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February 26 2020

Audit Finds Councils Neglecting Background Checks on New Hires

Almost a quarter of new council workers who needed a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check started work without having one in place,  a Welsh Government audit has found.

The Wales Audit Office study of Conwy council ’s safeguarding of vulnerable people arrangements for 2018-2019 was discussed at the authority’s audit and governance scrutiny committee.

In total, 76.6% of new starters who needed the DBS check had one in place when they started work – according to the latest figures covered by the report. The target is 100%.

Auditors found Conwy council had “addressed the majority of the recommendations” from a 2015 study about safeguarding but found it “could improve” training arrangements.

Safeguarding training was completed by 48% of staff, and less than a third of staff in the authority’s education department had completed domestic violence awareness training by March 2019.

It also emerged the council was unaware how many school staff had completed safeguarding training because not all schools use the council’s computer system. Council officers want education staff to adopt its “robust” policies but cannot force them to said the report.

The audit office report said: “It is the responsibility of headteachers or the Designated Safeguarding Person in schools to keep a record of all staff who complete training and on what date, and they should be able to provide a list to the Council on request.”

The report went on to say the authority is considering transferring school staff records to its own system.

The council said it had responded to the proposals by “developing an action plan”.

Officers rejected a claim only 36 out of 62 schools had bothered to reply to a survey about how effective they were at giving safeguarding training to school governors. One officer claimed compliance had been “100%”.

However Wales Office auditor Gwilym Bury told members officers had been given a draft of the audit report and none of the figures were challenged.

The audit office study said it was the council’s “responsibility … to ensure they receive safeguarding training”.

Elsewhere the council was given a clean bill of health by auditors for its financial management and “effective use of resources”.