Date Published: 16 November 2006

High Court ruling on Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) List, UK

Commenting on the judgement in the case of Wright and others v. Secretary of State for Health and Secretary of State for Education and Skills today, Alison Kitson, Executive Director Nursing of the Royal College of Nursing, said:

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is delighted to have won our judicial review test case about the workings of the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) Scheme.

_ For a nurse placed on the POVA list provisionally it means they are effectively banned from working - often on the flimsiest of evidence - and without the fundamental right to a hearing. We are currently representing nurses put on the provisional list on the basis of malicious rumours who have subsequently lost their jobs and homes because they are banned from working under POVA.

_ We are delighted the judge has agreed with the RCN view that these four nurses had been denied the right to a fair trial and ruled the POVA scheme is incompatible with both Article 6 and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

_ There should, of course, be strong mechanisms to protect vulnerable people when they are in the care of nurses and care workers but we believe these already exist in the form of the government's own regulatory body the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

_ We hope the government will now take this opportunity to correct this injustice and immediately amend the legislation to ensure care workers or nurses placed on the provisional list have the right to a fair hearing and can keep working while their case is being investigated. The RCN will be working hard to ensure that all those nurses placed on the POVA provisional list who have been denied a fair hearing receive adequate compensation.”

What is the POVA Scheme all about ?

The Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) scheme was created by the Secretary of State for Health in which she holds a List of people who are considered “unsuitable to work with vulnerable adults”. It was created by the Care Standards Act 2000.

The scheme works the following way: A complaint in writing is made (by anyone) to the Secretary of State. If the individual is a care worker the Secretary of State will place that individual on the List on a provisional basis. Investigation takes place by a paper exercise alone. The individual writes to the Secretary of State who then takes further views from the referrer. No hearing takes place.

Once the investigation is complete the individual is either removed from the provisional list or is confirmed on the List. Once confirmed, the impact is that the individual cannot work with vulnerable adults for a period of 10 years. It is a criminal offence for the individual to seek to try to work with vulnerable adults.

There is an appeal mechanism to the Care Standards Tribunal against confirmed listing. The CST has heard 5 cases and has 32 cases pending.

The provisional listing acts as a workforce ban. While the investigation goes on, the individual cannot work with vulnerable adults (POVA) or children (POCA). It is a criminal offence for an employer to take on someone who is on the provisional list.

There are about 900 000 care workers who fall within the scope of the POVA scheme. Referrals are running at a rate of 200 a month. From the time the scheme became effective in July 2004 to September 2006, there were 5224 referrals to the Secretary of State. 1552 people have been provisionally listed of which 498 have been confirmed on the List. Currently there are about 2000 provisional listings.

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.
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