Justice Minister David Ford has outlined major changes in the way that AccessNI processes applications and this is vitally important to the employment and the voluntary and community sectors.
The changes are effective from 2 November 2015 and have been introduced following the enactment of the Justice Act (NI) 2015.
Mr Ford said: “We are constantly looking at how we can modernise the delivery of Government services. In April, I introduced changes to allow members of the public to apply for their AccessNI checks on-line. Almost 90% of applicants now do so and in many cases they are receiving their certificates within a few days. This has transformed the AccessNI service.
“From 2 November, I am making further significant changes which will provide additional safeguards for those applying for AccessNI checks and ensure that the service is compliant with modern human rights requirements.”
Outlining the main changes the Minister said: “AccessNI will no longer provide a copy of certificates for standard and enhanced checks to the employer. Only the applicant will receive a copy. The employer will only be able to see any information disclosed if the applicant wishes to continue with the recruitment process and shows their certificate to the employer.
“In addition, where police information, other than criminal record information, is disclosed on the certificate, an individual can appeal to an Independent Monitor to review the information. The applicant may seek a review if they believe the information is not relevant to the job they hope to do, or should not have been disclosed. The Independent Monitor has undertaken a similar role in England and Wales for the past three years and is well experienced in these matters having considered police information in hundreds of certificates in that jurisdiction.”
David Ford also announced added protection for young people who may have to obtain AccessNI checks. He said: “I am raising the minimum age for application for a standard or enhanced check to 16 years of age. The only exceptions to this are where an individual is seeking to be registered as a child-minder or to adopt or foster a child and other family members need to be checked to ensure they pose no risk to the children who will be placed in the applicant’s care. In addition, statutory guidance has been introduced for chief officers of police. This guidance requires chief officers to give particular consideration to cases involving the release of information in an enhanced AccessNI check about a time when an applicant was under 18 years of age.”
The Minister added: “While I am introducing these changes to provide important protections for applicants, I will continue to ensure that vulnerable groups are protected. AccessNI checks are a key part of the safeguarding regime and relevant criminal record and other important information on individuals will always be disclosed where it is right to do so.”
The full list of changes to the AccessNI process from 2 November 2015 is:
* Copies of certificates will no longer be issued to Registered and Responsible bodies; * Individuals can appeal police information on their Enhanced certificate to the Independent Monitor; * Applicants for checks must be over 16 years of age. Enhanced checks can still be made where younger applicants are involved and regulated activity is taking place in their own home; * The statutory test applied by the police for releasing information will change from ‘might be relevant’ to ‘reasonably believes to be relevant’; * Statutory guidance for chief officers of police will be introduced to assist police in deciding whether information should be disclosed on Enhanced certificates; * PSNI will no longer be able to issue with information solely for Registered Bodies; * No-one can apply for registration as lead or countersignatory unless they are over 18 years of age; * AccessNI can refuse registration where a person has previously been de-registered; * Persons, other than the applicant, can ask the Department to confirm whether the information in a certificate is accurate; and * AccessNI will have statutory authority to pass information to DBS for barring purposes.
In 2014/15 police forces across the UK disclosed information on 419 Enhanced AccessNI checks. This represents 0.4% of all certificates issued.
Further changes to the AccessNI process as a result of the Justice Act (NI) 2015 will be made in 2016 which will include: * the introduction of an independent reviewer to consider criminal record information disclosed on checks where the applicant believes it was disproportionate to do so. Where the information relates to convictions or non-court disposals given to someone under 18 these will automatically be reviewed before disclosure. * introduction of portable checks. These are checks that a person can use for more than one post and where any changes to the information on the certificate can be accessed by the employer.]]>