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Councillors who have not passed vital suitability checks may have been given access to information about vulnerable people, contrary to national guidelines.
Angus Files, whose son lives with severe autism, says the situation is ‘horrendous’ and has insisted that Argyll and Bute Council staff should have stopped councillors attending meetings until paperwork was in place. Mr Files is demanding to know why this has been allowed to continue for a number of years.
Mr Files, whose 18-year-old son Geoffrey has a mental age of two, is concerned that confidential information about his son has been passed to councillors who are potentially not fit to serve.
Mr Files said: ‘Geoffrey has low functioning regressive autism. I don’t want anyone having his confidential information unless they are suitable to have it. I don’t think the council can guarantee that. This is horrendous.
‘While I am sure it is not the case, potentially these councillors could have convictions for offending against people. The worst case could be that they are on the sex offenders’ register with access to sensitive information.
‘While legislation exists to protect vulnerable people, Argyll and Bute Council seems to have decided to ignore this and has allowed two councillors to attend meetings without the checks.These people may not be suitable to do the job – we do not know. That’s a terrible situation to be in.
‘The Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) legislation is there to protect people who need extra support. It is unacceptable that two members of the Community Services Committee have never returned the paperwork.’
A Freedom of Information request outlined the current situation. The head of law at the council, Charles Reppke, said: ‘It is only the members on the Community Services Committee who require to be PVG checked, as this committee deals with the provision of education, accommodation and social services to children and protected adults on behalf of the council.
‘I am able to confirm that [one councillor] was first contacted by email on June 4, 2014, following the Community Services Committee being set up. The councillor was also sent [four] further emails asking her to confirm the position as it related to her.
‘On February 5, 2016, [another] letter was sent enclosing an application to join the PVG scheme and an existing PVG scheme member form, and she was asked to complete whichever was applicable.
Further reminder emails [were sent] on May 16, 2016, and October 5, 2016.
‘[a second councillor was sent an email] on May 16, 2016, following appointment to the committee to find out whether or not [they] were already a member of the scheme.
‘[The councillor] never replied and was sent the two sets of forms by post on October 6, 2016, and asked to complete whichever was applicable.
‘[The councillor] was handed the forms again within the past fortnight but has not yet returned either of them.’
A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council added: ‘When councillors are appointed to the Community Services Committee they are advised that they should register under the PVG scheme.’
Both councillors in question were approached by The Oban Times and said the forms had been returned. In one case, the forms had gone missing and in the other case the forms have now been completed.