Who requires a check?
The DfE guidance in Keeping Children Safe 2016 is very hazy and just says in section 114, that the school “will make any further checks [they] think appropriate, so that any relevant events that occurred outside the UK can be considered.”
Including the phrase, whatever we “think appropriate” means it is open to interpretation and discretion of the LA who oversee the schools to make the decision as to what is deemed “appropriate”.
Overseas checks are effectively the equivalent of our DBS checks, which detail all criminal activity an individual has done in this country. Crimes that they have committed outside of this country will not be reflected on these checks, and therefore, as a local authority, because of the current climate and what is feels like a constant stream of emerging historical sex abuse cases, we think it is “appropriate” that overseas checks will be undertaken for all staff working in the Lewisham Local Authority.
Although not all governors will be in regulated activity with the students, the new guidance, The School Governance (Constitution and Federations) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016, which came into force on 18th March 2016, has stated that they all need Enhanced DBS checks, which would lead to the conclusion therefore that we cannot exclude them from the need for overseas checks.
How far should checks go back?
There have been a number of queries requesting clarification on how far back overseas checks should go for existing staff members, some of whom have been in this country for several years. Lewisham LA have made the decision to request these checks for any member of staff who have lived or worked abroad in any one particular place for a period of three or more months, since the age of 18 years old.
We understand that this is a highly sensitive issue and can be upsetting for some staff, however it is crucial that we follow this process to ensure criminal checks are done for periods overseas, with the same diligence as we pursue DBS checks. The recent case of Mark Frost, who had a history of more than 25 years of offending, highlights the need for us to take these checks seriously. Frost successfully managed to evade justice by moving from country to country including Spain, Holland, Toronto and Thailand. None of these offences would have been reflected in the UK's criminal record system, therefore leaving children at risk of this predatory activity.
You can read more of his case, which was heard in February 2016: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/feb/01/serial-child-sexual-abuser-mark-frost-pleads-guilty-to-45-charges
Who pays for/applies for the check?
It is essentially the responsibility of the employee to acquire the necessary check and make all the necessary payments involved. However, school leaders and their governing bodies can make a decision as to whether or not they will support their staff in this area.
What happens if we can’t get a check completed?
There are instances where countries no longer exist, or for some other reason it is not possible to obtain these checks, on these occasions, please consult the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ Home Office document published December 2016 – in particular, point 7).
What do we do while we are waiting for a check to be completed?
There have also been concerns about the DBS Risk Assessment template we issued, which could be used if "information" had been found on a DBS. It also states that this form can be used whilst you are waiting for a DBS to come through, which is effectively the case.
How long do we wait for the check to come back?
School leadership need to determine, with their governing bodies how long they will give for these checks to be returned.
Some countries may be better than others in terms of processing times, but it’s important of course that there is a specified time limit set and the deadline would need to be made clear to staff.
What do we do if the check does not come back within the agreed period?
If it gets to the cut-off point and the documentation is not back then a decision would have to be made about the member of staff’s employment.
Some schools have expressed concern about enforcing this as it is a new requirement that was not in place at the time of appointment. However, legislation is constantly changing and schools must ensure that they and their staff remain in alignment. Just as was the case when the Disqualification Declarations were brought in.
Lewisham Guidance Overseas Checks
DBS Risk Assessment Template
Staff Declaration Letter
FAQ Home Office Guidance
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Natasha Orumbie if you have any further queries or questions.