Answers to the most common questions about records checks in Northern Ireland.
- What is the difference between AccessNI and DBS/CRBs checks?
- What is the difference between a standard and an enhanced AccessNI check?
- Where can I get more information about processing and administrating AccessNI checks?
- What is Regulated Activity and why is it important?
- Who decides if a role should be Regulated Activity or not?
- How do I determine whether my staff/volunteers are supervised or unsupervised?
- How should the voluntary sector interpret the guidance on what is supervised activity?
- Can we AccessNI check someone if they are not deemed to be in Regulated Activity?
- Who receives the AccessNI disclosure certificates?
- I have information on a disclosure form about an individual. How can I assess whether this person is suitable for the role?
- If someone is not eligible for an AccessNI check, how else can I ensure that they are safe to work with children?
1. What is the difference between AccessNI and DBS checks?
An AccessNI disclosure certificate will check the same information as a DBS check. But if the individual has had an address on their application in the Republic of Ireland, then a check will also be made with the Garda Central Vetting Unit (this does not happen if the application is made through DBS).
Currently, AccessNI do not offer a portability scheme but this should be in place by the end of 2016.
2. What is the difference between a standard and an enhanced AccessNI check?
Details of an individual’s convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings recorded on police central records, and includes both filtered ‘spent’ and ‘unspent’ convictions.
These are for posts that involve a far greater degree of contact with vulnerable groups, including children. In general, this will involve regularly caring for, supervising, training or being in sole charge of such people. Examples may include a junior coach, welfare officer or youth team manager.
Enhanced disclosures include information held on the Police National Computer (PNC) about an individual’s convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings and includes both filtered ‘spent’ and ‘unspent’ convictions, plus any local police records that it is reasonably considered might be relevant to the post applied for enhanced checks.
Enhanced checks with a barred list check
As above, together with information about the individual’s barred status.
(Note: Child barred list information is only available for those individuals engaged in regulated activity with children.)
Enhanced level checks are strongly recommended for posts that will involve significant contact with and/or responsibility for children.
3. Where can I get more info about processing and administrating AccessNI checks?
Guidance about the AccessNI process can be found on the NI Direct website.
4. What is Regulated Activity?
Regulated activity - for those working with children and young people is: Working in a paid or voluntary capacity with children is regulated activity if:
- It is one of the activities listed; and
- Is done “regularly”, with the exception of health care and relevant personal care which is regulated activity even if carried out once; or
- It is carried out in a specified place.
1. The activities include:
- Teaching, training or instruction;
- Care or supervision, including health care and relevant personal care;
- Advice or guidance provided wholly or mainly for children relating to their physical, emotional or educational well-being;
- moderating a public electronic interactive communication service likely to be used wholly or mainly by children;
- driving a vehicle being used only for conveying children and carers or supervisors.
Day to day management or supervision on a regular basis of a person carrying out one of the activities listed above is also a regulated activity.
Activities that are excluded from the definition of regulated activity are:
- Activity or participation of children that is merely incidental to what would normally be an adult activity;
- “supervised activity”* - an individual who is under reasonable day to day supervision by another person engaging in regulated activity; and
- activity by a person in a group assisting or acting on behalf of, or under direction of, another person engaging in regulated activity in relation to children. This is the “peer exemption”.
2. ‘Regularly’ is defined as:
Carried out by the same person frequently (once a week or more often), or on 4 or more days in a 30-day period, or overnight.
(Note: Definition of “overnight” - In relation to teaching, training or instruction; care or supervision; or advice or guidance, it is also regulated activity if carried out (even once) at any time between 2am and 6am and with an opportunity for face-to-face contact with children.)
3. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups (NI) Order 2007
Lists specified places, including schools and day care premises, where an activity with children is a regulated activity if it is carried out regularly by the same person in connection with the purposes of the place where it is carried out. This could include, for example, sports coaching in a school. The supervised exemption also applies in a specified place but only where the activity is carried out by a volunteer.
5. Who decides if a role should be Regulated Activity or not?
It is the employer’s responsibility to decide which roles are eligible for an AccessNI checks and which of these are considered to be in Regulated Activity. This decision should be based on information and guidance provided by AccessNI.
6. How do I determine whether my staff/volunteers are supervised or unsupervised?
When an organisation decides to supervise a person with the aim that the supervised work will not be regulated activity (when it would be, if not so supervised), in such a case, the law makes three main points:
- There must be supervision by a person who is in regulated activity;
- The supervision must be regular and day to day; and
- The supervision must be “reasonable” in all the circumstances to ensure the protection of children.
7. How should the voluntary sector interpret the above guidance on what is supervised activity?
The organisation must have regard to the statutory guidance, and may wish to consider the points below in relation to supervision issues in the voluntary sector. The introduction of the term supervision is intended to give local leaders the flexibility to determine what is reasonable and regular for their circumstances.
Umbrella/registered bodies need to ensure they are able to give advice to organisations/clubs when requested and to provide consistency in how those involved in their activity in certain roles are checked. While the precise nature and level of supervision will vary from case to case, guidance on the main legal points above is outlined as follows.
- Supervision of the individual is provided by a person in regulated activity in a more senior position than the individual. Peer to peer supervision does not mean the individual is in a formally supervised position.
- Supervision is regular and day to day, i.e. that supervision must take place “on a regular basis”. This means that supervision must not, for example, be concentrated during the first few weeks of an activity and then tail off thereafter, becoming the exception rather than the rule. It must take place on an on-going basis, whether the worker has just started or has been doing the activity for some time. It must be consistent and on every occasion the individual is working/volunteering.
- Supervision must be reasonable in the circumstances for the purposes of child protection. Your organisation must consider if you can ensure a consistent level of supervision at all times to ensure that it would not impact on the safety of children in your care if a barred individual was in this “supervised” position.
8. Can we AccessNI check someone if they are not deemed to be in Regulated Activity?
Yes – the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act makes provision for an employer to opt to require an AccessNI disclosure (without a barred list check) for someone not in Regulated Activity: ‘Any position which otherwise involves regularly caring for, training, supervising or being solely in charge of children’.
The word ‘regularly’ in this eligibility code is not linked to the requirements in the definition of ‘Regulated Activity’ – it is therefore open to define by the organisation. It is suggested annual activity would not be enough but an argument could be made for eligibility if an individual does an activity, say, eight times over a summer period or once a month.
9. Who receives the AccessNI disclosure certificate?
The applicant and the organisation administering the check will receive a copy of the disclosure certificate. This is due to change to the applicant only receiving the certificate in spring 2015.
10. I have information on a disclosure form about an individual. How can I assess whether this person is suitable for the role?
AccessNI disclosure information should be considered alongside all other relevant information when making a decision about an individual’s suitability to work with children. This may include references, application information, qualifications, experience and previous training.
A risk assessment is required of any AccessNI disclosure information which will include: clarification of the nature and significance of convictions or previous recorded behaviour (ideally information from the applicant and from a reliable third party); a judgement about the significance of this and other information for the person’s suitability to work with children. It is essential that this judgement is made at least in conjunction with someone with appropriate safeguarding knowledge, experience and preferably training.
11. If someone is not eligible for an AccessNI check, how else can I ensure that they are safe to work with children?
If an individual is working with children on a regular basis, they should be eligible for an AccessNI check. But organisations should be aware of best-practice advice on safe recruitment by having the following in place:
Have a job role description
Describes the full range of tasks, duties and responsibilities of the role and helps everyone to understand the extent and nature of the role.
Create a person specification
Describes the type of skills, experience and attributes required for this role. For example: specific experience; sports or other qualifications; and other requirements, such as effective communication with children.
Openly advertise the job or role
Advertise or promote paid jobs or volunteer roles to attract the widest response and demonstrate an open recruitment process. This could be through: the club’s or sport’s newsletters or notice boards (including online); in local papers; local newsagents; church bulletins. Indicate that the post involves working with children, and (if appropriate) that a criminal records check will be undertaken.
Have a standard application form
Require all applicants to complete an application form (many governing bodies have developed standard application forms that include all relevant questions – affiliated clubs or organisations should use these). A copy of this form should be retained by the local club or organisation.
For eligible posts, this form should include a section allowing the individual to self-declare relevant convictions or information, and give their consent for a criminal records check to be undertaken (if relevant). The form should state that failure to disclose information may result in their exclusion from the club, organisation or event. It should capture relevant information about the person’s experience, qualifications and employment history (paid and voluntary).
Requirement for references
Obtain at least 2 written references, preferably including their last employer (paid role) or deployer (voluntary role). Include someone who can comment on the applicant’s previous work with children.
Interview or meet
Ensure staff or volunteers undertake an interview or have a meeting with at least 2 representatives of the organisation. Check out any gaps in the application form and ensure the applicant has the ability and commitment to meet the standards required to adhere to the safeguarding policy.
You may want to explore the applicant’s attitude to power, authority and discipline, and ask for a response to a problem faced in your club or organisation to assess their commitment to promoting good practice and their ability to communicate with children and young people.
Identity and qualification checks
Take steps to confirm the candidate’s identity (for instance, request photographic identification), qualifications, experience and right to work in the UK. Clarify any apparent gaps in employment Criminal Records Checks.
Probationary or trial period
Set a probationary or trial period (usually 6 months) and review the post holder’s performance against the job description. Every new post should be reviewed within an agreed period of time, varying depending on the nature of the post. It's good practice to have a review at the conclusion of the probationary period.
Appoint through the management committee
Ensure all appointments are made by the Executive Committee and not by any individual members of the organisation or club.