In focus: the ISA Vetting and Barring Scheme

15 July 2010
In focus: the ISA Vetting and Barring Scheme

Confused about your CRB checks and your ISA registrations? Look no further. We unpick the details of this latest child protection measure for you.

What is the Vetting and Barring Scheme?

The Vetting and Barring Scheme is another measure for stopping unsuitable people from working with children or vulnerable adults. The process involves checking the records of (or "vetting") individuals who want to work with children or vulnerable adults. In some cases, this means preventing (or "barring") unsuitable individuals from working with vulnerable groups. It first came about in 2006 with the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act. Job movers and new recruits working closely with children were supposed to register with the ISA from November 2010. The scheme was to be rolled out to include existing staff and volunteers by 2015 - but most of the scheme is still yet to be implemented.


Who runs the Vetting and Barring Scheme?
The Criminal Records Bureau and Independent Safeguarding Authority run the scheme - which is overseen by the Home Office. The Criminal Records Bureau does the "vetting" part (ie. checking individuals' criminal records) and the Independent Safeguarding Authority does the "barring" part (ie. deciding who shouldn't work with vulnerable people).


Why was the Vetting and Barring Scheme set up in the first place?
The Vetting and Barring Scheme was set up primarily to plug some of the inadequacies of the current criminal record checking system. In particular, it came as a recommendation from the Bichard Report which looked at the murders of two young girls in 2002 who were killed by a local school caretaker. If police from different counties had been better at sharing information, it's thought that the murders could have been prevented.


How is the Vetting and Barring Scheme different from Criminal Record Checks?
The Vetting and Barring Scheme requires you to make a one-off registration, after which you'll stay on a database and any reports or convictions relevant to working with vulnerable groups will be logged against you. On the basis of these, your suitability for working with children may be reviewed and fed back to the organisation you're working with.

The Criminal Records Bureau, on the other hand, essentially takes your personal ID and address history and checks all the police records of where you've lived. On the basis of these searches, the CRB will draw up a certificate either stating your previous criminal convictions (spent and unspent) or declaring that you have nothing on file. You and your employer are sent a copy of this certificate.

Your CRB check is 'as good as the day it was printed' - meaning that although these checks were undertaken, there is no way to check whether you've any recent convictions since receiving your CRB, other than if another CRB check is performed. Many organisations will renew their current checks every 2-3 years - so it's not the most robust system.


Was the ISA Vetting and Barring Scheme supposed to replace the CRB checks?
No it wasn't. The two systems were designed to run side by side - so that the CRB still check your criminal records - the ISA collect information which may be relevant to deciding whether you should work with children and vulnerable people.


Hasn't the ISA Vetting and Barring Scheme been placed on hold?
Yes it has - so hold fire.

The reason for this is partly to do with the new government. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, suggested the Vetting and Barring scheme be revised to help bring it back to 'common sense' levels. In particular, some definitions and rules of the VB Scheme had got very complex to understand and smaller charities were finding applying the law incredibly difficult.


So what happens now?
ISA registration does not begin in July 2010 for new recruits and job movers working closely with children. Likelihood too is that it won't become compulsory in November 2010 either, so watch this space.


What stays the same:

  • Organisations should still collect Criminal Record (CRB) checks for staff and volunteers as usual.
  • It's still a criminal offence to knowingly employ someone who is barred from working with children.
  • You still have a duty to refer information to the Independent Safeguarding Authority if an individual has been dismissed (or would have been) for misconduct involving vulnerable groups.
  • The new purple application forms will still be launched on 26 July. You should disregard those boxes which would have been used for ISA registration.


If you're looking for further information, try the CRB and ISA websites. We also have a section on safeguarding on HRBird.


Alternatively submit your question to us and we'll point you in the right direction.

Please note that HRBird by its very nature offers general information. If you're looking for advice specific to your situation, speak to an HR professional or solicitor. 
Got a question on staff or volunteers? To submit an anonymous query for the HRBird blog, contact us.


Post a comment
On 22 October, Theresa May, Home Secretary announced the 'terms of reference' for the review - essentially outlining what the government hopes to answer over the next few months.

In particular, the statement focused on the scale and proportionality of the current criminal records checking system (including CRB checks). The desire is to make the process less burdensome.

Phase 2 of this review will look at more of the practicalities of the criminal record checking - including who should have access to these records and what could make the administrative workings smoother.

This is a broad and over-arching review. In particular, your feedback is encouraged. What is it that makes the CRB system particularly onerous? What do you value (or not!) about having a system of this kind? Email with your comments.

For links to further useful documents and statements on the review, visit
08/11/2010 0.48.55
Contact us
Follow HRBird on facebook
Follow HRBird on Twitter
RSS feed icon
©HRBird - All rights reserved