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Rehabilitation of Offenders Act Exceptions Order

UNISON Scotland's response to Scottish Executive Consultation on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act - Exceptions Order (Scotland)

January 2003


UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing over 145,000 members working in the public sector. UNISON Scotland represents workers in local government in social work services, home care and residential care workers; workers in the health service working directly for the NHS and those working for contractors; staff in the Children's Hearings system; and workers in the voluntary sector throughout Scotland.

We welcome the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act - Exceptions Orders, particularly given that we represent significant groups of workers that are currently included and workers in the proposals to be incorporated in the Exceptions Orders.

This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's response to the consultation document issued by the Scottish Executive on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act - Exceptions Order.


General Comments

UNISON Scotland welcomes the proposals in the consultation to strengthen legislation to protect vulnerable adults and children. The proposals help to clarify existing Exceptions Orders, and add new categories to reflect changing lifestyles, and new occupations.

We welcome the plans to use the broad definition of "child care positions" introduced in the Protection of Children Bill to include any position whose normal duties include working in an establishment or organisation which provides education, care, or services for children. Clearly it essential that we protect young people from unsuitable adults, and therefore an employer is entitled to know about all previous convictions, both spent and unspent.

Whilst recognising the importance of projecting children and vulnerable adults, UNISON Scotland has slight reservations in some areas, where individuals may have committed a minor offence a number of years ago, such as breach of the peace during a student demonstration, or minor motoring offences. We are concerned that in these cases, where it is clear that the individual would not prove a threat to children or vulnerable adults, that they should not be penalised for such minor indiscretions a considerable number of years ago.

Response to Questions

  1. UNISON Scotland agrees that the recent additions to the Exceptions Order for England and Wales should be extended to Scotland (taking into account new Scottish legislation).
  2. We agree that students and those in training should be included in the Exceptions Order. This should be made explicit in the definition of "work in care and health services" to clarify the position of students on placements.
  3. UNISON Scotland very much welcomes the proposals to include employees of contractors in the health service within the Exceptions Order. The highest standards should apply in all public services, and where services are contracted out to the private sector the contractor must be required to observe the same high standards as those in the public sector.

  4. We agree with the proposals to add new categories to the Exceptions Order. We believe that it is right that those involved in the children's hearing system are included given the sensitive nature of the work they carry out. It is helpful to clarify that all social workers are included in the Exceptions, not just those who work with children or vulnerable adults. However, as we noted above, we are concerned that social workers are not denied employment because of minor offences committed whilst they themselves were very young.
  5. We also believe that it is right that counsellors and psychotherapists are added to the Exceptions as they too do sensitive work with vulnerable and young persons. Again we would hope that minor "non-threatening" offences committed considerable time ago do not penalise individuals.

  6. We recognise the nature of work carried out by taxi drivers, for example, ferrying children to school, transporting children and adults to and from hospital appointments, and in offering a taxi service to the public at large where individuals place a level of trust in the taxi driver. Given this trust placed upon taxi drivers and the potential power they have over individuals, we believe that those applying for Passenger Carrying Vehicle licences should be included in the Exceptions Order.

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For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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