What is the Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme?
The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme is a new scheme, where parents and guardians can now find out whether or not an individual is posing a risk to a child or children. There will also be consideration given when disclosing information, about any person who may pose a risk to a vulnerable adult or adults.
How did the scheme originate?The scheme originates from a high alert study which was introduced in September 2008 by the Home Office and four police forces around the country piloted the scheme over a period of 12 months from September 2008 to September 2009. The results were as follows:
- 585 enquiries were made
- Parents, guardians and carers made a total of 315 applications
- For protection cases such as those relating to violent offending, 11 general disclosures were made in total
- There were 43 additional cases leading to other child safeguarding, such as referrals to social workers
This pilot was a success and therefore the Home Office decided that the initiative should be rolled out nationally. In the first phase of the roll-out, from 01 October 2010, police forces across the country started to operate the scheme. This included: Cambridgeshire; Cleveland; Hampshire; Warwickshire; Suffolk; Thames Valley; Norfolk; North Yorkshire; West Mercia; and West Midlands.
The rest of the country were invited to join the scheme by Spring 2011.
Under the scheme a person can make an application to find out whether there is any information which they need to know, in order to protect children in their care. If there is a need to pass information to someone, in order to allow them to protect a child, then the police would disclose information to whoever is in the best position to use that information. Disclosure will only be made to those people who are in the best position to safeguard a child, after consultation with other agencies as necessary.
Although disclosure does already take place when children are deemed to be at risk, this scheme enables those people closest to the children i.e. parents and guardians to make an application for disclosure. The scheme does this by expanding upon pre-existing police processes, through public protection units.
How do people apply for information?If a child is considered to be in immediate risk then 999 should be called to report concerns. In the case of non-immediate risk, a concerned party should either complete a child sex offender disclosure scheme initial contact form (online) or visit the police station. The information to be provided is:
- Full details such as name, address and date of birth
- Details of the specific person
- Concerns or suspicions surrounding the person /li>
- The details of the children that have contact with that particular person
What happens next?Any member of the public can approach the police to apply under the scheme, for information regarding a specific person with contact with children.
If an applicant provides their details, they will be contacted by the police, who will confirm receipt of their application and explain what happens next.
How is the process managed?Information is disclosed where it is felt proportionate and/or necessary to protect children, under the Safeguarding Children Arrangements or under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements. This is an agency which aims to manage the risks posed by offenders.
The Safeguarding Children Arrangements also involves a number of agencies working together to promote the welfare of children and help to protect them from abuse. Children's Services may, in an assessed way, disclose data held by the authorities, where it is felt necessary to protect the children under Section 47 of the Children Act. This allows parents, guardians or carers to find out about possible offenders who may be in contact with their child or any children they know.
Will an offender know that someone has applied for disclosure?Applicants should not worry unduly about offenders finding out who has applied for disclosure. Only once a disclosure takes place will offenders be informed that the applicant is to receive a disclosure about them. Assessments are carried out for each disclosure to assess risk and the offender is not told in each and every circumstance. It is best not to tell anyone about the information unless this is agreed.
If you would like to apply for disclosure under the scheme, it is best to contact your local police station for more information and to find out whether your county participates in the scheme.