Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 39)



  20. And can I just put it on the record that I thoroughly endorse all of that, and I think the nation is extremely lucky that there are so many first-class people who do give an enormous amount of time. Can you just tell us whether, regardless of this issue, you are finding difficulty in recruiting volunteers, not just in the inner-city areas but elsewhere in the country?
  (Mr Twine) Absolutely; and I can illustrate that with the very fact that not only is trying to recruit volunteers a challenging task, we do not have enough in our own organisation. We have waiting lists of young people, in the UK we have 40,000 young people who want to join a local Cub Scout pack, or a Scout troop, and cannot; why can they not, the ones near them are full, there are not enough volunteers prepared yet to give their time to open up new ones. That is 40,000 on just our waiting lists, and multiply that by The Guide Association's figures, and those from many other organisations, and the single reason there is insufficient numbers of volunteers.

Mr Fabricant

  21. You struck a chord with me when you talked about the type of people who volunteer. I am familiar with an organisation called Birmingham Young Volunteers, and they take about 400 to 600 deprived children from Birmingham every year to adventure camps in North Wales. Some of the volunteers, one of them is a pal of mine, he is a director of the John Lewis Partnership, and he could well afford ten quid; other volunteers, who work with him, and that is the charm of the organisation, some are from ethnic minorities, out of work, and I think they would have real difficulty in paying that ten quid. But Paul Boateng has made it clear, or perhaps he has not made it clear enough, that the enhanced level might not necessarily be the level of check that would be required. I just want to quote from him; he says: "not every volunteer who works in a particular sector will need a certificate, or one of the level of the enhanced criminal record certificate." And you are saying, of course, that the cost of that, you have been advised, would be £10. And then he goes on to say: "For example, someone who takes a troop of scouts or guides away for a residential camp is in a different position to a volunteer who works at a Wednesday night meeting in a church hall." Presumably, also, for Guides or Scouts. You said earlier on, Mr Twine, that you would always wish to make an inquiry at that enhanced level; well, are you not perhaps icing the cake, are you not perhaps making it a particularly expensive venture by doing just that? Some of those people, who would be volunteers, could they not be checked at a lower level, and, presumably, not have to pay the £10?
  (Mr Twine) The 70,000 to whom I refer are those who do have that substantial, unsupervised access. There are many thousands more, who assist on the periphery, with the fund-raising, with the committee work, with the public relations work, with all of the support, with the driving, with the preparing of the teas and the coffees, and the preparing of the parties, who do not have unsupervised, substantial access to young people, and I am not counting those in this 70,000. I am talking just about those who help with the meetings, who do the leadership, who do the regular programme, who take young people swimming, who teach the football, who get involved with residential experiences, who work on the campsites and take them off on expeditions; that is the 70,000, that is the scale of the two largest youth organisations in this country which are sitting before you now.

  22. So, in fact, this could extend far more, beyond the amount of money that you have spoken about, because, presumably, there will still be a fee even for that lower level; is that the same position for the Guides?
  (Mrs Ryall) That is exactly the same position for us. And when I spoke about the numbers going through, the 45,000 are those with substantial, unsupervised access, there would be another 40,000 who are depot managers and do all the jobs that Derek has just outlined; and if we were required to check them then that would add an additional burden.

  23. It seems to me that there is a pretty clear demarcation between the different classification of volunteer; but has the Home Office given you a clear picture as to what they would expect, as to what level of checks you would be expected to provide? You are smiling; so I suspect not?
  (Mr Twine) From time to time, in the last 18 months, the exact wording on that has shifted a little. But the phrase which has the greatest resonance for us is `substantial, unsupervised access'; that has resonance because it goes back to the immediate inquiry by Lord Cullen, after the shooting in Dunblane, it has significantly informed our own child protection policies, and it is there very seriously when we have our own concerns for adults who are in exactly that position. And they are the positions where, thankfully, the vast majority are sound people to work with young people; but they are also the positions, where there is continuing, sustained, unsupervised access, where misbehaviour can be found.

  24. And, to take the other extreme, are there any circumstances that you can envisage where you feel that a check would be unnecessary; perhaps you can give us a few examples of the sort of work they would be doing, where you think it would not be necessary?
  (Mrs Ryall) For example, a volunteer who is treasurer to a local group, who never goes near the girls, or anything like that, but keeps the books, there would be no requirement really for a check, unless we were required to check all volunteers, which we are not.

  25. You already have a huge number of existing volunteers, as you have already said, in answer to previous questions, and I know that the Guides have said that you have got something like 100,000 volunteers; how many have the Scouts got, at the moment?
  (Mr Twine) In total, Chairman, we are looking at 250,000, a quarter of a million, adults engaged with Scouting throughout the UK; these are existing volunteers.

  26. Do you think they are going to have to be subjected to the CRB?
  (Mr Twine) We have taken a pragmatic view, in our organisation, and, I would like to think, in our co-operative work with the CRB team that is trying to set up the Bureau, of identifying that we will not immediately go for retrospective checks on our current people, that we will bring this to kick in, once the CRB comes on line, with all new applicants for a new appointment, either joining Scouting for the first time, or changing their appointment within Scouting, but not suddenly to do that.

  27. So you have this huge bank then of existing volunteers, and I can well understand that the cost would be prohibitive, I suspect as well it would swamp the CRB, if you were to ask for an inquiry to be done on all your existing volunteers, but could you make a guesstimate perhaps as to a proportion that you would wish to do some check on, or are you saying you would do none whatsoever?
  (Mrs Ryall) Our position is slightly different, in that we renew appointments every three years; so when we began to have access to the Criminal Records Bureau we would feel obliged, at the time of renewal, to insist on that person being checked, then we would have to talk about how long we would accept that certificate as being current. But we would feel that, at the moment, there would be, and what did we estimate it to be, I have it somewhere in here, it was something like 70,000 over three years, so there would be a rolling programme of checking people. Because we could not possibly have people long term in the organisation not having had a check, it would be indefensible to the parents, for a start, so we would have a rolling programme over a period of time.

  28. That really brings me on to my final question and that is, are you going to have regular checks? The Guides have a three-year rolling contract, as it were, so it follows from that, that every three years you will be checking with the CRB. So, if I can direct this specifically at the Scouts, once you have done a CRB check, it does not mean that someone is necessarily going to stay on the straight and narrow for all time, someone might suddenly develop into a criminal life, perhaps; have you got plans, or have you thought about how often you would renew a check?
  (Mr Twine) Yes. Terry is satisfied that The Guide Association is a three-year contract. Within The Scout Association, what we call the warrant review of leaders is on a five-year programme, at the moment; that indicates one slight difference, not a principal, but a timetable between the two large voluntary organisations. What has to happen, and has not happened yet, is a dialogue between the various Registered Bodies, which are to be set up, organisations such as our two, and the CRB itself, for what might be the appropriate benchmark for a validity or a life of a disclosure being current. In all reality, the disclosure is only current on the day when it is issued.

  29. It is a snapshot?
  (Mr Twine) Absolutely. And what we need clarity on, which must come over the next few months, and we are prepared to engage with these discussions, is two aspects of this. One aspect is when does renewal come up, and that requires, I believe, an agreed benchmark between those of us as Registered Bodies and the CRB, so what is the lifespan. And the other is, what mechanism, if any, are we going to have from the CRB for alerting us, if they have given us a clear disclosure in January and something emerges in September, are we going to be left in oblivion, or are we going to be alerted, and is that going to be different if it is Scotland and different if it is CRB, or different if it is Northern Ireland.

  30. And perhaps there is a third criterion, as well, that when you have renewal, is that going to be at the enhanced level again, or is it going to be at a lower level?
  (Mr Twine) In our judgement, it would need to be the enhanced level. If we are requiring it at the enhanced level in the first place, it is enhanced level thereafter, because it is the same individual, in a position of trust and unsupervised, substantial access.

  31. So, clearly, there has to be a mechanism not only where you interrogate the CRB, but I think it is important, and I think the Committee has noted, that there needs to be a mechanism whereby the CRB, if they hear something, inform the volunteer organisations that an event has happened since the CRB check?
  (Mr Twine) We believe so.


  32. Can you just make clear, when a check shows a criminal record, there are going to be some categories of criminal records, I assume, that are acceptable to you; for example, a speeding offence?
  (Mrs Ryall) Unless they are going to be a driver.

  33. Where you are looking at a class of offence?
  (Mr Twine) Already, we have to make discerning judgements, and I believe that we have a period of many decades of doing just this, that if it was someone who was going to be dealing with money and we were talking about financial irregularities being the concern then we take a different view. But, equally, it may be someone who had a financial concern, some 26 years previously, and was going to be nowhere near money but was going to be assisting with swimming support, for Cub Scouts going swimming, then we would have a very different interpretation of that. Our work, as a responsible organisation, and the guidance in the Code of Practice which is evolving out of CRB, albeit in draft form, is going to help develop those judgement decisions which are going to have to be made.

Bob Russell

  34. Mrs Ryall, are you aware of any recognised youth organisations which are opposed to the Criminal Records Bureau concept?
  (Mrs Ryall) No.

  35. And are you aware of any recognised youth organisations which support the fee, £10, or whatever?
  (Mrs Ryall) No.

  36. So the youth movements in this country are unanimous in their thoughts on this?
  (Mrs Ryall) Absolutely; yes.

  37. You mentioned earlier the three-year rolling programme of looking at Guide leaders; how much does that cost the Guide movement, at the moment?
  (Mrs Ryall) At the moment, on a £10 million budget, we spend 1 per cent on child protection; that is the monitoring of those people, the production of this kind of material, which is Safe From Harm, etc., and there is a little card which goes to every single one of our leaders, the training we provide on child protection for leaders, etc., we estimate that at 1 per cent of £10 million.

  38. What I was getting at was that both you and Mr Twine have given figures of how much the fee would cost to your respective movements for new volunteers, but I do not think either of you said the additional cost, three years, in your case, five years with the Scouts, on top of those figures for new recruits, so that the cost to your movement would actually be greater than the figure you gave, would it not?
  (Mr Twine) From The Scout Association perspective, if I can respond, we are currently spending of the order of £100,000, each year, on checking and child protection measures. We have decided, as I mentioned earlier, that the core infrastructure costs of engaging with CRB is something that we believe is appropriate to accept, but, currently, that is £100,000, which we are doing, and have developed a significant culture of care, have developed a record system, and have developed collaborative training between The Scout Association, The Guide Association, the NSPCC.

  39. In reply to an earlier question, to Mr Fabricant, you mentioned Dunblane; did Thomas Hamilton try to become a Scout leader?
  (Mr Twine) Thomas Hamilton tried to become a Scout leader and was found wanting as a Scout leader, and we declined him continuing as a Scout leader, and we declined several subsequent applications, which he made, through our records.

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