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Revised disclosure checks

East Renfrewshire Council - widely regarded as taking the toughest stance of any authority on child protection measures - has issued revised guidelines on disclosure checks for school volunteers.

But the Scottish Parent Teacher Council says it has got its new advice wrong and has repeated an appeal to the Scottish Government to issue clarification for all councils.

Last week, East Renfrewshire said volunteers who were in direct contact with children at school, or who were in school when children were present, during the day or after it finished, had to be checked. One check would be valid for any school in the authority, so parents with children at more than one school would not require a separate check for each.

Judith Gillespie, development manager for the SPTC, said the authority had misunderstood the legal position. Under the Protection of Children (Scotland) Act, an adult must have a separate disclosure check for each position held, where its normal duties include childcare. Therefore, the authority could not legally dictate that one check was sufficient for all schools.

However, the requirement for carrying out disclosure checks referred only to people working in a childcare role. There was no requirement for parent volunteers to be checked if they were meeting in a school when children were present.

Although there are proposals to simplify the law so that there is one disclosure check per person rather than multiple checks, this has yet to be enacted, said Mrs Gillespie.

The SPTC has also clashed with Argyll and Bute Council over a letter from the authority to parent council members, telling them they all had to have disclosure checks. Mrs Gillespie claims that Scottish Government officials have confirmed that SPTC advice is correct, but she is angry that the Government has resisted its calls for national guidance to be issued.

She added that the issue of disclosure checks had become more sensitive, following the revelations about Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs missing computer discs: "People are rightly concerned about how confidential information about their past will be treated, particularly in light of the loss of 25 million people's data."

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