It will be a while before the much-talked about the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) is finally rolled out in the UK. IT-related problems are in the way, it has been stated.
The ISA is the corner-stone of the new Vetting and Barring Scheme, which will require all those working with vulnerable groups to undergo an enhanced vetting procedure before being allowed to commence any relevant duties.
It is the ISA that will decide who is unsuitable to work or volunteer with vulnerable groups. It will base its decisions on pulling together information held by various agencies, government departments and the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).
Once the scheme is fully rolled out, it will be illegal to hire someone in regulated activity who is not registered, and has therefore not been checked by, the ISA.
There are currently three separate lists maintained by two different government departments: the Protection of Children Act list, held by the Department for Children, Schools and Families; the Protection of Vulnerable Adults list, also maintained by the DCSF on behalf of the Department of Health; and what used to be called List 99, which is information held under the Education Act 2002 and held by the DCSF.
This system was due to be replaced in October by the ISA, but the Home Office has announced that it will not now happen until 26 July 2010.
A four-year contract, valued at £50 million, has been awarded to Logica, the IT firm, to develop and support the information systems for the Authority, which will vet people either working or volunteering with children or vulnerable adults. It will check millions of existing workers and new applicants for a range of jobs including teaching, fostering childcare, school governors, nurses, school receptionists and cleaners.
Applicants for jobs will be registered to work by the Authority after it has received information on whether the person has a criminal record or is on any other relevant Government-based list. It will also update employers with any new information that it receives from police, social services or professional regulators about their existing employees. Checks on existing workers will be phased in over five years.
When the scheme is fully operational an estimated 11.3 million people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be registered, each having paid a fee of £64.
But Ministers say there is a need for further tests of the IT systems.
Meg Hillier, a junior Home Office minister, said: "The protection of children and vulnerable adults is a priority for the Government. We already have one of the most comprehensive vetting systems in the world."
Independent Safeguarding Authority is a non-departmental public body created by the UK Government in response to the inquiry headed by Sir Michael Bichard that was set up in the wake of the Soham Murders.
The Soham murders was a high profile murder case in August 2002 of two ten-year-old girls in Soham, Cambridgeshire, England. The convicted killer was a local school caretaker, Ian Huntley.
Police knew Huntley had earlier been accused of rape and indecent assault, yet he still got a job in a school. On the day of Huntley's conviction, the Home Secretary David Blunkett announced an inquiry into the vetting system which allowed Huntley to get a caretaker's job at a school despite four separate complaints about him reaching social services.