Ministers ‘Too Slow To Act’ On Sex Offenders

The government faced accusations last night of moving too slowly to identify adults deemed a risk to children after it announced that 13 individuals previously cleared to work with youngsters have now been banned from working in schools.

Alan Johnson, the education secretary, said the adults had been barred after their cases were reviewed following last year’s sex offenders controversy which saw his predecessor, Ruth Kelly, promise tighter controls on who could work in schools.

In a written statement to parliament, Mr Johnson said the 13 included 12 adults who had previously been given only a partial ban – a category scrapped by the government in 2000 – and a further individual approved for work with children by ministers or government officials despite being on the sex offenders register.

All 13 have been placed on the Department for Education’s blacklist, known as List 99. But while 12 of the 210 individuals revealed last January to have partial bans have now been upgraded to full bans, there remain 155 whose cases have still to be investigated.

Meanwhile, moves promised by Ms Kelly a year ago to ban automatically any individual cautioned for sexual offences against children, as well as those convicted, came into force yesterday.

The shadow education secretary, David Willetts, said: “This process is going far too slowly – Ruth Kelly said last January that regulations would be introduced ‘shortly’ … now we learn this is only happening today – nearly 14 months later.”

The Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, Sarah Teather, said: “There seem to be serious questions about the lack of haste by the department – it’s been over a year since these 210 cases came to light.”