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Do you think you 'deserve sex'?

The vetting and barring scheme - introduced by the government in the wake of the Soham murders - will cost the NHS millions, put managers under intense pressure to report staff to the Independent Safeguarding Authority to cover their own backs, and could all too easily lead to innocent staff being barred from working with vulnerable adults and children.

As HSJ reports this week, the widely criticised scheme will force managers to make moral judgments about staff behaviour and lifestyles. Draft guidance from the ISA circulated this month and being considered by the Department of Health identifies a wide range of personal characteristics which should prompt managers to consider whether to trigger an alert.

These include “belief that one is entitled to or deserves sex”, “belief that one is entitled to exploit others financially” (presumably encompassing anyone who has worked in banking), “presence of impulsive, chaotic, unstable lifestyle”, and “inability to meet personal needs responsibly within the context of interpersonal relationships”. I struggle to understand how a manager is supposed to judge the last one, or indeed any of them.

You are also at risk if you exhibit “poor emotional arousal management skills”, or show the “presence of severe emotional loneliness”, which would presumably include many people going through a relationship breakdown.

Staff can be struck off even if their professional regulator has decided they are fit to practise. NHS Employers estimates the implementation cost at around £12 million, based on experience with the cost of criminal record checks.

Readers' comments (10)

  • Anonymous

    I'm not a Dr but couldn't "presence of severe emotional loneliness" be a symptom of depression? And if so, could this lead to disability discrimination if the depression met the disability criteria? All seems a bit vague and woolly and open to abuse and misunderstanding if you ask me. It seems a recipe for miscarriages of justice, and innocent lives wrecked, even if it has the best of intentions.

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  • Paul Tovey

    It reminds me of the RIPA laws which easily became abusive - where a local authority felt entitled to set a family up for surveillance because they suspected they were living in another location and fraudulently claiming their child lived in a area which entitled the child to go to a particular school ...

    Look its okay though - do not panic -

    Its just very deep "HUH ?" territory where the tribe of Confusional Law Makers live.....

    Can you imagine in mental Heath Trusts where ex Users work, and with arty User types with "unusual personalities" prone to going a bit different every now and then ...

    (Hah ! See how I avoided a PC attack)

    YES can you imagine though, when an equivalent NHS On the Buses "Blakey" type starts working for a Mental Health Trust and takes a dislike to someone with "personality difference" ... And then thinks : "Ah there's a handy little set of sinister rules I can use " ....

    Watch this HSJ ... It'll happen .. Its VIZE Law ... The Health equivalent of Murphy's law ..


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  • Anonymous

    Hmmm - 'poor emotional arousal management skills' would cover a lot of type-A personalities,particularly those that work in operating theatres !!

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  • Anonymous

    I have to agree with pretty much everything written above. I am a contract worker in the NHS who suffers with depression (current episode moderate, four years' duration). It is hard enough to offer the Client enough information to make the most informed decisions possible, without NHS managers adding "vetting and barring" to their toolbox.

    I have overcome all the obstacles put in front of me over the last year at a PCT, to not simply deliver, but exceed expectations and innovate. I never feel lonely or bored, so don't really want to inherit an employer's view of "the package" experienced by those of us who seek to overcome mental illness.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment on an excellent blog, Richard!

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  • I cannot imagine why an employer would be forced to make moral judgements about peoples lifestyles and there is no suggestion of a requirement by the ISA for them to do so.

    The role of Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), within the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) is to bar people who are assessed as posing an unacceptable risk of harm to vulnerable groups.

    We only consider someone for barring (following a referral from their employer, for example) once we have established that there has been harm or a risk or harm to a child or vulnerable adult.

    If however, there is information that suggests a person presents a risk of harm then it will be considered – that is the role of the ISA.

    The key point is that there will be not even be a case for consideration unless someone has harmed or there is evidence of risk of harm. In addition, where we are considering barring a person, all the information on which we rely will be shared with them and they then have the opportunity to provide ‘their side of the story’. There are no secrets.

    Additionally, our guidance is not in draft and was published on our website in January 2009.

    Karen Leech
    Communication Manager

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting comment from ISA. So people will have a chance to put their side of the story? Sounds very close to guilty until proven innocent. Also sounds like 'big gov' which will cost a fortune and still not deliver the outcome. The solution in every review of a disaster like Soham is almost always that the people on the ground weren't listened to. Maybe that's the route cause we should be fixing not continually applying layers and layers of new rules and regulation to cover it up in bureacratic shroud.

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  • Karen Leech, thank you for replying on behalf of the ISA. I am sure the ISA has people's best interests at heart, but I am also sure that many of us who have taken the time to read through the 'Vetting & Barring Scheme' guidelines are also concerned about their legal woolliness, the tendency of all institutions to engage in 'mission creep' and 'empire building', and the fact that in such a fraught and sensitive area as the protection of 'vulnerable children/adults' that the 'precautionary principle' is highly likely to have an effect---'Can we afford to take the risk?'.

    All of us who are in line to be 'vetted/barred' are also potentially falling into the category of 'vulnerable people'---vulnerable to the agendas, weaknesses, and faults of a distant and practically irresponsible [in the technical sense], body who will have the say so over jobs, careers, livelihoods, and even lives (especially when they get it wrong, as they will). And it's how an organisation copes with it's mistakes and failures that is the mark of whether it really does a 'good' job or not; quite apart from whether or not the money, effort, and risk involved in this scheme is going to be worth the effect it will have, given that the vast majority of abuse of the vulnerable takes place in the home, and is inflicted by family members and others known to the person being abused.

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  • Paul Tovey

    Alex is a person after my own muffled yowl and whimper as the mission creeps put on their dark bureau macs and start to safeguard away . My dogged sense shivers ..

    There's no doubt though , they will protect some kids and I am all for that, but I am not so sure the State safeguarding away with new rules will not get out of hand at some point.

    Alex is also spot on about the family and known contacts of the family being the main way kids are introduced to abuse (and children's homes !)

    Of-course Middle England, I daresay, behind the lobby scenes have reacted quite strongly to their friends and peers being "safeguarded" upon when escorting kids to brownies or scouts or whatever ... So there's a hole in the safeguarding tactic right away isn't there , and I am not sure that its so easy to plug ..

    Treatments for child abused people and even remedial behaviour treatment for pedophiles is not so high on the agenda though is it ? Its all pushed away or marginalised still and believe me its worse if you are a male child that been sexually abused by a woman (See Michele Eliot's of Kidscape work on Female sexual abusers of children) . Males that have been sexually abused are marginalised even more by the social mores .

    Most Personality Disordered folk have been abused - often sexually .. And in the community they are often left to themselves to become broken individuals. In the case of pedophiles they become serious weirdoes who languish in their diversions and sniff around under cover . (Ray Wyre of the Gracewell Clinic in the past did some useful work on helping pedophiles though become self aware and stop offending)

    What we need is a lot more opened up dialogue with parts of the abusers and abused spectrum of experience creating insights . Intelligent openess potentiates safeguarding and raises consciousness in all its aspects. NHS Trusts could learn a lot from that ..

    We will find whether it about abusers or abused its all closely related in terms of developmental hell that shapes people as kids ...

    Trust Me I Am A Patient

    PBT ..

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  • Paul Tovey


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  • Anonymous

    This is nothing about child abuse. And I am indebted to Ray Wyre for having unknowingly helped me ventilate and exorcise my own particular demons.

    These are just another set of proposals to increase the suppression of dissent within the NHS.

    These are only draft suggestions so here are a few more:
    Driving a gas guzzling car?
    Using intimidation of your subordinates to 'bury' your past mistakes?

    or maybe
    Having worked many more hours than you were paid for.
    Having a higher professional qualification.

    Sorry if anyone feels offended by any of this.

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