Vetting plans will not create mistrust, says agency head

New scheme not about interfering with "sensible arrangements", promises Sir Roger Singleton

The head of a government agency planning vetting procedures for adults who regularly drive groups of children to sports or social clubs has rejected criticism of the scheme.

Sir Roger Singleton, the head of the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), said that people should respond more "rationally" to the scheme amid claims that it threatens civil liberties.

In a speech in Swansea he said: "We need to calm down and consider carefully and rationally what this scheme is and is not about.

"It is not about interfering with the sensible arrangements which parents make with each other to take their children to schools and clubs.

"It is not about subjecting a quarter of the population to intensive scrutiny of their personal lives.

"And it is not about creating mistrust between adults and children or discouraging volunteering."

The Vetting and Barring Scheme, which is designed to protect children from paedophiles, requires all those involved in "frequent" or "intensive" contact with children three times in a month or once overnight to register with the ISA.

All doctors, nurses, dentists, teachers, school governers and prison officers must sign up.

The NSPCC's children's services director, Wes Cuell, has warned that the plans could stop people performing activities that were "perfectly safe and normal."

He told the Sunday Telegraph: "The warning signs are now out there that this scheme will stop people doing things that are perfectly safe and normal: things that they shouldn't be prevented from doing.

"When you get this degree of public outcry, there is generally a good reason for it.

"I think we are getting a bit too close to crossing the line about what is acceptable in the court of public opinion."

But Singleton argued that the scheme would prevent past abusers from working with children again and would end the need for repeated checks with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

"It is about ensuring that those people who have already been dismissed by their employers for inappropriate behaviour with children do not simply up sticks and move elsewhere in the country to continue their abuse.

"It is about giving parents confidence that there is no known reason why those caring for their children are unsuitable because of their previous misbehaviour. And it is about bringing an end to the need for repeated CRB checks which so many people have found irritating. ISA registration is a one-off process for a single fee. The Vetting and Barring Scheme is a significant development which should be debated on the facts and not on myths and inaccuracies."

Individuals who fail to register with the scheme face fines of up to £5,000. The new regulations will come into force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from next month.