The cost of setting up and accessing the index worries both local authorities and voluntary organisations. The City of Edinburgh Council says: "If organisations are required to meet these costs through a scheme of charges, then for some it may represent a considerable financial burden.
"It is important to avoid anything that may discourage meticulous use of the index by employers, including costs. The Government are urged to consider funding the index from a central source."
The Scottish Council of the Scout Association also feels strongly about this issue, arguing that "as an important and fundamental child protection measure, once established, access to the index must be available free to all registered bodies".
Noting that Part V of the Police Act 1997 introduces checks to meet the demands of employers who might wish to vet prospective staff, it says: "It is morally indefensible to link, through a policy of charging, a child protection measure to a commercially driven employer protection measure."
Child protection at a price may come at too great a price, says consultant Susan Smith. "Most of the groups I work with are in voluntary youth work and sports arenas where checks are limited to references and word of mouth. Legitimate access to criminal records checks in the voluntary sector, outside the field of regulated childcare for under eight-year-olds, is very limited.
"This changes when Part V of the Police Act 1997 is implemented, when the only limit on access will be based on cash.
"The Scottish Executive, like their counterparts south of the border, are coy about setting the price of the new checks. Rumour currently suggests anything from pound;10 to pound;30 ad rising for positions involving regularly working with children.
"Most of the groups I work with, whether regulated or not, anticipate consulting and notifying the index. This adds time, tasks and costs to the recruitment and selection process, to management committees which have to examine their disciplinary proceedings and to staff to implement new systems.
"There may also be a cost in loss of volunteers who do not want to have to deal with hassle when all they want to do is work with kids. This short-term cost is necessary to raise standards of child protection, but if too great it may result in clubs or groups folding due to lack of support."
The Guide Association Scotland's chief executive, Sally Pitches, says: "The issue of hard cost is the single biggest concern we have about the issues of both criminal records checks and the consultancy index."
The fact that voluntary agencies are not required to consult the index, while regulated bodies must, is also a "serious concern" for many bodies, such as the Scottish Council of the Scout Association.
Chief executive Jim Duffy says: "It is our firm view that children and young people should be provided with the same measure of protection, regardless of whether or not an organisation is contractually engaged with the public sector in the delivery of such services.
"The concern expressed to Lord Cullen that there should be consistency in relation to pre-employment checks in all sectors must be addressed."
Child protection 3 TES scotland plusJNovember 24J2000 tony stone 'The fact that voluntary agencies are not required to consult the index, while regulated bodies must, is also a serious concern'