U.K.’s New List of Approved and Banned Youth Workers

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The United Kingdom is instituting a system to register virtually all of the its youth workers in one place and to keep a national database of people who are barred from youth work.

The system is run by a new Independent Safeguarding Authority in compliance with the national Vetting and Barring Scheme, which the authority says is intended “to help prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults.” It began in the fall and covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland; Scotland plans to institute a similar program later this year.

Virtually anyone who has contact with children at least once a week through his or her job or volunteer work must register with the authority. News reports have said the registrations could total more than 11 million people – nearly one-fifth of the U.K.’s population.

In addition, the authority will maintain a database of people barred from working with youth. Much of the information will come from criminal records. But someone can also be barred based on reports from people expressing “concerns that a person has caused harm or poses a future risk of harm to children,” according to the authority.

Such reports must come to the authority through designated sources, such as the police, social services agencies, or local “safeguarding children and vulnerable adults” teams. The authority will investigate those reports and inform the subjects of the results. People who get barred can appeal.

When new workers sign up through the registration system, their names will be checked against the database of those who have been barred.

Even setting aside civil liberties concerns, such a program is easier to implement in the U.K. than in the United States for structural reasons: Youth work there is part of a well-defined and regulated national system, with much of it overseen by the National Youth Agency.

A government review last year found that the plan would attempt to vet too many people, including authors who visit schools to speak to groups of children. Those are among the exceptions to the registration requirement now, along with people in informal or private childcare or tutoring arrangements.

More information is at http://www.isa-gov.org.uk.