Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006

Ima F.
Jun 19, 2024

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 is a critical framework in the UK designed to protect children and vulnerable adults by preventing unsuitable individuals from working with them.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Act and the responsibilities it places on employers and organisations.

What is the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act?

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 aims to ensure the protection of vulnerable adults and children.

Born out of the need to address shortcomings and issues in existing vetting systems, it established a robust framework for preventing individuals deemed unsuitable from working or volunteering with vulnerable groups. The Act introduced a vetting and barring scheme to ensure that those who pose a risk to vulnerable people are identified and prohibited from engaging in regulated activities.

It aims to enhance the safety and welfare of vulnerable people by creating a rigorous and systematic approach to safeguarding.

Care nurse looking after an elderly woman

Background and Development of the Act

The tragic murders of 2 young girls in Soham in 2002 were a pivotal event that led to the creation of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.

This case prompted the commission of the Bichard Inquiry in 2004, which aimed to investigate the circumstances of the event and propose measures to prevent similar safeguarding failures in the future. The inquiry identified significant inconsistencies and failings in existing safeguarding measures and made several key recommendations to improve practices and vetting systems.

The shortcomings identified in the Birchard Report were instrumental in shaping the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. Key recommendations included the establishment of a central vetting and barring system, the creation of a new agency to oversee this process, and the implementation of more rigorous background checks for individuals seeking to work with vulnerable individuals.

In response to these recommendations, the UK government took decisive action to improve the existing safeguarding framework. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 was introduced to address the gaps identified by the Bichard Inquiry, aiming to create a more effective and reliable system for protecting vulnerable individuals.

Defining Vulnerable Groups

Under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, the term “vulnerable groups” encompasses both children and vulnerable adults, who are inherently vulnerable and require special protections to safeguard their well-being and safety.

A vulnerable adult is defined using the following criteria:

  • Over 18 years old.

  • At risk of experiencing neglect or abuse.

  • In need of care and support due to mental or other disability or illness.

  • Unable to protect themselves from harm or exploitation.

The Act further outlines specific situations and contexts where individuals are considered vulnerable, including:

  • Healthcare: Individuals receiving medical treatment, therapy, or care.

  • Social Care: Those in residential or nursing homes, or receiving support services in their own homes.

  • Educational Institutions: Children and young people in schools, colleges, and universities.

  • Legal and Financial Services: Individuals receiving legal advice or financial management services, particularly if they lack the capacity to make informed decisions independently.

Key Provisions of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006

The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act lays down fundamental measures that protect vulnerable people.

These provisions mandate organisations to promote the welfare of children and vulnerable adults and ensure their safety in various settings.

Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA)

Originally established under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) oversees the execution of the Vetting and Barring Scheme.

Its primary role is to prevent unsuitable individuals from gaining access to vulnerable individuals. This involves maintaining and managing two barred lists: one for individuals barred from working with children and another for those barred from working with vulnerable adults.

The ISA follows strict operational procedures to assess risk and make informed decisions about who should be barred from regulated activities, based on comprehensive background checks and investigations.

Regulated activities are defined as those that involve close and regular contact with children or vulnerable adults in regulated and controlled workplaces. This includes roles such as teachers, healthcare providers, social workers, and volunteers in care settings. The definition extends to any position where an individual has the potential to influence or impact the well-being of vulnerable individuals, ensuring comprehensive coverage across various sectors.

These activities are subject to scrutiny by the ISA to ensure the well-being and safety of vulnerable groups, as well as to prevent emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and ill-treatment.

In 2012, the ISA was merged with the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) to form the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). This integration aimed to streamline the vetting process and create a more efficient safeguarding system.

The DBS now carries out the functions previously handled by the ISA, including maintaining the barred lists and conducting background checks. The DBS operates independently to ensure unbiased decision-making.

Vetting and Barring Scheme

A key feature of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act is the establishment of a centralised vetting process, now managed by the DBS.

The vetting process involves rigorous background checks for individuals applying to work or volunteer in positions that involve contact with children or vulnerable adults. This includes criminal record checks, scrutiny of employment history, and gathering relevant information from various sources to assess an individual’s suitability for such roles.

Individuals who pose a risk to children or vulnerable adults are included in a barred list, preventing them from engaging in any regulated activity. This ensures that only those who have passed the stringent checks can engage in regulated activities with vulnerable people.

Obligations for Employers and Organisations

Employers play a crucial role in the implementation of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. They are responsible for ensuring that the necessary measures are in place for safeguarding adults and children within their organisations.

Here are the key obligations for employers under the Act.

Conducting Background Checks

Employers must conduct thorough background checks on all individuals applying for roles that involve regulated activities. This includes obtaining a DBS check to verify if the candidate is listed on the barred lists.

Employee statuses must also be regularly rechecked and monitored to ensure continued compliance with safeguarding requirements.

Ensuring Compliance with the Vetting Process

Employers must adhere to the vetting and barring procedures established by the DBS. This involves following the correct protocols for submitting background check requests and handling the information received.

Employers should also provide training for staff on safeguarding policies and procedures, ensuring that all employees understand their roles and responsibilities in protecting vulnerable groups.

Reporting and Referring Safeguarding Concerns

Employers have a legal obligation to report safeguarding concerns or allegations of harm regarding individuals working with vulnerable groups. This includes suspicions of safeguarding misconduct or evidence of behaviour that poses a risk to children or vulnerable adults.

When there is a concern about an individual’s suitability to work with vulnerable groups, employers must refer these cases to the DBS for further investigation. This ensures that potential risks are promptly addressed and appropriate actions are taken.

Record Keeping and Documentation

Employers must maintain accurate and up-to-date records of all background checks, training sessions, and any safeguarding concerns reported. This documentation is crucial for demonstrating compliance with the Act.

All personal data related to background checks and safeguarding concerns must be handled with the utmost confidentiality, ensuring compliance with data protection laws and regulations.

Supporting a Safe Environment

Employers should develop and implement comprehensive safeguarding policies that outline procedures for preventing, identifying, and responding to safeguarding concerns.

Adhering to the six principles of safeguarding ensures that every action taken is aimed at protecting and empowering vulnerable individuals, thereby contributing to a safer environment.


The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 provides a robust framework for protecting vulnerable adults and children in the UK.

By adhering to these regulations and implementing robust safeguarding policies, organisations can effectively meet their moral and legal obligations, contributing to a safer and more secure environment for those who need it most.

To discover how Vatix’s safeguarding reporting system can help streamline the reporting and documentation of safeguarding concerns, talk to our sales team here.

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