Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme

On 28 February 2011, the Scottish Government introduced a new membership scheme intended to replace and improve upon the current disclosure arrangements for individuals who work with vulnerable groups.

The Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (PVG Scheme), which delivers on the provisions outlined in the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) (Scotland) Act 2007, will:

  • Help to ensure that those who have regular contact with children and protected adults through paid and unpaid work do not have a known history of harmful behaviour;
  • Be quick and easy to use, reducing the need for PVG Scheme members to complete a detailed application form every time a disclosure check is required; and
  • Strike a balance between proportionate protection and robust regulation and make it easier for employers to determine who they should check to protect their client group.

The PVG Scheme is Scotland’s response to the principal recommendation of the Bichard Inquiry Report which was undertaken following the tragic murders in Soham in 2002. This recommendation called for a registration system for all those who work with children and vulnerable adults in the UK that would confirm that there is no known reason why an individual should not work with these client groups.

Who is affected by the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme?

The PVG Scheme will affect a wide and diverse range of organisations and groups across the statutory, voluntary and private sectors that provide services, activities, and amenities for children and protected adults.

It is expected that between 700,000 and 800,000 people in paid and unpaid regulated work will, over time, become PVG Scheme members.

How it works

The PVG Scheme is managed and delivered by Disclosure Scotland which, as an agency of Scottish Government, will take on additional responsibilities. This will include making decisions, on behalf of Scottish Ministers, about who should be barred from working with vulnerable groups.

People who work on a regular basis with vulnerable groups can join the PVG Scheme and, from then on, their membership records will be automatically updated if any new vetting information arises. Vetting information is conviction information retrieved from criminal justice systems and non-conviction information held by the police that is considered relevant.

Continuing to collect vetting information after a person becomes a PVG Scheme member helps to ensure that new information indicating that they might pose a risk to vulnerable groups can be acted upon promptly. In the vast majority of cases, there will be no new vetting information that is relevant to work with vulnerable groups.

In addition, groups and organisations can make a referral to Disclosure Scotland if they are concerned that an individual has behaved in a harmful way towards vulnerable groups. Robust procedures and clear guidance are available to ensure that groups and organisations make appropriate and fair referrals.

Types of Disclosure Services

Joining the scheme and obtaining the first Scheme Record should take about the same amount of time as obtaining an Enhanced Disclosure as the same processes need to be gone through by Disclosure Scotland.

Access to the Scheme Record and Scheme Record Update can only be through a registered body. An Enhanced Disclosure is not available to people who are doing Regulated Work with vulnerable groups because the Scheme Record is available instead.

Although the PVG Scheme will replace the need for an Enhanced Disclosure, for those performing Regulated Work a small number of positions involving regular contact with children and/or vulnerable adults, but falling outside of the PVG Scheme and a number of regulatory purposes, will be eligible for an Enhanced Disclosure.

The following aims to explain the purpose and benefits of each disclosure type, both of which are offered by BackCheck:

1. PVG Scheme Record

The Scheme Record is designed for use by organisations when asking an individual who does, or is being recruited to do, regulated work for them to join the PVG Scheme for the first time (or where a Scheme Record Update reveals a change to vetting information). The organisation must be a registered body or use an umbrella body to act as a registered body on their behalf.

The Scheme Record includes any vetting information that exists in relation to the individual. Vetting information is defined as:

  • Convictions and cautions held on central records in the UK;
  • Whether the individual is included on the sex offenders register;
  • Relevant non-conviction information provided by police forces (Information which the Chief Officer of a relevant police force thinks might be relevant to the Regulated Work carried out by a scheme member. The information may relate to civil orders, fixed penalty fines, pending cases or police intelligence. This will appear on a Scheme Record when it is supplied by the Chief Officer of a relevant police force.); and
  • Prescribed civil orders (Civil orders are orders made by a court under civil, rather than criminal, proceedings and are usually designed to prevent some future harm to others. The civil orders included on the Scheme Record are: a sexual offences prevention order (or interim order) under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”); a foreign travel order under the 2003 Act; a risk of sexual harm order (or interim order) under the 2003 Act; a notification order (or interim order) under the 2003 Act; and a risk of sexual harm order (or interim order) under the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) 2005.)

2. PVG Scheme Record Update

The Scheme Record Update is designed for use by organisations when asking an individual who is already a PVG Scheme member (and who has already had Scheme Record issued in the past) to do Regulated Work for them. A Scheme Record Update includes:

  • The date that the PVG Scheme member’s Scheme Record was last disclosed (and the disclosure record number of the applicant’s copy);
  • A statement as to whether that Scheme Record contained vetting information;
  • Either a statement confirming that no new vetting information has been added since the Scheme Record was last disclosed or the date of each addition; and
  • Either a statement confirming that no vetting information has been deleted since the Scheme Record was last disclosed or the date of each deletion.


An organisation is entitled to use all information on a Scheme Record to inform a recruitment or retention decision. Organisations must be fair, consistent and proportionate when applying criteria to vetting information. The criteria should be identified in advance and connected to the specific role.

An individual who is allowed to become or remain a PVG Scheme member is not unsuitable to do Regulated Work. However, vetting information may still exist that indicates that the individual is not suitable to perform the specific role.

An organisation can refuse to recruit or continue to use an individual to do regulated work if that individual refuses to become a scheme member without reasonable grounds.

Any organisation who receives an individual’s disclosure record from Disclosure Scotland to help them make a recruitment decision is only permitted to use it for that purpose.

Disclosure Scotland maintains a record of all organisations that have an interest in a PVG Scheme member. Where an organisation has requested a Scheme Record or Scheme Record Update in respect of an individual, that organisation is assumed to have an interest in that individual until Disclosure Scotland is notified otherwise. Additionally, any regulatory body whose registration number has been provided on an application form will also be assumed to have an interest in an individual.

Where a PVG Scheme member ceases doing Regulated Work for an organisation, the individual should notify Disclosure Scotland. Disclosure Scotland will then seek confirmation from the organisation and once that confirmation is received Disclosure Scotland will remove the organisation from the record of the scheme membership.

For full details of the scheme please visit: