Plans for tighter child protection measures delayed by IT problems

Tougher checks on people wanting to work with children and vulnerable adults are now running two years late after a Home Office decision to further delay the full launch of the scheme.

The rollout of the scheme, planned to close loopholes in child protection measures, has been postponed a second time because of fears it would not be able to cope with demand.

Key parts of the new Independent Safeguarding Authority, designed after the school caretaker Ian Huntley was convicted of murdering Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, will now not come into force until July next year. Police knew Huntley had earlier been accused of rape and indecent assault, yet he still got a job in a school.

The delay means new applicants for jobs working with children and the vulnerable will not have to register with the Authority until July next year, rather than this October.

Last September the Home Office confidently predicted that the new Independent Safeguarding Authority’s check system would be fully “switched on” this October, but ministers say there is a need for further tests of the IT systems. A Home Office spokesman said: “They want to make sure it is piloted and tested fully.”

A four-year contract, valued at £50 million, has been awarded to Logica, the IT firm, to develop and support the information systems for the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which will vet people either working or volunteering with children or vulnerable adults. It will check millions of existing workers and new applicants for a range of jobs including teaching, fostering childcare, school governors, nurses, school receptionists and cleaners.

Applicants for jobs will be registered to work by the Authority after it has received information on whether the person has a criminal record or is on any other relevant Government-based list. It will also update employers with any new information that it receives from police, social services or professional regulators about their existing employees. Checks on existing workers will be phased in over five years.

When the scheme is fully operational an estimated 11.3 million people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be registered, each having paid a fee of £64.

Meg Hillier, a junior Home Office minister, said: “The protection of children and vulnerable adults is a priority for the Government. We already have one of the most comprehensive vetting systems in the world.”