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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Report: 14 January, 2013

 

Report of the Leader

 

Safer Recruitment Policy for the Council and Schools.

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To update members on changes to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB)/Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) eligibility criteria and moreover for the Cabinet to approve the Safer Recruitment policy and supporting documentation.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet approve the Safer Recruitment policy and implementation throughout the Council and approve the policy for adoption by schools

2.         That Cabinet note the changes to the administration, eligibility criteria for CRB/DBS disclosures, recent and future changes as contained within this report.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To ensure that the Council and it's schools demonstrate best practice in maintaining robust  procedures for carrying out safeguarding checks on workers with unsupervised access to  children and vulnerable people.

2.         To provide an update to elected members on the changes to CRB/DBS and their future application.

 

Background

2.         In 2011, the CSSIW and Estyn published a report following their joint investigation into the handling and management of allegations of professional abuse and the arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in Pembrokeshire County Council. 

3.         The report raised a number of serious issues including reminding council's of their responsibilities for carrying out thorough safeguarding pre-employment checks  on staff working with children (in particular that the appropriate level of CRB/DBS disclosure and written references are obtained).

4.         The recommended adoption of the Safer Recruitment policy will help the Council and its schools strengthen its own safeguarding practices in light of the Pembrokeshire report and recent internal reviews.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         Members will be aware that the Director of Social Services is the designated officer and lead officer in the area of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. It is within this capacity and following the request of the Corporate Management Team that the Director established the Corporate Safeguarding Steering group (CSSG), an internal officer working group with representatives from all Directorates to consider the safeguarding arrangements within the Council and schools.

6.         The CSSG has met on a number of occasions and considered the existing arrangements as compared to those published by the Government which has led to the development of the Safer Recruitment policy (Appendix 1 to this report refers) along with supporting documents as attached (Appendices A to E).

7.         The draft policy provides a more comprehensive and consistent approach building on the existing arrangements and taking account of the legislative changes to provide a consistent and robust process on checking the suitability of applicants who will have access to children and/or vulnerable people. 

8.         The Safer Recruitment Policy will bolster both the Council's existing Recruitment and Selection policy and the existing CRB/DBS policy and procedures through the implementation of mandatory safeguarding measures to confirm the suitability of the worker (s) (including employee's, agency workers, volunteers and contractors).

9.         The key elements of the Safer Recruitment policy include:

·               provision of consistent recruitment safeguarding arrangements throughout the Council and schools.

·               all categories of workers covered (employees, agency, volunteers and contractors).

·               creation of minimum standards in respect of number, content of references and additional safeguarding checks.

·               mandatory receipt and assessment of CRB/DBS disclosures prior to taking up employment

·               defined "Risk Assessment" process for use in exceptional circumstances where it is essential for the post to be filled.

·               CRB/DBS Code of Practice /Data Protection requirements in administering documentation

·               Training and Communication.

10.      The Government has changed the eligibility criteria for CRB/DBS disclosure and the level of check that can be progressed on applicants. Details of previous and new Regulated Activity definitions are set out within the Policy at Appendix A. The new provisions have established a definition for adults based on the services the person (client) requires along with a separate definition for children.  In both these categories workers will require enhanced CRB/DBS with barring disclosures.

11.      The definition for adults includes healthcare, personal care, social work, assistance with a persons cash, bills or shopping because of their age, illness or disability, assistance with the conduct of an adults own affairs and conveying adults for reasons of age, illness or disability to from or between places where they receive health care, personal care or social work (excluding taxi drivers).  Under the regulations there is no longer a requirement to carry out activities a certain number of times before a person is engaging in regulated activity.  (Note this definition does not apply to family and close friends).

12.      The definition for children includes where a person carries out certain types of work on an unsupervised frequent or overnight basis.  This includes teaching, training, instructing, driving a vehicle solely for children, care or supervision and positions where the post holder provides advice/guidance on well being.   Positions based in specified establishments on a frequent/overnight bases ( schools, nurseries, children's centres, residential homes, flying start  etc) are also covered by the definition as to are registered childminding and foster carers.  In addition a person who carries out relevant personal care (even on a single occasion) is covered by this definition.

13.      Although it is expected that in most occasions a worker will not commence in employment until all recruitment checks are completed the CSSG recognised the continuing need for managers to be able to recruit to front line and essential appointments. The CSSG remain of the view that where checks are outstanding and a business case can be clearly established to evidence that not to recruit would seriously inhibit service continuity that in such circumstances a procedure is necessary to respond to such occurrences. In such circumstances the CSSG have developed a risk assessment process and supporting documentation which all recruiting managers will be required to complete to cover essential safeguarding measures (Appendix D within the policy refers). Volunteers and posts governed by the Care Council will be exempt from this process and all safeguarding checks will be required to be in place before a start date confirmed.

14.      Where recruiting managers receive details of criminal convictions within CRB/DBS disclosure these can be compared against the DBS Disclosure Outcomes Matrix (Appendix C) to determine if acceptable. Where a manager is unable to make a decision the CRB/DBS disclosure can be elevated to the Directorate Safeguarding officer (see Appendix E within the policy) and/or to the corporate CRB/DBS Strategy group (a standing group of officers from HR, Legal, Social Services, Learning & Skills).  This will allow the recruiting manager to obtain additional guidance and advice on the acceptability of the disclosure and suitability of the applicant for the post.  

15.      Throughout Social Services and within residential schools a pilot is ongoing to administer the receipt and checking of written and verbal references by means of an e-form. The pilot provides an automated process to ensure the recruiting manager has access to all references to assist the selection process and provide a comprehensive audit trail. If successful, this will be rolled out across the Council as well as those schools that use the Council's recruitment facility.

16.      To ensure consistency of application the CSSG have endorsed the Reference Matrix which identifies the number and types of references required as determined by the role, responsibility and/or service (Appendix B within the policy refers).

Forthcoming Changes

17.      The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 has brought about a number changes some of which are scheduled to be implemented in 2013/14.  These include:

·               amendments to the criminal records checking process including the introduction of a new system for the continuous updating and portability of criminal records.

·               issuing the CRB certificate to the applicant only.

18.      The CSSG will consider the above and provide a further report to the Cabinet when the details are made available from the Government.   

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

19.      It is anticipated that there will be additional demands made upon TransAct to administer the revised reference procedure (currently being piloted within Social Services) and the risk assessment procedure if this is accepted.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

20.      There are no sustainability or climate change implications arising directly from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

21.      The duties of the local authority to ensure that children are properly safeguarded and protected from harm are set out in legislation.  Section 175 of the Education Act 2002 imposes a duty on a local authority to make arrangements for ensuring that their education functions are exercised with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.  Section 28 of the Children Act 2004 imposes a duty on local authorities to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.  . In fulfilling its responsibilities, the local authority should have effective quality assurance systems in place to ensure that the necessary checks and balances are in place to safeguard and protect children.

22.      As mentioned above the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 in relation to CRB/DBS arrangements have been partially implemented. However further changes are projected to take place over the next 18 months.

Crime and Disorder Implications

23.      There are no crime and disorder implications as a direct result of this report.

24.      However, should any applicant for employment for those posts included within the definition of Regulated Activity from candidates who are included on the  relevant Barred list this  will be considered a criminal act and reported to the Police and relevant  Registration body (if appropriate).

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

25.      There are no Equal Opportunity implications as a direct result of this report.  However, the policy will legitimately exclude consideration for appointment all applicants for posts within Regulated activity from people who are included within the barred list.

Corporate/Service Objectives

26.      The application of the policy and supporting procedures within this report will assist the Council in meeting the following corporate objective: "Safeguard the wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people so that they have a healthy life, physically and emotionally, which is free from abuse, victimisation and exploitation and homes which support their physical and emotional wellbeing."

 

Policy Framework and Budget

27.      This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

28.      There are no implications for individual Wards as a direct result of this report.

29.      The recognised trade unions have been consulted on the draft policy and remain supportive of the application of the policy within the Council and all schools.

30.      The draft policy has also been considered by the Head Teachers group who have indicated their support to the policy (the requirement for two references for volunteers has been an issue under discussion within school cluster groups).  The CSSG require all schools to access two references as included within the draft policy.

31.      The Vale Volunteer Bureau were also consulted and provided useful comments on the draft reference request forms for volunteers.  This matter is currently being considered by the CSSG group.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

32.      Social Care and Health, Lifelong Learning and Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

See Policy at Appendix 1 and supporting appendices A to E.

 

Contact Officer

Adrian Unsworth, Operational Manager - Human Resources

 

Officers Consulted

The Corporate Management Team

The Corporate Safeguarding Steering group

Employment Lawyer

 

Responsible Officer:

Sian Davies, Managing Director

 

 

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