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| Criminal Record Checks
February 26, 2020
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Quarter of council staff start work without criminal records checks

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”.

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| Referencing and Verification Services
February 26, 2020
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Royal college failed to carry out hundreds of background checks

The Royal College of Psychiatrists suspended some activities last year after it realised it had not carried out background checks for more than 350 staff and patient representatives, reveals the HSJ.

HSJ understands the college had to put meetings of several of its committees on hold in September, while it carried out Disclosure and Barring Service checks on 374 people, including employees and patient and carer representatives.

Emails seen by HSJ show the college contacted its patient and carer representatives — often current or former mental health patients or carers it pays to help form policy and visit providers as part of accreditations — in October and November last year, asking them to fill in application forms for DBS checks.

The checks are ongoing but it is unclear how much of the college’s work remains suspended.

Some of the representatives had been working with the college for several years and been in contact with other vulnerable people at its committees or focus groups around the UK, HSJ has been told. 

The college confirmed to HSJ it was carrying out the outstanding background checks, but declined to say why they were missed, which staff groups were affected, and which activities had been suspended.

Robert Walker, who co-chaired the RCP’s now-disbanded “patients committee” for two years, told HSJ he did not have a DBS check in the five years he worked as a patient representative.

Mr Walker said: “As a vulnerable person I was amazed that a leading royal college or charity involved in mental health had not met the core principles of safeguarding.

“It’s a major issue because any vulnerable person with a physical or mental illness should be given appropriate safeguarding to protect them from psychological or physical abuse. The effect of them not applying checks is that it can put people at risk.”

The issue delayed the college’s plans to reform the role of its patient and carer representatives. These involve halving the number of representatives it uses from 300 to 150, but formally recruiting them as college employees and increasing their standard day rate from £100 to £140.

On 11 October, the college wrote to representatives to say that “in the light of updated guidance from the Charity Commission, we decided that only staff and patient and carer reviewers who have the minimum required DBS checks would be able to undertake college activity that brings them into contact with children and vulnerable adults”.

The email continued “administrative challenges… meant that we have been unable to carry out the checks as quickly as we would have liked”.

On 20 December, the college chief executive Paul Rees said in a further email that 120 of the 374 checks were completed, but the DBS checks meant the move to employed representatives was “unfortunately delayed”.

A Royal College of Psychiatrists spokeswoman said: “We are currently in the process of carrying [out] our DBS checks in line with recommendations with the Charity Commission for all our staff, patient and service user representatives and are due to conclude this work imminently.”

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “We previously engaged with the Royal College of Psychiatrists in May 2019 in relation to a safeguarding incident. The charity did the right thing when they reported the incident to the Commission and the trustees confirmed they were making a number of changes to their policies, including around DBS checks for patient and carer representatives, at the time. We followed-up with the charity on these changes, and based on the information provided to the Commission at the time, did not find further cause to engage. Should any further concerns come to light we would assess them.

 “More generally, protecting people from harm should be an absolute governance priority for all charities – this starts with having robust safeguarding policies in place and, crucially, ensuring they are followed.”

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| Criminal Record Checks
February 25, 2020
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Latest news from AccessNI

AccessNI have issued their latest newsletter with a whole host of updates and information for people using their services. Verifile’s Business Improvement team have handpicked the topics they think you need to know.

Working in premises/establishments regulated by Regulation & Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA)

Part V of the Police Act (Criminal Records)(Disclosure) Regulations 2009 enables RQIA to check senior managers in, and owners of, care homes as “suitable people”.

AccessNI have asked that all counter signatories are made aware of updated guidance. AccessNI say they continue to receive applications requesting barred list checks for positions which do not include health care and/or personal care duties.

The following will help you decide if a request is appropriate:

  • Only staff employed to provide health care or personal care within an adult care home, and in regulated activity, should seek an enhanced disclosure with an (adults) barred list check
  • Others employed in an adult care home would be eligible for an enhanced check (no barred list), on the basis this was previously a specified establishment, and provided they have opportunity for contact with vulnerable adults and can meet the frequency/intensity test
  • Those temporarily working in a care home, such as maintenance staff, are only eligible for an enhanced check (no barred list) where they meet the frequency/intensity test for the same home. That is more likely to arise where the person is employed directly by the care home, e.g. a gardener rather than, for example, a lift engineer who is under contract to several homes. But each individual case needs to be considered on its merits.
Further Education Colleges - Eligibility for AccessNI Disclosure checks

Individuals working in a Further Education College (with under 18s), who are not in positions of Regulated Activity, are eligible for an enhanced disclosure certificate with no barred list check. This is on condition that they meet the frequency requirement (once per week or four times a month).

Cleaners, auxiliary staff and administrative staff in these establishments are eligible for an enhanced disclosure with no barred list check on condition that they meet the frequency requirement.

Public Services Card (Ireland)

AccessNI has received further clarification on the use of the Public Services Card (Ireland) as an acceptable ID document.

As AccessNI is not regarded as a ‘Specified Body’ under Schedule 5 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, they can no longer include this card in their Group 2B documentation.

Accordingly, the following AccessNI documentations have been updated:
  • Guide to identity checking can be found here
  • AccessNI PIN notification and ID validation for registered bodies can be found here
  • AccessNI PIN notification and ID validation for responsible bodies can be found here
EU Exit - ROI and EU checks

AccessNI has confirmed that, with the UK having now left the EU, information can continue to be sought from the Irish authorities for enhanced applications, where the individual lives or has lived in the past five years in the Republic of Ireland.

They can also obtain information from another 12 EU countries where a national of one of these countries applies for an enhanced check working with children in Northern Ireland.

This remains the position during the designated transition period after the UK leaves the EU. Further information about the position after transition ends will be provided as soon as it’s known.

You can read AccessNI: Newsletter 32 in full here.

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