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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Tuesday Twat(s)

No. 43. The Criminal Records Bureau

This is a wonderful example of an initiative that seemed like a great idea, until the government and private partnerships got together to fuck it up and turn it into a massive job creation scheme.

The Criminal Records Bureau was set up by the government as a means of vetting individuals who wish to work with children or vulnerable adults, either as a professional or a volunteer. Individuals wishing to work with these groups (i.e teachers, coaches, youth leaders etc) have to undergo a police background check to ensure that they haven't any convictions for kiddyfiddling or other serious offences. This is commonly refered to as a CRB check.

Sports Centres by their very nature have a lot of children customers (plus groups of "vulnerable adults" such as the group of profoundly autistic and mentally disabled adults that are brought down each week as part of the truly incredible attempts by their carers to enrich their lives). Thus, all of the coaches are CRB checked. As are the Duty Managers (who may have to perform first aid for example). As an agency worker I am not, and thus my duties are restricted accordingly. I am not allowed to take down the details of anyone under 16 wishing to join a class, although I can take their money off them etc. This restriction has meant however, that my usefullness on the admin side of things is also restricted. I can't do a lot of the routine paperwork because I am not allowed to access the customer database for under-16s.

Of course, the CRB check has one glaringly obvious flaw - it only lists people who have been caught. Perfectly reasonable, considering that we don't (yet) live in a police state, but something that can occassionaly be forgotten. It also seems a little anomalous, that whilst I can't have access to children's details I can have entirely unrestricted access to the details of any young women who sign up for coaching classes... But I digress.

So why don't I get a CRB check? Well I gave it some serious thought. After all, I want to take a more active part in science week (at present I can only run classes with adults or children if their parents are present) and it would probably be a useful thing to stick on the bottom of my CV. There are two big reasons.

1) It costs £40. Fair enough. I could probably get it paid for if I could persuade the bosses at my agency that it makes me more employable. Even if I can't, I would regard it as an investment and might be prepared to pay for one out of my own pocket.


2) It is non-transferable. Seriously. You pay your £40 and fill in the forms, send them away and (many) weeks later they give you a certificate to prove that you have not been done under the 2005 Gary Glitter Act, and a unique reference number. That certificate is supposedly valid for a year or so, after which a new employer may insist on a new one being done if you change jobs. But even better than that, new employers (or voluntary organisations) may well insist that you get a new one even if you had one done 3 months ago. One of our volunteer coaches had one done in the summer. In order to also coach classes at another centre, he has just had another one done! Costing another £40.
And that isn't an isolated case. One new coach must hold some sort of record. He's a widower and semi-retired. He is therefore keeping active by voluntary work.
These are the CRB checks that I know of.
1) He is still a part-time surgeon, thus he has to have a CRB.
2) He is on the board of governers for two schools - both required a separate CRB.
3) He is a scoutmaster (yes, you guessed it!)
4) He is a volunteer badminton coach (yup - yet another).

The CRB went live in 2002, so his checks are less than 4 years old. Each time, it cost him or the organisation £40. Do the maths...

So, having been given a unique reference number, why the hell can't he just quote that number? The CRB double checks its database to make sure that nothing has been added to his file and gives the thumbs up to his new employer? How can they justify charging £40 and performing the exact same checks as before?

I have a theory.
When it went live in March 2002, there was a massive backlog of applications, some 300,000 by October. This was entirely predictable, given that every teacher, dinner lady, scoutmaster and sports coach in the country had to get one done before they could start work again. Needless to say, they didn't predict it and there was chaos for many months. In that time, I am certain that they will have employed extra staff to shift the load. Now it has settled down, the workload should have dropped considerably - after all, only new teachers etc need to be checked now. All of the 30 year veterans have been checked. One would assume that means that a large percentage of the initial workforce have since been laid off... have they?

Makes you think... £400 million job creation scheme anyone?




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