FAQs regarding Disclosure Checks
Shetland Child Protection Committee
True or false? – some common sayings about Disclosure checks.
‘Asking people to apply for a Disclosure will prevent their volunteering.’
Not true - it was a worry for many groups, but support has been put in place to help people get the checks done, and people have got used to it, understanding that the safety and well-being of children and vulnerable groups must come first. A few volunteers may have dropped out – a few of these may not have been safe to have around children, others will have felt it would be too intrusive, or have their own reasons. People who had checks done found it wasn’t too painful and people are still volunteering!
‘Why not Disclosure check everyone in Shetland and be done with it!’
We can’t, and don’t want to, Disclosure check everyone in Shetland – people with convictions for any offence are entitled to live and work here – but not in jobs where they pose a risk. All positions, paid and voluntary must be looked at separately to see whether they should be checked. Sexual and violent offenders may be subject to conditions and supervision on release from prison, but the information is confidential and can only be shared with those who need to know.
‘I thought there are laws that prevent Employers finding out about old convictions.’
This is usually the case, however there are some situations where information about previous and spent convictions remain legally available. These include those positions involving contact with children and other vulnerable people.
‘I’d know if someone wasn’t safe to have around my children’
Not necessarily. Those who abuse children don’t look different from other people, and they may be respected members of the community. However, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t risk it for your children. Try and work out what makes you uneasy and discuss your concerns with someone in a position to look into the matter.
‘If someone is a parent, it’ll be ok to let my own children stay with them. We’ve been doing it for years and if there was a problem social work would have taken their children away’
Not necessarily. Just the fact that someone is a parent doesn’t mean they can automatically look after your children safely. Parents need to make enquiries, speak to their children’s friends’ parents and make their own judgements before deciding with whom they are happy to leave their children. Will they exercise proper supervision, have good enough safety arrangements in place? This is a decision for parents, who are responsible for their own children.
Remember: where children suffer abuse and neglect, most often this is within their own families – and they may take a long while to be let anyone else know. However well we think we know the neighbours, we don’t always know what goes on behind closed doors.
When problems come to light, social workers try to keep families together if that can be done safely – so there could be child protection plans in place to reduce the risks for the children of a particular family. Those plans wouldn’t cover additional children, such as yours.
However, Registered Childminders are Disclosure checked and subject to inspection.
‘There are so many risks out there that my child would be safer staying at home.’
It’s important not to over-react. Children need to engage in outdoor and sporting activities to stay healthy. They need to interact with others to develop social relationships. If groups have sensible policies and procedures in place, including doing risk assessments, making contingency plans, doing Disclosure checks and so on, then everyone can enjoy community group activities.
If I get Disclosure checks done on volunteers can I do without any other selection arrangements?
No. A Disclosure check complements standard recruitment practices but cannot replace them. It may even give you a false sense of security. You cannot make a sound judgement about an applicant’s suitability without all the facts – this may mean interviewing the applicant and obtaining references.
At least if I get Disclosure checks and all the rest done I don’t need to worry what my staff are up to.’
Not so – not everyone with a ‘clear’ Disclosure check and good standing in the community is safe around children – so you still need to have safe ways of operating, and for reporting and dealing with any concerns about a volunteer of staff member.
‘Anyone going near a child needs a Disclosure check.’
Not necessarily. Children and young people come into contact with a wide range of members of the community at community events such as agricultural shows, for example, but normally they remain their parents’ responsibility at such events. Parents should make sure their children are properly supervised when younger, and that as they get older and get to go out alone for agreed times and events, they know how to get help if there is a problem, and what to do if something doesn’t feel quite right.
The Child Safe Shetland website explains how to decide if people are working or volunteering in a ‘child care position’ and so need Disclosure checks. Your group should have policies and procedures in place to ensure that the right people have Disclosure checks done, and that any concerns about the way any adult or another young person is behaving are dealt with appropriately.
It’s a nightmare! Who is responsible for disclosing staff/consultants from other organisations at events – eg police, fire service, college staff, bus drivers etc – when the event is for 5-12 yr olds and it’s a voluntary organisation that organises the event?
Organisations should have guidance to be followed for situations like this in their Child Protection Policy and make appropriate provision for the 'supervision' of individuals being invited to participate in a 'one-off' event.
‘If I get a Disclosure check everyone will know about my conviction for Breach of the Peace 15 years ago.
Not true. Your employer or voluntary club has to comply with legislation and keep this information confidential and remember some convictions do not necessarily prevent you from volunteering.
‘Disclosure checks are just a load of bureaucracy, and the perceived need for them stops a lot of good things that we’ve done for ever from happening’
No-one pretends that Disclosure checks by themselves will keep children safe. But we know that ‘what we’ve always done’ has not always succeeded in keeping children safe, and we now have more knowledge about how those predisposed to abuse children target groups that are lax about making proper checks. Usually any perceived problems can be overcome with a little forward planning.
‘Getting a Disclosure check done is a lot of hassle.’
Not as much as you might think. OK, so there’s a form to fill in – but we do that routinely for lots of things, so why not for something as important as helping keep children safe? There are plenty of people who can help – for example, staff at Shetland Council of Social Service can help with how to fill out the forms and how to deal with the information that comes back – they will even store and destroy it securely for you once the necessary information has been passed on to the nominated person in your group. Shetland Islands Council Community Learning and Development Officers can also advise, and a number of sports umbrella bodies will also provide help with Disclosure checks. For more information, visit the Child Safe Shetland website at www.shetland.gov.uk\childsafeshetland.
Relevant legislation (listed in date order - earliest first)
- Police Act 1997 (Part V)(OPSI/HMSO)
- Data Protection Act 1998 (OPSI/HMSO)
- Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 (OPSI/HMSO)
- The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 (Housing Support Services) Regulations 2002 (OPSI/HMSO) - the Schedule to this SSI provides details of prescribed Housing Support Services per section 2(1) of the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001
- The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exclusions and Exceptions) (Scotland) Order 2003 (OPSI/HMSO)
- Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 (OPSI/HMSO)
- Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003 (OPSI/HMSO) - full Act
- Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003 (OPSI/HMSO) - Schedule 2 - definition of child care positions
- Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (OPSI/HMSO)
- The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records)(Scotland) Regulations 2006 (OPSI/HMSO)
- Definition of Adult at Risk as contained in The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) (Scotland) Regulations 2006 (OPSI/HMSO) Note - definition is contained within Regulation 10(3)
- The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records)(Registration)(Scotland) Regulations 2006 (OPSI/HMSO)
- The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Commencement No 2)(Scotland) Order 2006 (OPSI/HMSO) - implements, amongst other sections, section 163 of the 2005 Act
- The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exclusions and Exceptions) (Amendment) (Scotland) Order 2006 (OPSI/HMSO)
- The Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records)(Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2006 (OPSI/HMSO)
- The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exclusions and Exceptions)(Scotland) Amendment Order 2007 (OPSI/HMSO)
This Act is not yet in force as the detailed regulations are being considered. It is intended to make the process simpler and enable one check to be kept up to date, so avoiding the need for multiple checks.
It will also fill a gap in the current law – at present it can be difficult for those utilising the services of the self-employed people to obtain full Enhanced Disclosure information.
Updated and approved by CPC October 2007