ISA circling the drain

Nurses seek to safeguard members from Safeguarding Authority

The Independent Safeguarding Authority, standard-bearer for the last government’s efforts to protect every child in the country from any harm imaginable, is sailing into choppier waters this week with the announcement that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is now seeking a judicial review to delay its implementation.

The issue, as far as the RCN are concerned, is that any individual deemed by the ISA to be "unsuitable" to work with children or vulnerable adults could be barred from work in their chosen profession for a minimum of 10 years.

The standard of proof required by the ISA is no more than "on the balance of probabilities". As readers will be aware, this test is made even dodgier by the fact that the ISA is being asked to judge not simply whether an individual has committed a particular offence – but also in terms of their suitability and likelihood that they might do something untoward in the future.

This includes hearsay evidence – not permitted in a criminal trial – and scoring algorithms that could take account of factors including individual sexual propensities and what films they watch.

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, said: "The RCN has written to the Home Secretary to give notice of our intention to seek a judicial review of the vetting and barring scheme. This is consistent with the pre-action protocol for judicial review. "Of course, nursing staff recognise that the protection of children and vulnerable people is of the utmost importance.

"However, we are concerned that the new scheme is already failing to provide our members with a fair hearing and can result in them being disproportionately barred for 10 years for less serious disciplinary offences.

"Having had exhaustive discussions with the previous government over the inclusion of appropriate procedural safeguards for our members and having taken extensive legal advice, the RCN firmly believes that the vetting and barring scheme is unfair. We also believe the scheme contravenes articles six and eight of the European Convention on Human Rights which forms part of the basis for our challenge."

A spokesman for the Home Office acknowledged that the Home Secretary, Teresa May, had received a letter from the RCN giving notice of their intentions, and that she will respond in due course.

They added: "The Government has committed to review the criminal records and vetting and barring regime and scale it back to common sense levels."

It is likely that any court action could further delay full implementation of the ISA vetting and barring scheme, which was due to start relieving individuals of their £64 registration fee in July of this year. ®

Bootnote

In recent years, alongside the growth of nanny state regulation, there has been a growing tendency for individuals to find their fitness for work governed by professional "codes of conduct" that focus on how they behave in their private lives. This tide may now be on the turn, as the government yesterday announced the abolition of one such body - the General Teaching Council - on the grounds that it added little to classroom standards and was a general waste of money.

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