Protection of Freedoms Bill

Memorandum submitted by Rob Dawson the Institutional Compliance Officer at the University of Chester (PF 08)

Paper to the Public Bill Committee regarding the Protection of Freedoms Bill, Clause 77: Restriction on information provided to registered persons.

"Omit -

a. section 113A(4) of the Police Act 1997 (requirement to send copy of criminal record certificate to registered person), and

b. section 113B(5) and (6) of that Act (requirement to give relevant information and copy of enhanced criminal record certificate to registered person)."

1. The following comments are based upon experience gained in my day to day work which has, since the inception of the CRB, involved overseeing CRB checking of students at the University of Chester. These experiences are further supplemented by my work with the CRB and ISA as Chair of the CRB’s Education Consultative Group. I have also been a member of a Universities UK/GuildHE working party which in conjunction with the DfE and BIS, developed guidance for universities on the Vetting and Barring Scheme. I am a regular speaker to Higher Education groups, such as the Academic Registrars Council, on the implications of CRB and VBS requirements and their effect on Higher Education.

2. On the whole the proposals detailed in both Home Office reports, published February 2011, following the reviews of the VBS and the criminal records regime, which have influenced the Protection of Freedoms Bill, are welcome. The recommendations should promote a more reliable, responsive and user-friendly CRB disclosure and checking process, and help avoid, for example, undue and unexplained delay in processing disclosures to which the current system is prone.

3. My main concern relates to Clause 77, which responds to Recommendation 4 of Sunita Mason’s report, recommending that a new CRB procedure is developed so that the criminal records certificate is issued directly to the individual applicant, who will be responsible for its disclosure to potential employers and/or voluntary bodies. Ms Mason’s report acknowledges that she gave this issue a great deal of thought and consulted widely. I would, however, hope that whilst the recommendation is accepted, further thought can be given to the adoption of an approach which would ease the potential administrative burden that clause 77 will cause for Registered Bodies who initiate CRB checks, in particular those Registered Bodies who are likely to be undertaking a large number of checks in short periods of time, Higher Education Institutions being a good example of this group.

4. The University of Chester undertakes approximately 1,700 CRB checks per annum, chiefly in respect of applicants aged 18/19. Most checks are on students who enrol on programmes of study that involve regulated activity, e.g. initial teacher training, nursing, midwifery and social work, and most are undertaken between August and September, shortly before the commencement of the academic year for entry to the programme. Approximately 1,000 CRB checks were accordingly undertaken by the University of Chester for September 2010 entry across the programmes detailed above. We do not undertake repeat checks. The current system at Chester is in use in other universities, so that once a firm and unconditional offer of a place has been given by the Higher Education Institution and accepted by the applicant (usually by the third week in August) they are contacted and requested to complete a CRB form. Applicants are then invited to attend a CRB signing session (fourth week in August or first week in September) where their identities are checked face to face and the CRB form is signed and countersigned. The form is dispatched to the CRB immediately following the session and once the Higher Education Institution’s copy of the disclosure is received (usually 4 to 6 weeks later) the number is noted on the student record. By this time the applicant has become a student, attending Higher Education and living in accommodation associated with his/her study term-time address. However, the student’s copy of the CRB disclosure will have been sent to their home address, which could be anywhere in the UK. Once its copy of the disclosure has been received, no further action is necessary on the part of the Higher Education Institution.

5. Clearly, Recommendation 4 must be considered within the context of the wider proposal contained within the two reports and relevant clauses of the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Given that, under clause 78, CRB checks may only be undertaken on persons aged 16 and above, alongside the scaling back and redefining of ‘Regulated Activity’, the number of persons aged 18 or 19 in possession of a CRB check, prior to commencing Higher Education, can be anticipated to be substantially reduced. Therefore, their commencement on a Higher Education course which includes regulated activity will be the occasion when these persons aged 18 or 19 initially apply for the portable disclosure envisaged by clause 80 of the Bill, applying through their chosen Higher Education Institution as a Registered Body.

6. In the case of an employer or voluntary organisation who may undertake a number of checks throughout the year, or a large voluntary organisation with a large number of local offices, for example, the Scouts, the burden of asking the handful of applicants whether their disclosure has been received will be limited and clearly manageable. By contrast, because clause 77 will no longer require disclosures to be sent to Higher Education Institutions, substantially increased follow-up work will be required of institutions which offer courses similar to those listed above, thereby increasing workload and administrative processes away from core functions at a time of severe financial exigency.

7. The response to a recent Freedom of Information Act request to the CRB, published under the CRB’s disclosure log [1] , shows that 110 Higher Education Institutions made a total of 159,802 disclosure applications during 2010. Seventy-three of these institutions made at least 1,000 applications, with the ‘top’ nine making over 3,000 applications. The resources to be expended in following up a group of over 1,000 applicants to establish whether they have received disclosures and their contents will clearly be substantial and, it is suggested, inappropriate.

8. Recommendation 4 was no doubt not intended to have this impact and it may be that the effect on Higher Education was not considered in the formulation of the recommendation. Indeed, it is noted that Ms Mason did not undertake any face to face discussions with representatives from universities in her review and that the report refers to employers and voluntary organisations. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 went some way to recognising the difficulties and experiences of Higher Education in defining universities as ‘personnel suppliers’. Moreover, whilst interested parties were able to make written submissions during the review process for both the VBS remodelling and criminal records regime there did not appear to be any indication that Recommendation 4 was a possibility.

9. During the CRB/ISA consultative group meetings which included representatives from the Home Office, Department for Education, ISA and CRB regarding implementation of the VBS, long discussions took place when it was revealed that Registered Bodies would not be notified that the VBS registration notice had been issued to the applicant for VBS registration. This matter was then reconsidered and amended. This reconsideration by the relevant Government Departments, the ISA and CRB suggested that there was a recognised need for Registered Bodies to be informed of an individual’s initial registration. Of course in the changed circumstances of the proposals, the ISA registration or continuous monitoring aspects of the VBS will not be implemented.

10. It is not the intention of this response to dismiss either clause 77 or Recommendation 4; Recommendation 4, in particular, has merit for the reasons given in the report. However, where a CRB disclosure takes a considerable period of time or a Higher Education Institution is unable to obtain a copy of the disclosure from a student for any reason, including, perhaps, that the student is unable to retrieve his or her own copy, the impact on the student could be the loss of a university place for the intended year of entry. The impact on the Higher Education Institution may be loss of income which will result because institutions are unable to delay the start date of a course for individual students. Where a student misses the first few weeks of a course it becomes increasingly difficult for that student to catch up. Entry deferred until the following September is the result, as it is unlikely that either Higher Education Institutions or their placement partners would be prepared to allow an individual to engage in Regulated Activity in the absence of completion and sight of a satisfactory CRB disclosure.

11. To alleviate these difficulties, I would invite consideration to be given to the CRB issuing the Registered Body with a letter, sent at the same time as the disclosure is dispatched to the applicant, stating that a disclosure (including Number) has been sent to the applicant at a particular address. This would be neither costly nor burdensome for the CRB and would enable Registered Bodies who undertake a large number of checks at particular periods in time to know whom to contact for sight of the disclosure document. This proposal accords with Recommendation 4 of Ms Mason’s report.

12. I would take this opportunity of thanking Committee Members for their consideration of this matter.

March 2011

Annex A – List of Higher Education Institutions and number of CRB applications made during 2010.

 

Org Name

Total 2010

ANGLIA RUSKIN UNIVERSITY

4237

UNIVERSITY OF HERTFORDSHIRE

4151

EDGE HILL UNIVERSITY

3830

SHEFFIELD HALLAM UNIVERSITY

3800

UNIVERSITY OF CUMBRIA

3507

CANTERBURY CHRIST CHURCH UNIVERSITY

3284

MANCHESTER METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY

3092

THE UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM

3092

UNIVERSITY OF PLYMOUTH

3026

THE UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER

2983

BIRMINGHAM CITY UNIVERSITY

2719

UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS

2719

UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA

2658

UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST OF ENGLAND

2466

UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL LANCASHIRE HIGHER EDUCATION CORPORATION

2443

UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

2383

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

2314

THE UNIVERSITY OF WOLVERHAMPTON

2282

LEEDS METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY

2191

LONDON SOUTH BANK UNIVERSITY

2189

LIVERPOOL JOHN MOORES UNIVERSITY

2158

UNIVERSITY OF TEESSIDE

2090

UNIVERSITY OF NORTHUMBRIA AT NEWCASTLE

1994

UNIVERSITY OF BEDFORDSHIRE

1947

UNIVERSITY OF BRIGHTON

1917

NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY

1884

UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK

1878

UNIVERSITY OF HUDDERSFIELD

1855

UNIVERSITY OF HULL

1801

UNIVERSITY OF WORCESTER

1741

THE NOTTINGHAM TRENT UNIVERSITY

1699

UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH

1694

OXFORD BROOKES UNIVERSITY

1687

UNIVERSITY OF CHESTER

1655

INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION UNIVERSITY OF LONDON

1635

MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY

1634

UNIVERSITY OF SUNDERLAND

1617

UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON

1586

KINGSTON UNIVERSITY

1576

THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTHAMPTON

1555

COVENTRY UNIVERSITY

1544

UNIVERSITY OF DERBY

1519

UNIVERSITY OF SALFORD

1519

UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD

1495

THE UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL

1432

NEWMAN COLLEGE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

1396

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON

1396

CARDIFF UNIVERSITY REGISTRY

1380

UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH

1348

THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

1315

UNIVERSITY OF YORK

1283

UNIVERSITY OF WALES INSTITUTE CARDIFF

1266

BANGOR UNIVERSITY

1262

UNIVERSITY OF GLAMORGAN

1224

UNIVERSITY OF GLOUCESTERSHIRE EDUCATION

1222

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

1176

DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY

1174

UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL

1141

UNIVERSITY OF CHICHESTER

1141

THAMES VALLEY UNIVERSITY

1135

BISHOP GROSSETESTE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LINCOLN

1131

CITY COMMUNITY AND HEALTH SCIENCES, CITY UNIVERSITY

1120

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE PLYMOUTH ST MARK AND ST JOHN

1111

STAFFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY

1105

THE UNIVERSITY OF READING

1095

BOURNEMOUTH UNIVERSITY

1083

UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

1081

UNIVERSITY OF BRADFORD

1074

UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER

1066

UNIVERSITY CAMPUS SUFFOLK

1043

UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX

1040

DAA KEELE UNIVERSITY

1023

OPEN UNIVERSITY

1000

YORK ST JOHN UNIVERSITY

996

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE BIRMINGHAM

992

UNIVERSITY OF SURREY

967

BATH SPA UNIVERSITY

966

SWANSEA UNIVERSITY

960

LONDON METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY

958

UNIVERSITY OF DURHAM

917

BRUNEL UNIVERSITY

889

GOLDSMITHS COLLEGE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON

860

THE UNIVERSITY OF BATH

832

UNIVERSITY OF WOLVERHAMPTON SCHOOL OF EDUCATION

824

LEEDS TRINITY UNIVERSITY COLLEGE

793

THE UNIVERSITY OF WINCHESTER

783

UNIVERSITY OF WALES NEWPORT

770

UNIVERSITY OF LANCASTER

716

QUEEN MARY UNIVERSITY OF LONDON BARTS

701

SWANSEA METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY

661

ST GEORGES UNIVERSITY OF LONDON

643

UNIVERSITY OF LINCOLN

625

UNIVERSITY OF KENT AT CANTERBURY

550

UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX

549

ASTON UNIVERSITY

540

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE NEW UNIVERSITY

524

THE UNIVERSITY OF BOLTON

517

GLYNDWR UNIVERSITY/PRIFYSGOL GLYNDWR

508

UNIVERSITY OF WALES TRINITY SAINT DAVID

483

DURHAM UNIVERSITY STUDENT COMMUNITY ACTION

465

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SCIENCES UNIVERSITY OF YORK

438

LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY

400

UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL UNION

365

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS UNION

352

ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY

335

KEELE UNIVERSITY

303

LEEDS UNIVERSITY UNION

302

CITY UNIVERSITY

240

UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS LONDON

235

CARDIFF UNIVERSITY HR

228

GUILD OF STUDENTS THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

221

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER STUDENTS GUILD

217

UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

214

WRITTLE AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE HIGHER EDUCATION CORPORATION

194

ROEHAMPTON UNIVERSITY

173

HULL UNIVERSITY UNION

129

SHEFFIELD HALLAM UNIVERSITY UNION OF STUDENTS

83

DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY STUDENTS UNION LIMITED

75

TOTAL

159802


[1] http://www.crb.homeoffice.gov.uk/your_rights/freedom_of_information/foi_log.aspx