Safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults

Rights and conditions
29 June 2017
This section provides links to information and resources regarding the protection from abuse of children and vulnerable adults.

Suitability to work with children and vulnerable adults

It is a criminal offence to employ or engage as a volunteer in a regulated activity someone who is barred from such activity.

Regulated activity describes the kind of work to which barring applies and is fully set out in the regulations (as amended by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012).

All staff employed in a school are considered to be in regulated activity, but contractors are not. Nor, in England only, are governors, inspectors and local authority officers. Supervised volunteers, such as parents helping with reading in classrooms, are not considered to be in regulated activity but would be if left unsupervised.

Following changes made in 2012, teaching, training or instructing adults will no longer be considered regulated activity. The only exception will be any form of teaching related to personal care such as toileting, eating and drinking, and personal hygiene. However, where an FE college or similar institution also teaches children aged under 18 then such activity will be regulated.

In England and Wales the responsibility for deciding whether someone should be barred lies with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). The primary role of the DBS is to help employers in England and Wales make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups including children.

In Northern Ireland criminal records disclosures will continue to be managed by AccessNI, and applications for disclosure in Northern Ireland should be requested from AccessNI. The DBS will however, make barring decisions in relation to Northern Ireland.

A separate scheme applies in Scotland and is managed by Disclosure Scotland.

Allegations or incidents of abuse

Allegations or incidents of abuse must be dealt with in a proper manner. To help school and college leaders deal with allegations against members of staff, the government has published statutory guidance. Key points are as follows.

  • If an allegation is made against a teacher the quick resolution of that allegation should be a clear priority to the benefit of all concerned. At any stage of consideration or investigation, all unnecessary delays should be eradicated.
  • In response to an allegation staff suspension should not be the default option. An individual should only be suspended if there is no reasonable alternative. If suspension is deemed appropriate, the reasons and justification should be recorded by the school and the individual notified of the reasons.
  • Allegations that are found to have been malicious should be removed from personnel records and any that are not substantiated, are unfounded or malicious should not be referred to in employer references.
  • Pupils that are found to have made malicious allegations are likely to have breached school behaviour policies. The school should therefore consider whether to apply an appropriate sanction, which could include temporary or permanent exclusion (as well as referral to the police if there are grounds for believing a criminal offence may have been committed).
  • All schools and FE colleges should have procedures for dealing with allegations. The procedures should make it clear that all allegations should be reported straight away, normally to the headteacher, principal or proprietor if it is an independent school. The procedures should also identify the person, often the chair of governors, to whom reports should be made in the absence of the headteacher or principal, or in cases where the headteacher or principal themselves are the subject of the allegation or concern. Procedures should also include contact details for the local authority designated officer (LADO) responsible for providing advice and monitoring cases.