In one of the great pieces of buck-laying of recent times, Sir Roger Singleton, chairman of the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which will run the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) that will check the suitability of people who work with children and vulnerable adults, has laid the blame for the furore around it squarely on the government.
As reported by the BBC (and many others) Sir Roger, when asked if here had been ‘stupidity’ surrounding the way vetting rules were originally applied, replied; “The decisions were made by Parliament so if there was stupidity that’s where it rests.”
So, now we all know who to blame. That will have gone down well with Sir Roger’s employers.
What will have gone down better is Sir Roger’s revisions to the VBS, as set out in his report Drawing the Line, commissioned after the VBS received widespread criticism for being over-prescriptive and too onerous on its release back in September.
Predictably, he has recommended watering down some of the measures, and the government has agreed.
So, one of the major gripes about the VBS, which would require anyone working with children once a month – potentially including parents who regularly give lifts to children to clubs – to register in the scheme, will now only apply to those working with the same children once a week.
Elsewhere, parents will also welcome the assertion that ‘parents exercise their own judgement about who should care for their children that is entirely a private matter in which the scheme should not interfere’.
It also clarifies the rules around school exchange programmes, which had seemed under threat in the original version of the VBS. Now, if they last less than 28 days, they will be exempt.
These revisions make sense and seem to hit a happy medium. Bodies such as teacher’s union the NASUWT and children’s charity Barnardo’s have also welcomed them and neither is shy about criticising the government if they don’t agree with a policy.
But it also has to be remembered that the VBS won’t stop all paedophiles – only the ones who have been previously convicted. However, stopping those with previous convictions will be a big help.
Nevertheless, parents and carers will still have to be vigilant – and the government cannot be held responsible for that.