I’ve just undergone my second CRB check in a year. Something I never thought I would have to do as I have great reservations about the ethos, the efficiency and accuracy of the process.
To start with, the assumption behind the CRB is that everyone applying for a job working with children or vulnerable adults is either a paedophile or violent criminal until proven otherwise. I find that to be extremely offensive both on a personal level and to the whole working population. From what I understand there are around 30,000 people on the sexual offenders register and by no means are all of them paedophiles. For instance, there are significant numbers who were sixteeen or so but got caught having sex with an under-16 girl/boyfriend and are so on the register. There is also the uncomfortable fact that most child abusers are the parents or close relatives. Stranger danger is very, very rare. Indeed, the NSPCC say “Very few children (less than 1% of abused children) experienced abuse by a professional in a position of trust.” NSPCC key child protection statistics (2007).
However, if we ignore those facts, and assume the 30,000 on the sex offenders list are drawn from a working population of potentially 30-35 million the risk factor is 0.1% or lower. Despite this, the Ministry of Justice (very Orwellian) proudly proclaims that “80,000 people in one year have been prevented from working with children”. From 30k to 80k in one go -how does that figure?
The same Ministry is also loftily unconcerned that 1,500 people in one year were given false criminal records as a result of not passing a CRB despite being blameless. Those 1500 people lost the jobs they applied for and, no doubt, had a lot of domestic difficulty after telling their partner they had failed. Think about this: Each year people fail the CRB despite being innocent law-abiding members of society thus losing the job they applied for. To make matters worse, their relationships are blighted because the partner is bound to develop a shred of doubt and the, subsequently, cleared partner is bound to be unhappy about being doubted. Pretty much bound to ruin a relationship.
No doubt the fatuous cretins that bleat about “children are our future and must be protected at all costs” would side with the Ministry. Just maybe they could have a point if the CRB actually filtered out all the undesirables but it doesn’t. There are instances when CRB-checked people commit offences. Indeed, the CRB actually comes with a get-out clause on Page 2 where a disclaimer about its accuracy can be found. So a CRB check means actually very little other than the applicant hasn’t been caught yet.
Another way is which the CRB check is inefficient is that each time someone applies for a post working with children or vulnerable adults they have to repeat the CRB application. I know people who have part-time employment with a number of employers and so have four or five different CRB checks. Over 4 million checks were made last year. Madness but a nice earner for the government as each check has to be paid for.
Also, the drivers for requiring a CRB check have changed. Many councils require applicants to undergo a CRB check just in case they might, at some future time, come across a child during the course of their work. Details are here. The Manifesto Club note: “Those now being vetted include 16-year-olds teaching younger kids to read, parents volunteering at school, and foster carers’ friends. Running an after-school club is now subject to more stringent security tests than selling explosives.”
To conclude, the CRB system is inefficient, costly, inaccurate because it yields false positives nor guarantee its findings while managing to accuse all adults of being potential child abusers and poisoning normal relations between adults and children. I think it is in need of real reform. In 2008 Bruce Schneier, a blogger on security / security technology and the chief security officer at BT, was of the same opinion and things have not changed. Isn’t it time someone thought of the adults?