The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (the 2006 Act) came into force on 8 November 2006 and is applicable in both England and Wales.
The 2006 Act essentially provides a system for employers to check the suitability of employees or volunteers, to work with children or vulnerable adults. The Act seeks to prevent those deemed unsuitable to work with children and vulnerable adults, from gaining access through work (whether paid or unpaid). The Act was established to try and solve the failures identified by the 2004 Bichard Inquiry.
The 2006 Act provides the legislative framework for the Vetting and Barring Scheme. This Scheme was originally administered by the Independent Safeguarding Authority. However the Independent Safeguarding Authority and the Criminal Records Bureau has since merged, creating the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in 2012. The DBS now administers the Vetting and Barring Scheme. The DBS decides whether an individual should be barred, to prevent them from working with children, or vulnerable adults, or both.
Section 2 of the 2006 Act provides that there must be a children’s barred list and a vulnerable adult’s barred list, which are maintained by the DBS. Individuals can be placed on either or both lists. The lists confirm whether there is any reason why an individual cannot work with either group.
To be barred from working with children and/or vulnerable adults, an individual must be engaged in a ‘Regulated Activity’. There is a difference between regulated activities with children and regulated activities with vulnerable adults. Part 1 of Schedule 4 to the 2006 Act defines ‘Regulated Activity’ relating to a child; Part 2 of Schedule 4 defines ‘Regulated Activity’ related to vulnerable adults.
Under the 2006 Act, certain groups must refer and provide information about individuals to the DBS. These duties are imposed on Regulated Activity Providers, some Personnel Suppliers (Employment agencies or businesses) and Local Authorities. In certain circumstances these groups must refer information to the DBS. They are also obliged to comply with requests from the DBS for information about individuals.
The 2006 Act creates a number of criminal offences which are designed to prevent barred people from working in regulated activities. Offences can be committed by a barred individual who seeks access to working with children and/or vulnerable adults, and those who give a barred individual that access. There are some offences that will result in an automatic bar from working with children and/or vulnerable adults.
Under the 2006 Act some individuals, who are included in a barred list, may appeal against a decision to be placed on either or both lists. In addition, after certain periods of time, individuals may have the right to apply to the DBS for a review of their case.