Memorandum by the Scripture Union (England
INQUIRY INTO THE SETTING UP OF THE CRIMINAL
1.1 Scripture Union is a Christian registered
charity and a limited company. It has been established for over
130 years, with 130 paid staff and 5,000 volunteers a year. It
works throughout England and Wales with children, young people
and families in school, church, community and residential settings.
Much of its work is with churches across denominations.
1.2 We have comprehensive policies and procedures,
not least in the area of Safe Care of Children, and have been
following the establishment of the Criminal Records Bureau with
interest and some concern, as follows:
2.1 There is no legal requirement for those
working with children to request Disclosures from the CRB. It
does appear to be an offence to employ someone if a Disclosure
would have shown convictions preventing them working with
children. Is there really freedom of choice? Will insurance companies
take the risk of insuring those who elect not to use the CRB,
however comprehensive the current selection procedures of these
prospective clients may be?
2.2 Enhanced Disclosures provide information
in a way that conflicts with Human Rights Act 1988.
2.3 We would value a consistent definition
of "child". The Education Act 1996, defines a child
as "a person who is not over compulsory school age, that
is, generally under age 17 who has not yet lawfully left school".
We have discovered Social Services procedures differ with regard
to 16 and 17 years and lack consistency across the country.
2.4 There appears to be inconsistency in
plans for retention of record. The draft Explanatory Guide for
the Code of Practice states a Registered Body may retain a certificate
and associated correspondence for six months, with the possibility
of a further six months should a dispute arise. Other legislation,
such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Discrimination
Acts 1976, require details of applications for employment
to be retained for 12 months.
3. CLEAR DEFINITIONS
Throughout the period of its establishment,
the CRB has declared itself concerned to provide Enhanced Disclosures
for those who "regularly care for, supervise, train or are
in sole charge of children or vulnerable adults". A definition
of "regular" is urgently needed. Like many others, we
have a variety of paid and voluntary staff who have different
levels of involvement with children. Some carry out daily full
time work with children in a school or church setting; others
work in a residential context 24 hours a day, but only for a week
annually; others have "regular" access to the child
at home through the production of printed or electronic materials.
The concern has to be the availability of direct access to the
child, rather than the amount of days in a year that a person
has that access. Is it rather unsupervised access to children
(and vulnerable adults) that should be the issue?
4. EFFECT ON
4.1 Money is only one issue for charities.
Much greater is the effect on administrative procedures, and damage
to ministry. We greatly depend on short term volunteers. There
are implications for our residential holidays, particularly during
vacations. We greatly value the work of approximately 3000 volunteers,
and aim to encourage young adults to be involved . Large numbers
become committed to working with the charity for many years. Many
would speak of the character building, positive life changing
experience that they receive during this time. We aim to have
teams in place as soon as possible in any year to allow for appropriate
training and team building to take place; we already do scrupulous
checks and insist on all screening procedures being completed
satisfactorily before direct contact with children begins. Administratively
it is a pressurised time, and we stop allowing applications when
we won't be able to process them appropriately before the event
begins. My understanding is that before a Disclosure is sought
from the CRB all other selection procedures must have been followed
and the in-principle decision taken about the applicant's suitability
for the post. The original statement was that the aimed for turn-around
time would be five days; in November 2000 CRB'S Director, stated
that it was aiming at 15. While this may be more realistic, it
is alarmingly long; in effect it is asking people to volunteer
almost a month sooner than they do now. For students, that means
making decisions before becoming immersed in the build up to their
exams; that is unrealistic. Fifteen days delay in finalising selection
will rule them out.
4.2 Most voluntary organisations employ
a small number of paid staff. There would be a three week delay
before an offer of employment could be confirmed. Assuming an
applicant wouldn't give an employer notice without confirmation,
this could double the length of time before availability to commence
duties. Should the offer be withdrawn when the Disclosure arrives,
any second choice applicant is unlikely to still be available,
and even if they were, another 15 days process begins.
4.3 There have been many debates but no
definite announcements of costs. We are trying to put together
a budget for the next financial year to allow for becoming a registered
body (if necessary), increasing administration (something every
charity dreads), absorbing Disclosure costs for volunteers (to
encourage people to still come forwardand so that it's
not more costly to volunteer if you live in England and Wales
rather other parts of the UK).
4.4 We cannot budget accurately, but must
put in a realistic contingencyand this may necessitate
setting aside plans for ministry development.
4.5 Should the Bureau be able to rule out
harm to children , no cost would be too high and anything would
5. RELIABLE INFORMATION?
5.1 Access for voluntary organisations to
DfEE's List 99 or the Department of Health list would be welcome.
5.2 For it to work effectively, everything
depends on police officers understanding the nature of any task
being offered to any person across the country and interpreting
what is `relevant information' which should be revealed. If an
applicant has moved house, information will be sought from the
previous place of residence, so police officers will need to be
interpreting data in the same way. How can employers be sure police
officers appreciate the intricacies of the variety of tasks to
interpret the data appropriately? How much longer (than 15 days)
do we need to allow in order for several forces to provide information?
5.3 I am gravely concerned by the apparent
ease by which a person could set herself up, declare herself the
recipient of a Disclosure and assume an air of respectability
with no accountability at alla perfect opportunity for
Director of Field Ministries, Scripture Union