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Research involving children and/or vulnerable groups

A Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) application may be required if you intend to conduct research involving the participation of children, vulnerable adults (a protected adult is a person, 16 or over in Scotland, who receives care or welfare services, short or long term) and/or within a vulnerable institution e.g. care home, school and or nursery.

It may not be necessary to obtain PVG clearance if your research is observational only and you will be accompanied throughout your visit by an authorised member of staff. However, staff members should consult Louise Milne in Human Resources and students consult with Ailsa Richie in Student Service to obtain agreement in writing that a PVG check is not required. This must be submitted with your ethical application as evidence that clarification has been sought.

For researchers who have lived outside the United Kingdom (UK) for a period of more than 6 months within the last 5 years you may be required to provide an equivalent police check from that country to cover that period. Further information regarding obtaining a police check from other countries is available via the CPNI website.

Protection of children and vulnerable groups (Disclosure Scotland)

The protection of children and vulnerable groups scheme superceded the Disclosure Scotland in 2011. 

The purpose of the scheme is to maintain automatic updated records that will be portable with an initial application costing £59. A scheme record update costs £18, requires less information and is a quicker process. Further information on the scheme can be found on the Disclosure Scotland website 

Application fee: A student’s application fee is normally paid by the School/Unit/supervisor, however, this must be discussed and agreed before submitting to Ailsa Richie of Student Services. Cost centre or payment details must be provided before applications can be submitted.  

Working abroad: Those intending to conduct research outwith the UK will still be required to submit a PVG application.

Working in England/Wales:  The Scottish PVG is NOT valid in England/Wales. You will have to apply to the disclosure and barring service (formally known as CRB check). See regulated activity guidelines for more information.

This flowchart will help you work your way through the process: Children and Vulnerable Adults_Flowchart (PDF, 277 KB)

Protection of Vulnerable Groups and Criminal Records Check Policy and Guidance

Child panel representative

All staff and students proposing to conduct research involving child participants must seek guidance from the child panel representative prior to submitting an ethical application for review. It is the research supervisor's responsibility to confirm with the researcher that guidance has been sought and acted upon before endorsing the application prior to submission for review.

The child panel representative has been appointed by UTREC to consult with researchers on all research involving the participation of children; to provide general advice and good practice protocols; to advise on schools/nurseries to approach; to ensure that PVG clearance is obtained as and when necessary and all relevant external bodies have been contacted and approval sought, i.e. local education Authority.

UTREC word cloud


UTREC Office

College Gate
St Andrews
KY16 9AJ
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: 01334 462368

Contact details

Dr Barbara Dritschel

Child Panel & School Liaison Representative


01334 463047

Contact details

Shelagh McLean

Executive Director Fife Education & Children's Services

01592 583372

Contact details

Paul Clancy

Executive Director of Children and Families Service Dundee Education Service

01382 433088


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