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NFCC successful in amending the ‘Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions)’


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In a significant step forward, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has successfully brought about changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions).

This follows their forceful argument and formal approval from both Houses of Parliament.

Enhanced DBS checks and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

This amendment, officially approved by the Commons on 22 May and the Lords on 14 June, will facilitate fire and rescue services (FRSs) in obtaining more efficient Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) checks.

The amendment to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act means that FRSs can now carry out a minimum of standard checks for all their representatives.

In addition, the NFCC and DBS are collaboratively creating guidance to assist services in making decisions about eligibility for higher levels of checks.

Minister’s perspective on Rehabilitation of Offenders Act changes

The Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire, Rt Hon Chris Philp MP, expressed his satisfaction: “I am delighted that we have secured this important legislative change to increase the eligibility of fire employees for criminal records checks.”

He further highlighted the importance of these checks: “Checks like these are vital to maintain public trust and support high standards in our services.”

Philp urged all fire and rescue services to make proper use of these checks: “I expect all fire and rescue services to draw on the important guidance published by the National Fire Chiefs Council.”

Safeguarding guidance in line with Rehabilitation of Offenders Act changes

In response to the legislative change, three safeguarding guidance documents have been developed to fully support fire and rescue.

These documents cover processes for managing allegations or concerns of harm, recommendations from the latest HMICFRS Spotlight Report, and NFCC’s Safeguarding self-assessment toolkit.

Another guidance emphasises the necessity for FRSs to understand what level of DBS check could be applied and how to manage positive disclosures found through DBS checks.

All these documents underwent consultation with fire and rescue services, key stakeholders, peer reviews, and equality and impact assessments.

The amendment to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) received full parliamentary approval at the House of Commons at the Seventh Delegated Legislation Committee on 17th May 2023, followed by a debate and approval in the House of Lords on 13th June 2023.

The legislation comes into effect as of 6 July.

The amendment includes new provisions covering chartered management accountants, fire and rescue authority employees, justice system intermediaries, and notaries public of England and Wales, allowing them access to a minimum of Standard level DBS checks.

About the NFCC

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) is a driving force behind the fire and rescue services sector, continuously striving for improvements and amendments that can facilitate smoother, more efficient service delivery.

IFSJ Comment

This amendment to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act will enhance transparency, trust, and accountability, making our communities safer and more secure.

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