Dai Durbridge considers the current position of the Independent Safeguarding Authority and the effect the new powers will have on teachers and schools

With the ISA taking on greater responsibility for vetting and barring from 12 October 2009, the press has been full of comment and complaint about the far-reaching tentacles of this new regulatory body.

What is the Independent Safeguarding Authority?

The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) was created following the government’s adoption of the recommendations set out in the Bichard Report. The report stemmed from the inquiry into the tragic deaths of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham in 2002.

The ISA’s role is to help prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults. They will do this through a system of registration which aims to ensure that every person who wants to work or volunteer with children or vulnerable adults is cleared to do so before undertaking the role. They will also be responsible for barring people from working with children.

Will all teachers have to be on this new register?

Yes, in time. As you can imagine, it is a massive task. The government estimates that 11.3m people will need to be on the register, which will take a significant time to process. As a result, the process is being introduced over a five-year period.

With your application to the ISA, you will need to send proof of identity and the one-off fee of £64. For the vast majority of applicants (estimated at 90%), the results should come back within a week. For those where there is information to consider, it will take longer, but it is unclear at the moment exactly how long this consideration will take. This process begins in July 2010.

If this process is nine months away, what is happening next week?

A number of important changes are expected. Firstly, the definition of ‘regulated activities’ will be widened. At the moment, the definition is quite complex and it is unclear whether some roles do or not fall within it. Individuals driving children to, from or for sports clubs was a recent example featured in the press. The wider definition of ‘regulated activities’ should make this clearer.

Secondly, the three current barring lists (List 99, POCA and POVA) will be replaced by two new lists administered by the ISA rather than a number of government departments. Checks of these lists can now be made as part of an enhanced CRB check. Employers, social services and regulators will also have a duty to refer to the ISA individuals who may pose a risk to children or vulnerable adults.

Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, it will be a criminal offence for a barred individual to work with or seek to work with children or vulnerable adults, and a criminal offence for an employer to take them on.

Will these changes have an impact on schools?

They are relevant to schools, but are going to have very little impact on the day-to-day management of recruitment and vetting of new staff. As long as a school makes the necessary referrals to the ISA instead of the DCSF and does not employ a barred individual, little change will be noticed for the time being.

Has the ISA issued guidance to assist?

Originally, general guidance was promised for September 2009, to be followed closely by sector-specific guidance. However, none has been published to date. This may be because the date for the beginning of the registration process has been pushed forward to July 2010. It is likely that we will see guidance in early 2010.

What changes come into force in July 2010?

This is when the registration process begins, but not for everyone. From next July, new members of the workforce, current members of the workforce who are moving into a role that is defined as ‘regulated activity’ and those working in ‘regulated activity’ who change jobs, may apply for registration. Note the ‘may’ – this does not become a legal requirement until November 2010.

The reason for the delay until November 2010 is to avoid the normal busy summer recruitment period. Therefore, while you can register with the ISA from July, there is no legal requirement to do so until November.

So do current teachers need to do anything in July or November 2010?

Those who currently work in schools and are staying in their current role will not have to register with the ISA until later in the five-year phasing period, which is to be completed by the end of 2014. Teachers changing roles, as set out above, will have to register from November 2010.

The registration of existing staff begins in 2011, starting with those existing employees and volunteers with no CRB check and those staff whose CRB checks are the oldest.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2009

About the author: Dai Durbridge