The safeguarding of vulnerable people is a crucial consideration for any small business or voluntary group. Since 2006, there has been safeguarding legislation in place (the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act). This Act requires all employers to carry out vetting prior to employing anyone (whether paid or in unpaid voluntary work) who will come into contact with vulnerable people.
If you run, or are planning to start, any business which may bring you into contact with vulnerable individuals, you need to be aware of your responsibilities under the Act. Failure to comply with the Act is a criminal offence. It is therefore in your own best interests to understand the requirements of the Act, and to comply fully.
Who are ‘vulnerable people’?
The term ‘vulnerable people’ is a wide field. It can refer to children, and people over the age of 18 who are in some form of care. The term applies to residents in sheltered housing and care homes, or under medical care. Victims of potential domestic abuse, dementia sufferers, and people with many other physical and mental issues fall under the term too. In effect, any individual who is in need of help and assistance in order to live their daily lives.
How does the Act safeguard these people?
CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks have been in place for many years, and they were recently joined by a new body called the ISA (Independent Safeguarding Authority), who worked alongside the CRB. These bodies have been replaced in 2017 by a single organisation called the Disclosure and Barring Service, who carry out a range of criminal record checks. This authority keeps a list of registered individuals, as well as individuals who are barred from contact with vulnerable people.
How could the safeguarding Act affect me?
A large number of voluntary and commercial organisations fall under the remit of the Act. This includes nurses, creches, sports clubs, church groups, even school governors, and the list goes on.
One of the key requirements of the Act involves record-keeping. It is important to track and securely store the vetting status of staff and volunteers. You will need to capture any contact history and personal safety information. Also, risk assessments relating to the vulnerable people you are working with. Robust record-keeping makes total sense, but your records can do more for you than simply recording events. Good quality records form your best line of defence if an unfortunate incident occurs, which will warrant investigation in the future.
The good news is that records don’t have to be on paper. In fact, there are software systems available commercially that can take the hard work out of maintaining a thorough set of records. You can ensure you have all the relevant information, securely captured, with minimum of time and effort on your part.