Memorandum by Victim Support
THE CRIMINAL RECORDS BUREAU
1. We have always been aware of the need
to protect children and vulnerable adults from people who pose
a risk to them. For this reason, we have, for many years, required
prospective volunteers to undergo a police check. This intelligence
has been provided to us free of charge, on the grounds that the
police themselves have an interest in checking the character of
potential volunteers. This is because Victim Support's relationship
with the police is unique. Victims of certain categories of crime
are, pursuant to the Victim's Charter, referred daily to Victim
Support by the police. We believe it is in the interest of the
police and of the wider community that those who receive confidential
information from the police should be checked.
2. Victim Support's volunteers are the lifeblood
of the charity. Victim Support was founded as a community-based
voluntary initiative and, although the charity has grown dramatically,
it remains a voluntary organisation. Of the 15,609 people who
work for Victim Support, 14,177, or 93 per cent do so in a voluntary
3. All Victim Support and Witness Service
volunteers undertake a minimum of 40 hours training; some take
further training to enable them to work with victims of more serious
crimes, for example, with victims of sexual violence or the families
of murder victims. Once they have received basic training, volunteers
are asked to dedicate at least two hours a week to supporting
victims and witnesses. This commitment may be maintained for several
years, reflecting the need of many victims for ongoing practical
and emotional support. We believe it is wrong in principle to
ask people who give so much to the community to bear the cost
of police checks.
4. Further, we are concerned that charging
volunteers for criminal record checks will deter many from volunteering
in the first place. The recruitment of volunteers is a continuing
task for all Victim Support Schemes and for the Witness Service.
As we develop further services to meet the needs of victims and
witnesses, such as the Magistrates' Court Witness Service, additional
volunteers will be needed. Recruiting volunteers who are able
to offer the level of commitment required is already difficult;
charging volunteers for checks will make it significantly harder.
5. Victim Support endeavours to recruit
volunteers from all sections of the community but the introduction
of charges for checks is likely to discourage people on low incomes.
In particular, students, the unemployed and people with disabilities
may find the charge prohibitive.
6. It must also be acknowledged that volunteering
is a competitive market. A recently announced government drive
is rightly geared to encouraging volunteering. The practice of
charging for police checks will disadvantage charities whose work
requires this, in comparison with those whose work does not.
7. The alternative is for Victim Support
to bear the cost. However, meeting this financial burden will
result in diverting resources which are currently committed to
other vital areas. It will also be difficult to recover this cost
through fundraising. The fact that all our volunteers undergo
police checks is evidence of our organisation's integrity, which
is welcomed by potential funders. Corporate funding is becoming
increasingly competitive and whilst it is possible to secure corporate
sponsorship for specific projects; sponsors believe that Victim
Support's core cost should be met by the Home Office. We believe
that commercial sponsors would rightly see the vetting of volunteers
as a core cost which should be met by the public authorities.
Therefore, regardless of whether Victim Support or our volunteers
pay for the checks, our ability to meet the needs of victims and
witnesses will be adversely affected.
8. We note that the voluntary sector in
Scotland will enjoy the advantage of free police checks. We consider
that the arguments which supported this policy also apply to England
17 January 2001