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Scot HVAC workers to face police checks

Specialist contractors delivering building services to schools, children homes and care homes for the elderly and vulnerable in Scotland are to undergo police checks, H&V News has learned.

The Scottish Government is considering policy proposals for secondary legislation for the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007.

One of these is that Scottish local authorities introduce a policy specifying that firms which win a contract to provide maintenance services to the buildings or the grounds of an educational facility undergo a police check before starting work on the contract.

The proposal also applies to the grounds and buildings which house children, the elderly and vulnerable adults.

robert burgpn
Robert Burgon, chief executive of the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation, said: “Obviously, we would not want inappropriate people to be around vulnerable adults and children but I can see there are practical implications to this which need to be thought through. “This system could create some difficulties, since the vetting process can take some time, it can take several weeks. Hopefully, [if the Scottish Government goes ahead with its proposals] the system will become more streamlined.”
The move, which would see each contractor supplying a Basic Disclosure or criminal conviction certificate, is designed to ensure that children and the vulnerable are protected from undesirable adults, supporters of the system say.

A Basic Disclosure check will cost firms £20 per person, irrespective of size, and list any unspent convictions and cautions held on central police records. It wouldn’t, however, reveal whether the applicant is on a restricted list, barring them from working with children.

The move has met with resistance. Judith Gillespie, development manager with the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, warned that vetting could lead to discrimination against people with convictions for crimes other than child abuse.

“There are people who have incurred criminal offences for crimes committed when they were younger but who have since turned their lives around. These people are going to get caught out by this,” she said.

“An employer usually judges whether an employee’s future should be harmed by their past indiscretions. The employer usually has a policy on what crimes renders that person unfit; this legislation could undermine that.”

A MORI research study conducted for the Criminal Record Bureau, the UK equivalent body, in March 2006 estimated that 25,000 people were kept out of a job in 2005 because of the results of a CRB check. The majority had convictions relating not to child abuse, but to violence, theft and fraud or dishonesty.

The communications manager with East Renfrewshire Council, which already requires all contractors to be disclosure-checked and declare all spent convictions, defended the council’s decision to adopt the policy.

bob dyer
Bob Dyer, executive officer, HVCA Scotland, said: “The HVCA would be supportive of any Government initiative or procedure that ensures the safety of children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups. The fact that our members’ competence has been inspected and assessed by an independent third party would suggest they do not have a problem with being assessed in other ways as well.
“HVCA Scotland does not therefore have a problem with this, provided it is practicable, fit for purpose and not overly onerous on either companies or individuals.”
“We operate in a very litigious culture, and we cannot afford to make any mistakes with children or vulnerable adults,” he said.

“Any maintenance firm which has been awarded a contract with a school or care home in East Renfrewshire should expect its employees to undergo a Basic Disclosure check. This protects both sides.

“We live in an age when youngsters can make all sorts of claims against adults and it is better if contractors are prepared for this from the start. We have to ensure that people who are working inside a school environment know and understand the rules of engagement.

“We believe we are helping the industry by saying ‘here are the rules of engagement, if you don’t want to abide by our contractual conditions and undergo a basic disclosure check then you should not be working with East Renfrewshire’.”

The spokesman said the issues surrounding false identity encouraged it to seek verification of those it indirectly employed. He said: “We also need to consider identity theft and ensure that people are who they say they are. Construction has a high turnover and an itinerant workforce, which is why we have extended this policy to contractors even if they don’t have direct contact with children or vulnerable adults.”

He added: “The Scottish Government wants to extend this rule to every local authority in Scotland and we expect it will be a national requirement within the next six or eight months.