Tories raise concerns over Disclosure Scotland background checks

Major delays in processing checks for people who want to work with children or vulnerable adults have been highlighted in new figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives.
Background checks are mandatory for staff working in schools or nurseriesBackground checks are mandatory for staff working in schools or nurseries
Background checks are mandatory for staff working in schools or nurseries

Under Scottish Government guidelines, anyone who applies for a disclosure check such as a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) application should be given the result within two weeks.

Such background checks are mandatory for staff working in schools or nurseries.

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But figures obtained through a Freedom of Information (FoI) revealed that in September more than half of PVG submissions were dealt with late. By October, just 12.5 per cent were processed on time.

The returns rate was almost 100 per cent during the rest of the year.

Disclosure Scotland, the quango that oversees the system, blamed delays on “seasonal increase in our work and the bedding-in time” of a new IT system.

The Scottish Government’s Disclosure (Scotland) Bill, which is progressing through Parliament, intends to greatly increase the extent to which disclosure checks are handled digitally, requiring another new and improved IT system.

Scottish Conservative early years spokeswoman Alison Harris said: “No-one doubts the importance of these checks to ensure our children and vulnerable adults are protected.

“But clearly the major delays in processing PVG checks are having an impact on childcare providers.

“These businesses are already finding it hard to cater for demand and this log-jam is only making matters worse.

“It means parents of young children – who frankly have enough on their plate – are being denied the kind of access to childcare the SNP Government has promised them.

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“This is a failure of government and the SNP must sort it out as a matter of urgency.”

A Disclosure Scotland spokesman said it was processing 95 per cent of applications to the organisation within 14 days.

The spokesman said: “Any delays were for a short period of time and due to bedding in of the new system alongside a seasonal increase in workload – these were quickly rectified.”

Disclosure Scotland was criticised earlier this month after a major IT project was delivered to the quango 18 months late and at twice the original budget.

Staff were able to use new cloud-based software from August 2018, but the project cost ballooned to £78.5 million.

Scotland’s Auditor General Caroline Gardener said there had been “real weaknesses in control and oversight of the project”.