Scotland politics

What to do if you want to work with children

The child sex abuse scandal in Scottish football has raised questions about the checks done on adults who work with children. Here, I look at how the system works to safeguard children in Scotland.

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Who needs to undergo background checks?

Anyone who is working with children as part of the normal duties of their job generally needs to apply to Disclosure Scotland for a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) background check.

It applies to anyone who has unsupervised contact with under 18s in either a voluntary or paid role.

For example, school bus drivers will have to undergo checks if they are routinely left alone with children.

However if they are always accompanied by another adult with responsibility for the youngsters, it is the second adult who will require the check rather than the driver.

A spokesman for Disclosure Scotland said checks are required for people who carry out what the law describes as "regulated work".

He added: "It is the duties which are done that matter, not the job title: even though a role might have the same title as others it may not be regulated work if the duties differ.

"Typically 'regulated work' includes jobs and volunteering with unsupervised access to, and supervisory care of, children or work in an educational or coaching capacity.

The Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 sets out when a PVG disclosure can be made.

What could the background check reveal?

Criminal convictions and any other relevant information held by the police will be thrown up by the PVG scheme record disclosures.

A spokesman for Disclosure Scotland added: "It may also contain police information about the conduct or circumstances of the applicant that the chief constable reasonably believes to be relevant to the type of regulated work the applicant is applying for, whether that be with children, protected adults or with both groups.

"This latter information can include non-conviction information."

If Disclosure Scotland is informed by an organisation or the courts of an individual's misconduct and that they might be considered for barring, that information would be on disclosure certificate.

Once an organisation knows that someone is barred, it is an offence to allow them to undertake regulated work, including volunteering.

Who makes the application for the background check - me or my organisation?

Disclosure Scotland said employers or voluntary groups will tell applicants that PVG scheme membership is a condition of their employment or volunteering role.

A spokesman added: "The PVG check is always commenced with the agreement of the individual applicant who is the subject of the disclosure, but it is countersigned by the employer or voluntary organisation.

"There are strict checks in place on these organisations to make sure the PVG Scheme is used properly and disclosures are only made when the job or role is regulated work."

How much does the background check cost and who pays for it?

Disclosure Scotland said that qualifying voluntary organisations who take on volunteers to work with children do not pay for checks as they are funded by the Scottish government.

Employees in public and private sector organisations will have to pay for checks. The cost could be footed by the individual themselves or by their employer or voluntary group. The law does not specify who should pay.

A PVG Scheme Record Disclosure costs £59 and a Scheme Record Update for an existing member costs £18.

Can applicants work with children while they wait for their disclosure certificate?

That is a decision for the employer, Disclosure Scotland said.

A spokesman added: "Disclosure Scotland would encourage employers to ensure safeguarding arrangements are appropriate in these circumstances.

"If an individual has already been barred from working with children it would be a criminal offence for them to even seek such work."

How often does the background check have to be renewed?

Applicants obtain PVG scheme membership with their first check, after which Disclosure Scotland continuously monitors the individual's criminal record.

A spokesman said: "When an individual is a PVG scheme member their information is maintained up-to-date and if any new information arises, including police information, Disclosure Scotland will assess it and determine if it may be appropriate to consider the individual for barring.

"Disclosure Scotland will tell all appropriate known employers and volunteering organisations that the individual is under consideration for barring."

Do applicants need to get a separate check for each role they have working with children?

If a teacher, for example, begins volunteering with a local Brownie group, they can get a "scheme record update" which registers the interest of the group.

If the teacher is later convicted of a crime, Disclosure Scotland can then alert the Brownie group to the development.

Disclosure Scotland said: "When an organisation applies to get a check done for an individual, Disclosure Scotland registers that organisation's interest in the individual's PVG scheme membership.

"If information comes to light that the individual may be unsuitable to do regulated work, Disclosure Scotland will tell all relevant interested organisations that the individual is being considered for barring.

"This system only works when organisations carry out PVG checks to make sure Disclosure Scotland knows where the individual works or volunteers. "

The PVG Scheme Membership is portable. So, someone who is already a member of the scheme who gets an additional role, volunteering for example, need only get a Scheme Record Update that will register the new interest.

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