Protection of Freedoms Bill

Memorandum submitted by Girlguiding UK (PF 10)

1. Girlguiding UK is the UK’s largest voluntary organisation for girls and young women, with more than half a million members and recognised volunteers. Over a third of girls and young women (aged 7-21) are involved in guiding, or have been in the past and almost half of all the women in the UK have been involved in guiding at some stage in their lives. We run Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Senior Section, enabling girls and young women to develop their potential whatever their ability or background. We are striving to offer new opportunities to a broad diversity of communities through our expanding network of 60,000 trained volunteer Leaders.

2. Girlguiding UK is one of the organisations leading the way in ensuring the continuing development of good practice in child protection issues. We support the continuation of free Criminal Record Bureau checks for volunteers. Such checks are in addition to our own stringent procedures to ensure the protection of girls and young women in our care.

3. Girlguiding UK uses a bulk system for CRB disclosure applications that is completely electronic. New Girlguiding UK volunteers who are required to undergo a CRB check fill in an online form that asks the same questions as the standard CRB questionnaire. A coding system is then used to transmit this information to the CRB system. We find this works very well from both a volunteer and a staff perspective.

4. We would like to reiterate that in our experience the requirements to undergo a CRB check, along with Girlguiding UK ’s own stringent checks to ensure the protection of the girls and young women in our care, does not deter potential volunteers. We support the highest standards of child protection within the voluntary sector and seek to lead the way in ensuring the continuing development of good practice in child protection issues.

5. Clauses 63-63: We welcome the introduction of a distinction between supervised and unsupervised access to young people which is particularly relevant to Girlguiding UK when our groups have occasional visitors or someone visits a group to see if they would like to volunteer on a regular basis.

6. Clause 71: We believe both the proactive and reactive options for informing bodies providing regulated activities about whether a person is barred would be effective. The reactive option would be preferable for Girlguiding UK because around 8,000 volunteers both leave and join the organisation every year.

7. Clause 77: Girlguiding UK is strongly opposed to only the applicant receiving the certificate for the following reasons:

i. This clause would reduce the number of people volunteering. If a prospective volunteer has a previous criminal history they may not want to show it to a local Guiding Commissioner who may be known to them.  They are likely as a result not to choose to volunteer, even if their criminal history would not prevent them from volunteering with Girlguiding UK.

ii. If a prospective volunteer did choose to show a Guiding Commissioner, who are themselves volunteers, a certificate with offences recorded it is likely that they would not have enough knowledge of the law to interpret the information. This puts far too much responsibility on Commissioners who may leave because they do are unable to handle the pressure of taking these decisions without the necessary expertise or support. There are over 4000 local Commissioners so it is not feasible to train and support all of them to make sensitive judgements about whether a past offence was a risk to young people and how to mitigate those risks

iii. If only the applicant received the certificate and showed it to their local Commissioner who made a decision about their suitability to become a volunteer then these decisions would vary depending on who took the decision. Girlguiding UK uses an e-bulk system so very few certificates are sent to the headquarters but those that are will be considered by trained staff that can make a risk assessment and, equally importantly, put support measures in place for the volunteer if needed.

iv. There is unsubstantiated evidence that CRB check stop people from volunteering but in Girlguiding UK’s experience this is not the case.

v. We would recommend that those applying for a CRB check for paid work receive only one certificate but that the two certificate system stays in place the voluntary sector for the reason outlined above.

8. Clause 80: Girlguiding UK strongly supports a procedure to enable continuous updating of checks. However, we would like to see confirmation that these would remain free of charge for the voluntary sector.

March 2011