Memorandum by the Scout Association
CRIMINAL RECORDS BUREAU
1. The Scout Association, along with many
other voluntary organisations and sports bodies, welcomes arrangements
for improving our intention to keep young people safe from harm.
We welcome the availability of information that will protect the
vulnerable. Our concerns are:
The impact of proposed charges
The unequal approaches across
the United Kingdom.
2. The Scout Association is the UK's largest
youth organisation for boys and girls. We have over 250,000 adult
volunteers working with half-a-million young people. The volunteers
work as group leaders, instructors and coaches, badge examiners,
camp-site team members, lay helpers, etc. Each year we closely
check 70,000 adults who wish to become volunteers working
with "substantial unsupervised access" to young people.
3. We obtain personal declarations, we check
the veracity of local references, we interview for suitability,
we check our own national records (which are UK-wide), we check
reports from media, then we provide training. This vetting and
recording already costs us over £100,000 each year,
which is part of our core operating budget as a national voluntary
4. Prior to 1999, we also had available
to us, at no charge, relevant confidential information from the
DfEE and from the DoH. In the future, such information is promised
from the CRB, at a price.
5. Within the proposals for the CRB, only
the Enhanced Criminal Records Disclosure will provide the additional
and relevant information required to help us make informed decisions
about the suitability of adults who wish to work as volunteers
with regular substantial unsupervised access to young people or
those at risk. The current figure suggested by Government is £10
for each disclosure made.
6. A Home Office Minister has suggested
that because there is no legal requirement to check with the CRB,
then checking is purely optional. This is naïve, ill-informed
or disingenuous. Parents, insurers, and our own integrity require
those responsible for child protection to do all they can to keep
young people safe from harmit is neither an honourable
nor a realistic option to choose not to check.
7. Recruiting volunteers is challenging
enough without imposing the active disincentive of a personal
joining charge. Independent research (ICF 1999) identifies that
a charge of £10 for a disclosure fee would deter 60 per
cent of volunteers aged 19-21, and 50 per cent of volunteers
aged over 65. For The Scout Association alone, this would mean
42,000 less volunteers each year.
8. In areas of social exclusion, a
personal direct charge for a person to start volunteering will
make even harder the already difficult task of recruitment. Their
work is vital to active community development. It is in these
communities that the work of voluntary organisations is most needed,
yet there is often no tradition or culture of volunteering. It
is in these communities that we especially need to recruit even
more volunteers, and where we most greatly fear the long-term
negative impact of the proposed CRB charges.
9. Alternatively, if the costs are to be
borne centrally by the voluntary organisation, this both adds
an unsustainable and disproportionate burden to charitable
fundraising, and results in reduced operational services.
10. To add the £10 charge for each
of those 70,000 checks, plus all the inevitable associated administration,
will require us to raise an additional £750,000 each year.
This compares against an annual operating budget of only £9,000,000,
and a current three-year project-based grant from the DfEE of
£130,000. The consequential impact is a blend of reduced
operational services for practical volunteer-based youth-work,
and a need for increased charity fundraising to pay for new Government
charges for essential core operations.
11. The Scottish Parliament has already
announced that checks for volunteers in Scotland will be free.
There is no charge for checking volunteers in Northern Ireland.
It is iniquitous that such a decision has not yet been taken for
England and Wales.
12. The Scout Association, like many voluntary
organisations and sports bodies, is UK-wide, yet the CRB is only
for England and Wales, with different systems and checks being
introduced for Scotland and for Northern Ireland. Child abusers
do not limit themselves to home-country boundaries, and there
are real child protection risks if there is not UK-wide cohesion
for checking or providing disclosures. There has been no clarity
for the charging and process for obtaining UK-wide information.
13. A Home Office Minister has repeatedly
suggested that the cost of checks can not be sustained from the
public purse. We seek openness and clarity on whether it will
be the public purse which pays for checks for adults who volunteer
as mentors, for the Connexions service, for the Armed Forces
Youth Cadets, etc. This is unequal treatment.
14. The Scout Association is dedicated to
ensuring that children, young people and those at risk are kept
safe from harm. We are committed to increasing volunteering across
all sectors of the community. The Government as has described
volunteering "the essential act of citizenship, and a powerful
means of social inclusion".
15. Without positive action by Government,
fewer volunteers will be available to support, to work with and
to care for our nation's children and young people, and with those
who are vulnerable and at risk in our communities.
16. We seek to increase and develop volunteering,
and we seek equal treatment for volunteers in England and Wales
as for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
17. We urge the Home Secretary to use his
powers under the Police Act to exempt volunteers from this tax
Derek Twine, Chief Executive