Scottish criminal records vetting plan 'too costly'

Helen Warrell

Voluntary organisations in Scotland have voiced concern over proposed legislation that could require the sector to spend nearly £3m on staff criminal record checks.

The Scottish Executive's Protecting Vulnerable Groups Bill, which is currently in the first stage of scrutiny, would make it mandatory for voluntary bodies to implement retrospective security checks for all paid staff. Checks similar to those conducted by the Criminal Records Bureau in England and Wales would be carried out by Disclosure Scotland, part of the Scottish Criminal Record Office.

The Bill was prompted by the 2004 Bichard Inquiry into the deaths of Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, which recommended a 'vetting and barring scheme' for those working with children and vulnerable adults.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations estimates that 109,000 staff would have to be screened at a minimum cost of £26 each. Such checks on volunteers are currently free to charities.

Twenty-four Scottish charities and voluntary bodies have formed a coalition to lobby the Scottish Executive to provide funding for training and advice about the proposals. It has asked that the price of checks should be capped at £20. The group wants the administration process to be made as simple as possible.

"Everything must be done to bring about the highest level of protection for vulnerable groups in Scotland," said Gavin Yates, head of communications at SCVO. "An effective vetting and barring scheme is one of many possible steps forward, but with a near £3m price tag for the voluntary sector we have deep concerns over the cost."

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