The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) is soon to be launching a new online status checking service for employers. The service will be used to vet potential employees and verify that they have CRB clearance for certain jobs. Part of the CRB process requires people to request a new certificate when applying for a new job, but the online system will save them from this process and make checks easier for employers. CRB checks are in place to validate those working with vulnerable people and are required for anybody working with children, disabled people, and other similar roles.
Lynne Featherstone, the criminal information minister, announced the new system amongst other new measures. These measures are to be introduced following a review carried out by the Government’s independent advisor Sunita Mason. In a statement made to Parliament, Featherstone said that the introduction of the online service would reduce the amount of paperwork and bureaucracy in many CRB processes.
Featherstone said "We have included a provision to make the CRB process less burdensome on all concerned by introducing a new, online status checking capability that will in effect mean individuals can re-use their certificates for different employers across the same workforce and so will no longer need to apply for a new certificate every time they want to take up a new role," she said. "This will have a positive impact on business, making it significantly easier for employers to take on staff in relevant sectors."
A Home Office spokesman was unable at this time to offer any further information about the way the system would work.
Other features of the Protection of Freedoms bill are listed below:
- Ensuring that only accurate and relevant personal data will ever be disclosed by the police.
- Applicants will have the opportunity to review their personal data and if necessary, dispute any information held about them by the police before it is disclosed to a potential employer
- Significantly reducing the range of ‘regulated activity’ from which people could be barred.
The Government did not accept Mason’s request for a significant reduction in the number of individuals eligible for checks.
An announcement has also been made by the Home Office stating that the Government will continue to maintain the current agreements for holding criminal records on the police national computer. They would also ensure that sufficiently strong controls were in place for accessing these records.
CBS expect to receive further information regarding processes and the practical effects it will bring to those who access the CRB Disclosure Service. As always, CBS provide first line customer support to all clients regarding regulatory and legislative advice and would be pleased to discuss this in greater detail on request.
In a recent bulletin from the Home Office on the Protection of Freedoms Bill, an update was given on the changes to the Vetting & Barring Scheme and to criminal records checks.
On 11th February 2011, the Protection of Freedoms Bill was introduced into the House of Commons and it is currently being reviewed by a number of consultants as it moves towards 'Report Stage'.
The Bill offers changes to the Vetting and Barring Scheme and criminal records checks, including:
- scrapping registration and continuous monitoring
- scrapping controlled activities
- enabling those with convictions for consensual sexual relations between men aged 16 or over (which have since been decriminalised) to apply to have them disregarded
The last bullet point is proposed for England & Wales only, though the criminal records check changes and ISA safeguarding changes will for the most part be mirrored in Northern Ireland.
Other issues were discussed at a recent reading of the Bill, including barring information not being provided on certificates for persons not engaged in regulated activity, and checks on those under 16 years of age in England & Wales.
Discussing 'regulated activity', the bulletin highlighted “The Government does not consider that it is proportionate to require or allow barred list checks on activities that are currently in regulated activity but will not be within the revised scheme, for example, supervised volunteers in schools or activities which entail incidental contact with children or vulnerable adults or work that is ancillary to, or supports others, for example, a hospital cleaner or a caterer within a Further Education college."
On the subject of those under 16 years of age, the bulleting states “this proposal responds to criticism of checking and providing certificates for those aged 15 and under. By no longer issuing certificates, there will be a more proportionate approach to this age group."
The Government has agreed to a number of changes to the original Protection of Freedoms Bill, including:
- The merging of the Criminal Records Bureau and the ISA. This new organisation will be called the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS)
- Extending regulated activity to those working with 16 / 17 year olds
- The police and/or the Prison and Probation Service will have access to barring information if they need it
- In England & Wales, changes will be made to disputes procedures. Where non-conviction information is contained on an enhanced CRB check, an independent element can be brought in to make the final decision on whether such information should be disclosed. The Independent Monitor from the Criminal Records Bureau will review the information, seek a view from the police and then make the decision.
These changes will not be finalised until the Protection of Freedoms Bill receives Royal Assent. Once this has been granted, the Government will notify us when the agreed changes will take effect. The final Bill is expected in Spring 2012.
If you need any advice regarding criminal records checks and the changing legislation, please call us on 01443 799 900.