Currently taxi and private hire vehicle drivers are eligible for standard Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. These disclose all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings. The exceptions are drivers who are on a contract to transport children and/or vulnerable adults. These drivers are within regulated activity, and therefore eligible for enhanced CRB checks.
However, licensing authorities have for some years been applying for (and receiving) enhanced CRB checks for all drivers. These disclose everything that is visible on a standard check, as well as relevant non-conviction information held by local police forces and, where appropriate, details of the person's inclusion in an Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) barred list.
The Government decided to tighten up on this in 2011, such as to provide only standard checks when this represented the limit of somebody's eligibility. This led to representations from a number of quarters, including the Mayor of London, Transport for London and the Local Government Group (representing licensing authorities outside London).
In response, Home Office officials met representatives from the sector to discuss the issues. Following Home Affairs Committee (HAC) clearance to proceed with this policy, Home Office Ministers have now agreed to:
- Make all taxi and private hire vehicle drivers eligible for enhanced criminal records (CRB) checks; and
- Allow licensing authorities to obtain information as to whether an applicant is on a barred list. Licensing authorities would retain the discretion to offer employment to a barred person if they chose.
- This reflects consultation indicating that due to methods of working, many drivers could find themselves allocated to work with children or vulnerable adults.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q1 Will you make taxi drivers eligible for enhanced CRB checks?
We have had productive discussions with sector representatives on this issue and Home Office ministers have now agreed to make all taxi and private hire vehicle drivers eligible for enhanced CRB checks, from 26 March this year. Q2 Will you bring taxi drivers within regulated activity?
We do not think it is necessary to bring all taxi drivers into regulated activity. However, Home Office Ministers have now agreed to allow licensing authorities to obtain information as to whether an applicant is on a barred list. Licensing authorities would retain the discretion to offer employment to a barred person if they chose. Q3 Why did the Government change the law so that taxi drivers were eligible only for standard CRB checks?
The law has always stated that most drivers are eligible for standard CRB checks, but the practice had grown over time of applying for enhanced disclosures. Ministers have now agreed to regularise the position to make all taxi and private hire vehicle drivers eligible for enhanced CRB checks. Q4 Will bus and coach drivers be eligible for enhanced checks?
Only those regularly driving vulnerable people including children - such as school coach drivers - are eligible. Eligibility for such checks must be proportionate to the risk involved. In assessing whether a role should be eligible for checks, we need to take into account how likely it is that people carrying out the role present a general risk to those with whom they come into contact. Bus drivers who are not routinely working with vulnerable groups would normally have a number of people in their vehicle, be very visible to the public, work to defined routes and increasingly have CCTV cameras in the vehicle. Whilst we can never rule out any risk of an offence in these circumstances, it is not so likely as to make it right to make drivers eligible for checks. Were we to do so, it would be difficult to resist providing similar eligibility for many other roles, with the result that CRB checks would extend to a very large proportion of the workforce. Q5 To apply for an enhanced check the position must fall into the criteria of regulated activity. Does that therefore mean that taxi drivers are not eligible?
Although taxi drivers may have unsupervised contact with vulnerable groups, this may not meet the frequency test currently applied to regulated activity. Nevertheless, the Government has recognised that they are in a position of trust and could be working alone with children or other vulnerable people at any time. It is therefore considered appropriate that taxi drivers be eligible for enhanced criminal records checks. The relevant regulations have been amended to ensure that this can happen. Q6 If taxi drivers are eligible for enhanced checks, can licensing authorities pass barred list information to another licensing authority?
It would be up to each licensing authority to conduct a barred list check when a licence is applied for. Q7 I am a self employed taxi driver, do I have to apply myself?
As many drivers are self-employed, checks will normally be made by licensing authorities. Q8 The Protection of Freedoms Bill has not yet received Royal Assent, so how has this change been agreed?
The changes have been made by secondary legislation which will take effect on 26th March 2012.