by local authorities, according to the Scottish Parent Teacher Council.

Membership of the PVG scheme will cost pound;59 - almost three times the price of current disclosure checks - and there will be a further pound;18 charge for subsequent updates, although checks are free for parents if done via parent councils.

Scottish Business in the Community is angry that the scheme will require organisations involved with schools and volunteering projects in Scotland to pay considerably more for disclosure checks than in England, where the charge is pound;44 including administration costs.

"The huge increase in the cost of the PVG scheme is likely to deter a number of organisations from getting involved. This will also have an impact on the voluntary sector, which employs more than 60,000 staff in registered roles," said Lesley Duffy, the business organisation's programme co-ordinator.

A Scottish Government spokesman said it was wrong to suggest the majority of volunteers would be put off by the cost: "There will be no charge for volunteers working for recognised voluntary organisations, just as their enhanced disclosure checks are currently free of charge."

Also, the scheme has a life membership, so the vast majority (over 90 per cent) of those who will pay will have no need to pay the higher fee again, he said.

"Those who do require an update will be able to get one for pound;5 less than the current cost of an enhanced disclosure check."

Although the initial costs for organisations were being increased by pound;15 million over the four-year phasing-in period, there would be administrative savings of pound;11million, he said. "Once the scheme has been phased in, the fee and administrative savings together will be over pound;7 million annually."

The Government dismissed as "misleading" SPTC claims that the new scheme raised the spectre of parents being obliged to join a lifelong "identity card scheme by another name" for trivial purposes.

But Eileen Prior, executive director of SPTC, insisted that many local authorities intended to continue pushing parents through disclosure checks unnecessarily.

"The PVG legislation means disclosure is no longer a one-off check: people who go through the new regime will become lifelong members of a scheme and records will be held on them in government computers," she said.

"The Government has spent in excess of pound;50m on the IT and systems development for the new scheme. Surely that has not been spent to monitor parents who hire a hall or want to be part of a parent council?"

Mrs Prior urged the Government to take stronger action to stop local authorities pursuing disproportionate disclosure procedures. She cited the case of a father who was required by one council to be disclosure-checked before going on the school bus to fasten his disabled son's seatbelt.

The Government spokesman said that individuals who were concerned should report the matter to Disclosure Scotland.

Mrs Prior said it should not be left to parents to raise such concerns.

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