Anyone wishing to work with children will need to provide an extract from their criminal record

In future anyone wishing to work with children in Flanders will have to provide what was formally known as “certificate of good conduct and morals” before they can start. The certificate that could be obtained from local town halls detailed an individuals criminal record (if they had one). The announcement that soon everyone that works with children, be they football coaches, ballet instructors or the Director of a youth theatre group, will need to provide an extract from their criminal record was made by the Flemish Justice Minister Zuhal Demir and the Flemish Sport Minister Ben Weyts (both nationalist). 

The ministers say that the new rule will give organisations a better insight into any previous offences (including sexual offences) and make them better able to judge whether an individual is fit to work with minors.

As things stand at the moment, teachers and youth workers have to provide an extract from their criminal record as part of the procedure when they apply for a job. This is now being extended to other groups that work with children such as sports coaches and will also apply to all welfare staff that work with children.

Mr Weyts told journalists that “When we entrust our children and young people to someone, we expect that person to have an impeccable record when dealing with minors.”

It will be up to organisations themselves to judge whether an offence or offences on a person’s criminal record are a reason for refusing them a post. By the summer detailed guidelines will be issued for each sector to enable them to implement the new rules most effectively.

Ms Demir admits that the new rules are not “a cure-all solution” but says that they will act as “an extra line of defence”.

The criminal record check is one of 71 measures contained in the Flemish Government’s action plan to combat sexual violence. The bill containing the measures will go to the Council of State for scrutiny. It will then return to the Flemish Cabinet table before being discussed and voted on in the Flemish Parliament. The aim is for to have become law by autumn of this year. 

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