What will be the impact of the proposed changes to the Protection of Freedoms Bill? -

What will be the impact of the proposed changes to the Protection of Freedoms Bill?

The REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) has welcomed the proposed changes to the Freedoms Bill that will facilitate the portability of CRB checks and reduce the categories of roles that will require checks. As a recruitment firm (now in its 21st year of trading) we welcome changes that remove the ‘red tape’ and improve the recruitment process, however, as a registered umbrella body for the Criminal Records Bureau our Personnel Checks Division sees the recent proposals from another angle.

For many people working with vulnerable adults and children, checks by the CRB have become a necessary part of life. The vetting procedures ensure employers and charities know if an applicant has committed any relevant offences before offering them certain roles. However, new proposals from the government may see an end to the CRB service for more than 9 million people who work or volunteer with vulnerable groups. The Protection of Freedoms Bill contains a raft of measures deemed at ending, what the deputy PM describes as a “13-year assault of hard-won British Freedoms”.

Q Explain what a CRB check is…what does it identify?

A CRB check offers employers and non-profit organisations access to the records of potential employees and volunteers. The CRB acts as a third party to verify and report on the criminal records of the person in question. Once the search is completed, a CRB check is issued to the individual and the employee, so they may make a sound recruitment decision based on the suitability of such an individual. It shows background history on all cautions, warnings, reprimands and convictions.

Q What kind of roles would need a CRB check?

Eligibility for these checks is for anyone currently working in a regulated activity, with a regulated activity provider, this includes any form of paid or voluntary work carried out in the setting or establishment.

Currently, the CRB process covers a wide range of posts and anyone working frequently or intensively with children and vulnerable adults have to undertake a criminal record check to assess the suitability to work with or have contact with such groups. The new scheme will only cover those who have regular or close contact with children and vulnerable adults. In future, a school bus driver, a plumber or builder working on a school or hospital site, a linesman at a children’s football match, or a maintenance worker at a school or hospital will not be required to obtain a criminal record check.

Q They’re meant to be a safeguard to stop inappropriate people from working with the vulnerable…but do they work?

Legislation is there to keep the vulnerable safe, since the CRB was launched 6 years ago, 130,000 people have been prevented from working with vulnerable members of society, that’s 21,500 people each year. This figure will be halved under the government’s recent proposals.

In our experience, over the last 6 years, the results of the certificates have without doubt helped stop unsuitable people working with and having access to children and vulnerable adults.

Q What do you think of the new proposals…                                                                                                                                                                     

Legislation is there to keep the vulnerable safe and whilst there are positive elements of the new scheme such as portability of a check, we think the reforms being suggested may be a retrograde step and are being made to save money.

Should the reforms go ahead, they could make it easier for adults in a position of trust to abuse children and vulnerable adults as many of these individuals will now not require CRB Checks. Adults with a lesser degree of contact with children and vulnerable adults could very well slip through the net. The changes may give offenders more opportunities to gain access to children.

Whilst the current scheme is not perfect, it does provide the opportunity to check for previous cautions and convictions. Currently, parents can take comfort that whoever has access to their children are checked and organisations can adopt best practice and be fully informed before they appoint employees.

Scrapping the VBS scheme is one thing but then to also radically half the number of people who require CRB checking may just be a bridge too far and compromise the process of safeguarding in this country.

We understand that the government are under pressure to make savings. Maybe the proposals reflect this and are a necessary step to cut costs to another public service? The Government may be taking a huge risk scaling back to these proportions, as child protection experts have warned, offenders can be very devious and calculated, they seek out opportunities to go where those checks don’t exist.

Yes, it may be a nuisance completing a CRB application form, but the reforms may come at too high a price. As a professional recruitment company, assisting organisations to promote best recruitment practice, checking a job candidate’s criminal record and ascertaining suitability to work, particularly with children and vulnerable adults, remains an important task for safe recruitment and appointment practice.

CRB disclosure certificates show all cautions, warnings, reprimands and convictions and whilst many people do not have convictions, it is important to ensure that non-conviction data continues to be part of the disclosure certificate? Let’s take the good elements such as the portability of a CRB Check but not compromise the safety of the vulnerable in our society. CRB Checks should remain a crucial part of safe recruitment and appointment practice. It’s all about making an informed, sound recruitment decision.

Visit www.personnelchecks.co.uk for more information

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