Charities have cautiously welcomed the government’s plans to significantly reduce the number of volunteers and staff who will be subject to criminal records checks if they work with children and vulnerable adults.
Under the plans, announced by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last week, only those who work "closely and regularly" with children and vulnerable adults will have to be checked.
The new system means about 4.5 million people who would have been checked under a scheme set up but not implemented by the Labour government will no longer have to be checked.
Mike Locke, director of public affairs at Volunteering England, said: "The announcement is beneficial for the volunteering movement, but the consultations and detailed work on implementation will be all-important. Much will depend on how the regulations allow volunteering groups to organise supervision and risk assessment."
Jan Cosgrove, national secretary of the charity Fair Play for Children, said: "We are less worried about this than we had expected to be when we first heard the scheme was being reviewed.
"If the quality of the vetting is right then it should be safe. But we are not convinced that the right balance has been struck and we are concerned that too many people will escape being checked.
"Part of the problem is that a great mythology has been created around the issue by people who haven’t spoken to volunteers. I don’t accept that criminal records checks put people off volunteering."
Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of Barnardo’s, was more enthusiastic about the proposals. "This is a victory for common sense," she said. "No system will ever entirely protect children. Employers will need to be supported to establish systems that will regularly check staff and volunteers who have substantial unsupervised access to children."