Council leaders and safety campaigners have condemned government plans to relax the criminal checks designed to protect passengers from dangerous taxi drivers. Currently, prospective taxi and private car hire drivers must pass an enhanced criminal record bureau (CRB) check, which gathers information from local police records, the Police National Computer, child protection and sex offenders registers. The checks are repeated every three years to satisfy licensing authorities that these drivers do not pose a risk.
Under the Protection of Freedoms Bill, they would only be entitled to a ‘Standard’ CRB check which only includes convictions, cautions and reprimands, and would not show if they were barred from working with children or vulnerable adults. Transport for London, the capital’s licensing authority, rejected 240 drivers between 2002 and 2008 after enhanced checks uncovered incidents of rape, terrorist activities, organised crime and drug dealing. They say these incidents would have been missed by less rigorous checks. Continue reading Taxi Drivers no longer eligible for eCRB
An alliance of Sports Governing Bodies are challenging the new definition of Regulated Activity that is emerging from study of the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Some of the proposed details are open to interpretation and will have significant impact on established practice and policies. For instance :
- Regulated Activity will no longer include any supervised teaching, training or instruction. In a sporting context, this requires clear definition. as the environment is so different to a school. The Faith sector are also likely to be unhappy with the implications of this change.
- Current proposals are that only the applicant will receive the CRB disclosure. Clarity is needed on how National Sports Governing Bodies, and other professional regulators will receive this
- There will be a charge for the updating service. How this will work for volunteers and whether they will still be able to get checks for free is not clear.
Continue reading Sport challenges safeguarding changes
The second reading of the Protection of Freedoms Bill will take place on Tuesday 1 March in the House of Commons. This is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the main principles of the Bill. The Government minister, spokesperson or MP responsible for the Bill opens the second reading debate. The official Opposition spokesperson then responds with their views on the Bill. Key points from the debate will be added here.
Continue reading Second Reading of Freedoms Bill
The Protection of Freedoms Bill is the first time that a new element called a “Public Reading Stage” will be introduced. It means that members of the public can comment directly on clauses of the Bill. These comments should contribute to the points made by MPs across all parties during the debates and committee stages – so it is an important opportunity.
The website can be found here – http://publicreadingstage.cabinetoffice.gov.uk – do add your perspectives with practical examples from your sector as this a very complex area which has been subject to sweeping misrepresentation in the media. Since only very low level stakeholder engagement is likely this is the best opportunity to amend some aspects of the legislation such as the availability of disclosures, scope of regulated activity and the level of guidance available.
Also register with us so that you receive our briefing papers on each of these topics and more.
Following a number of enquiries, we are organising a briefing event in London on Thursday, 14th April with Simon Morrison, previously Head of Communications for the VBS , Mark Williams-Thomas, a criminologist who is frequently interviewed in the media about child protection issues and Liz Morrison who led the VBS roadshow programme. Continue reading Expert briefing – London 14th April
The chief executive of the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS), Simon Bass, has highlighted that there are major loopholes in the Protection of Freedoms Bill that will be exploited by those determined to abuse children and vulnerable adults. He said that the Government’s plans to scale back the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) “will make it easier, not harder, for unscrupulous sexual predators to abuse in churches.”
The VBS Remodelling Review document recognises that removing barring arrangements for some activities could give rise to an increase in safeguarding risks. He was concerned that the review gave Sunday-school helpers as an example of where criminal records checks would not be required . He explained that a convicted abuser who is banned from working in a ‘regulated activity’, such as teaching, may, without any checks, alternatively gain access to children through becoming a Sunday-school helper, with potentially devastating consequences. Mr Bass said
“these changes show that the Government is prepared to tolerate a level of risk in churches that we — with long and painful experience of dealing with abusers in church — find unacceptable. We think it inevitable that potential predators will see children in churches as soft targets and will act accordingly.”
He agreed with other commentators that proposals in the Freedom Bill to allow the sharing of CRB checks between employers was “eminently sensible”.
Volunteering England, Fair play for Children, NACRO, NSPCC and Barnados are among those who have commented about the impact of the new disclosure and vetting laws on volunteering. Continue reading Mixed response from voluntary sector
Details of the new Criminal Records regime will be announced today as part of the all encompassing Protection of Freedoms Bill. Points that are likely to emerge when it is published are:
- The need for checks to be drastically reduced to ‘common sense’ levels -now it will only apply to those who have the most close and regular contact with children or vulnerable adults, such as professional childcare workers or teachers. The total number who will need to undergo background checks will halve to around 4.5million, although who this includes does not appear to have been defined judging from the interview given by Nick Clegg his morning on BBC.
- Continual updating and portability will be enabled so that teachers and care home workers who do require checks will have their records constantly updated. This is seen as a key benefit and was already planned in by CRB.
- The content of CRBs will be reviewed – for instance the changes will also drastically cut the use of ‘soft intelligence’ when examining a person’s history. Unproven allegations will only be placed on a person’s record if a Chief Constable believes they are true.
Checks that are unnecessary and which breach an employee’s privacy could be referred to the data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner, and any employer found knowingly to have requested an unlawful check could face fines running to thousands of pounds. This will prevent the over zealous use of CRBs such as the school in Warrington that would not be allowed into the premises to see their children.
- the Independent Safeguarding Authority will be merged with the Criminal Records Bureau. Continue reading Reduced CRB regime announced