Steps to rectify disclosures anomaly

15th February 2008 at 00:00
Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, has admitted she may have to push through secondary legislation in parliament to remedy the anomaly in disclosure checks which The TESS revealed last week.

Government officials have been forced into a U-turn in their advice on disclosure, because of the way "child care" is defined in legislation.

After a re-examination of the Protection of Children (Scotland) Act, they have decreed that any adult working or meeting regularly in a school - even when no children are there - should be police-checked.

Ms Hyslop has acknowledged that the current legal advice does not reflect the act's intentions, and she is seeking advice from the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini.

"The Protection of Children (Scotland) Act was designed to prevent unsuitable people being able to work with children through their paid work or volunteering. The legislation was never intended to prevent parent councils meeting in schools in the evening or to impact on the use of schools out-of-hours by adults not working with children," she said. "It's crucial that we bridge the gap between the policy intention and the legal position. That's why we are moving swiftly to take steps to remedy this, including secondary legislation if necessary."

The Education Secretary said child protection would be strengthened next year through the implementation of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Act, which is currently under consultation.

But the Scottish Parent Teacher Council warned that this legislation ran a similar risk to Pocsa of sweeping up in its net people it was not intended to target.

The Protection of Vulnerable Groups Act defines "vulnerable adults" as those in receipt of NHS services, said Judith Gillespie, development manager of the SPTC. That meant that everyone employed in the NHS would have to be police-checked. However, the more serious implication was that any adult in receipt of NHS services - and therefore deemed a "vulnerable adult" - carried that status with them to other places where they received services. "They are laying for themselves the same trap with regard to 'vulnerable adults' as they did with 'child care' in Pocsa, unless they are brave enough to be specific about what they mean," she said.

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