Back in 1989, the Protection of Children Act introduced a new register which was known as the POCA list, or Protection of Vulnerable Children. The similarly named POVA list is the comparable list for dealing with vulnerable adults. The abbreviations POCA and POVA are still in common use, but the official terminology has changed, and since 2009 the lists have been replaced by the Children’s and Adults’ Barred Lists, which are managed by the Independent Safeguarding Authority. The idea behind these lists is the same, in that they contain the names of people who have been formally blocked from working with children or adults.


How Do the Registers Work?

The lists detailing which people have been blocked from working with children or adults are not available publicly and can only be searched by the Disclosure and Barring Service and law enforcement agencies. People’s names are added to the Registers when they are accused of or convicted of a crime which calls into question their character and suitability to be around vulnerable people. Often, these crimes are sexual or violent in nature, but not always. Most people who are added to the Barred Lists remain there for life, but some might be able to apply to have their name removed after a set period of time, and if they can prove that they are a reformed character.

Names are added to the Registers by the police or Court System, and individuals will be informed that their name is on the Barred Lists. People should know whether they are named on the Register or not, and what the restrictions mean for their future employment.


Enhanced Disclosure Checks

Many different roles require an enhanced disclosure check, mainly roles working or volunteering in healthcare or childcare settings. The enhanced disclosure check in these situations will involve a search of the Barred Lists as standard, and this is usually the first thing the DBS will do. If someone’s name appears on the Barred List, then there is no point in investigating them any further as by even applying for the position means they have committed a criminal offence. If the Barred List check comes back clear, then the DBS application will continue in the usual way, by looking into the applicant’s criminal record, and any other information which the police hold about them.


Adult First

One option which is open to some employers is the Adult First scheme, which allows people applying to work exclusively with adults to apply for a preliminary search of the registers and then start work, pending the full disclosure check. There are some restrictions around this, the main one being that it applies to roles with adults only and there is no similar scheme for people intending to work or volunteer with children. Adult First was widely used during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a way of getting staff quickly into their new positions in hospitals or care homes, as checks can be completed in as little as 48 hours.