THE Scottish Executive has launched a pre-legislative consultation on the best way to exclude unsuitable adults from working with children. Ministers propose to establish a national index to cover paid employees and volunteers.
This meets a key recommendation of the Cullen inquiry into the shootings at Dunblane primary by a gunman who had set up children's clubs. It also fulfils a pledge given in the Executive's programme for Government.
Sam Galbraith, Children and Education Minister, said: "Our children's safety is too important to be put at unnecessary risk. That said, we must ensure that the index is implemented in a way that fully respects the rights of those who are considered for inclusion.
"It is vital that the index works as effectively as possible. We need to ensure that its coverage is right, that decisions to place people's names upon it are taken in a fair and reasonable manner with an adequate opportunity for appeals, and that information from the index can be obtained by those, and only those, who need it."
The step was welcomed by Children in Scotland. But Douglas Hamilton, its policy officer, said an index was an "additional support" which should not be seen as a substitute for continued vigilnce in recruitment. "In order for such a system to be effective and have credibility, it is also vital that information held on such an index is 100 per cent accurate."
The consultation paper, Protecting Children: Securing Their Future, makes it clear that before a name was included on the index the person would be invited to submit observations and would have a right of appeal. These safeguards were welcomed by the Scottish Human Rights Centre.
The index is aimed at employees dismissed or transferred from jobs in education, child care and health care for misconduct involving children. The names of those who resign to avoid dismissal might also be included.
People who have been convicted of offences against children would also be precluded from working with them, and their details would be provided to "eligible organisations" by the Scottish Criminal Records Office.
Employers in education, child care and health care would be required to consult the index before making appointments involving regular contact with children, and would be prevented from employing any person registered as unsuitable.
The paper also suggests arrangements for sharing information with authorities in the rest of the UK.