The Vetting and Barring Scheme, under which adults who have frequent or intensive contact with children will have to be registered with the Independent Safeguarding Authority, has been criticised by many authors and others in the national press.
Details of the Scheme may change as a result of Sir Roger’s deliberations. Meanwhile, we have been in discussion with civil servants at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, who have confirmed the following:
• Clearance is required if an individual regularly provides care, supervision, instruction or training to a vulnerable group or regularly visits specified locales such as schools or prisons;
• Authors will not need to register for one-off engagements in schools, unless they visit schools (any school) ‘once a month or more often; or three or more days in any 30 day period; or overnight’;
• Individuals will be able to register from July 2010 (through umbrella organisations), but the legal requirement to register will not come into force until November 2010; however
• The Scheme is being phased in and existing staff or individuals with existing CRB checks will not be required to register in 2010. They will have to do so between 2011 and 2015. At a recent meeting with officials at DCSF, we were told that, likewise, authors who have been giving talks in schools frequently will be free to register at a time of their choosing between 2011 and 2015.
We worry that some schools will hesitate to engage authors who are not registered, even if they have been visiting schools regularly. However, it is helpful to have been told by DCSF that only those new to visiting schools frequently will have to register by November 2010. We understand that in due course guidance notes will confirm that the self-employed who have been frequently engaged by schools (including authors) or authors with up to date CRB checks will not need to register until 2015.
Some ISA telephone operatives have wrongly advised that clearance is required for two school visits a year and that library, bookshop and festival talks will need checks if children will be present in the audience. The DCSF has confirmed that ‘…public venues such as bookshops or literary festivals will not require registration even where children are present. The underlying principle of the Scheme is to regulate situations where a relationship of trust could be built, and potentially abused, with children; it is not designed to capture simple contact with children.’ However, we have been led to understand that if individuals are providing supervision or instruction, in say, a creative writing workshop at a library or a Junior Club in a museum, adult participants will need to be cleared.
General information is available on the ISA’s website www.isa-gov.org