Parents warned over plans to cut criminal record (CRB) checks

Boy - posed by model The government says the system of checks on child workers has become too bureaucratic

Parents should teach their children about the risk of paedophiles, a minister has said as he defended plans to ease Criminal Records Bureau checks.

Lord Henley said the current system was "disproportionate" with "unnecessary red tape and discourages volunteering".

Ministers plan to drop the checks for adults if someone who has been cleared, such as a teacher, is supervising.

But Lord Bichard warned "dangerous adults" would "take advantage" of the proposed changes.

Lord Bichard, whose report after the murder of Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman by a school caretaker led to the present system being set up, warned the safety of children "must come before our desire to minimise regulation and bureaucracy".

Start Quote

What we are trying to do is create a system that will provide the necessary safeguards but does not make parents feel that their children are automatically safe”

End Quote Lord Henley Home Office minister

He said that "children assume that adults who are trusted to offer guidance or instruction can be trusted - not just in those limited circumstances such as the youth centre or playing field but wherever they are encountered".

"I fear that we will very quickly find that dangerous adults will realise that there are some settings and some ways in which it will be easier in future for them to gain access to vulnerable children," he told peers.

"The people we are talking about are manipulative and clever. They will take advantage of those opportunities."

The proposal to cut the need for Criminal Records Bureau checks for adults working under supervision with children is part of the red tape-cutting Protection of Freedoms Bill currently being pored over in the Lords.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced the proposed change a year ago, saying he wanted to get the checks "into proportion" and end the "atmosphere of distrust over adults who are simply trying to do their best by their own children".

Defending the proposed changes, Home Office minister Lord Henley said that "whatever the setting, we believe that parents have the primary responsibility for educating their child in how to react to an approach from an adult if it goes beyond that adult's normal role".

Lord Henley said "what we are trying to do is create a system that will provide the necessary safeguards but does not make parents feel that their children are automatically safe - parents must still have the duty of looking after their children by warning them of potential dangers".

'Not fair to parents'

He also conceded that schools and other organisations would be allowed to insist on CRB checks: "We want to emphasise the importance of good sense and judgement by the managers on the ground when they look at the issue."

A number of peers joined Lord Bichard in raising concerns - including the Archbishop of York - that dangerous adults who gain children's trust in the supervised setting might be able to take advantage of that trust when not supervised later.

One of those unhappy with the plans, Labour peer Lord Harris of Haringey, said he agreed a balance had to be struck and "no system will necessarily protect all children against abuse and against predators".

But, he said, "the difficulty is that the normal assumption of parents will be that every person whom their child comes into contact with in a club or other activity is safe".

Lord Bichard, who withdrew his amendment to the government's plans after assurances there would be further discussions about the issue, said all sides agreed on the need for less bureaucracy.

The issue was the need to avoid people who were a risk having "privileged access to our children".

"Parents expect schools, clubs and centres to be places where they can leave their children with some confidence... I do not think it is fair to expect parents to be able to monitor those kinds of situations."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    9 Minutes ago
    CRB system doesn't work:
    Conclusion - a typical system designed by civil servants as an afterthought.
    At last, somebody thinking about solutions...
    How about adding in a step after a)
    The card holder need to enter a pssword linked to card..
    Extra step to "try" a validate card holder is legitmate holder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    @ 389 Bill Walker

    Oh I can believe it. There is a level of stupidity amongst some of the people in the UK (worldwide), backed up by evidence on this board, that some people are terribly ignorant to the world outside their bubble.

    Probably the same people who think a campanologist is a gay rights protester.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Paedophiles, very low rehabilitation rates yet tragically high re-offending rates, perhaps removing their chemical incentives would both better ensure a child's safety whilst relieving them of a sickening addiction?!

    The alternative is, we throw more money at it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Let's face it, this was set up as a knee jerk reaction to tabloid frenzy and an a drive to create fear out of every social, private and public situation. Scaling it back is a good thing and a more appropriate response.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    @385 The Deafening Roar of the Truth

    Of course there is always the death penalty. Then you won't need CRB checks!
    If only the National Lottery numbers were as easy to predict as the knee jerk responses of the the 'Lock them up forever' or worse 'Just string them up' brigade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    It was totally irrelevant that the killer of the girls was a school caretaker who had not been checked. He was the boyfriend of their classroom assistant, who presumably had been. He could have been a plumber or a BBC journalist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    The mass anxiety which this is whipping up is out of all proportion to the actual risk, and can give rise to mistaken vigilantism. It may be impossible to believe, but it is true that a few years ago, a woman doctor living in Portsmouth had her windows broken because a neighbour found out she was a paediatrician.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    CRB system doesn't work:

    a) Needs photo ID card that can be checked live online.
    b) Should be universal rather than per job.
    c) Too few places bother checking the current huge piece of paper anyway.
    d) Some places photocopy CRB form which must breach integrity of the system & data security.

    Conclusion - a typical system designed by civil servants as an afterthought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    The Soham murders happened outside of school. Ian Huntley could have killed those girls even if he hadn't have worked at the school. You can't remove all the risks in life and there is always going to be a balance between protection and freedom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    My only beef with the CRB system is that it assumes the 'bad people' have been caught for being bad in the past. Think of all the times you have broken the law and never been caught for it. For example, casual soft drug users, not declaring cash to the tax man, pushing the drink and drive limit, teenage shoplifting. You could be the scum of the Earth but if you've never been caught CRB's okay!

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    The vast majority of CRB checks are nothing to do with protecting children but are made by businesses checking on workers who never have access to children. Tis scandalous.

  • Comment number 385.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    pel (353) "CRB checks .... Does it cost the government money, yes"

    No it doesn't!

    I've been CRB checked by various charities and the charity has to pay. It's not cheap either: £60, just for the CRB to type my name, DOB, etc. into a computer, print out the result and post it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    The paranoid, trust no-one culture that the tabloids and the right have created in this country, with primary schools behind spiked metal fences and children taught to mistrust all strangers (when the vast majority of child abuse happens within families) harms ALL children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    I understand and sympathise with the thinking behind CRB, and with the current point about cutting them.

    It was right to introduce them, but like anything else, once introduced, it should be kept under review. No need for hysteria on either side of the debate. We need checks, and to ensure we don't drown under bureaucracy.

    And there will always be child-molestors, CRB or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    373.The Deafening Roar of the Truth
    2 Minutes ago
    [SNIP] Rather than waste billions on rehabilitating habitual criminals [SNIP] throw away the key
    [SNIP]spend the money that had been spent on extravagant weldfare cheques, on extra police!!
    It still cost money to detain them.
    Install Giant Hamster wheels turning generators, get them earning a keep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    CRBs seem crucial but the system could be improved. They could be limited to only those working unsupervised with children and vulnerable adults and transferable so that one is not required for every employment - especially agency workers who can end up with a dozen or more. In some ways though it's a side issue because most abuse is done by family or close associates, not in a work environment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    There is a simple, cost effective solution: Get every adult who wants to work with children or vulnerable people, or indeed in other trusted situations, to apply for 'photo-licence', similar to a driving licence. Courts can then put on it any adult convictions, or take the licence away, or remove spent convictions, just like they do with a driving licence. Makes stop and search easier too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    There has always been pedos, children need protecting but the current rules do not work and affect the wrong people.
    I was convicted of a drug offence 30 years ago when i was 20, I`m 50 now, i got 3 years imprisonment, it was my first and last offence (never been in any trouble before or since) yet this prevents me from helping at my daughters gym club, why?
    I`m no danger to anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    @373 The Deafening Roar of the Truth

    For 13 yrs Labour supported the criminal and persecuted the victims of crime. Rather than waste billions on rehabilitating habitual criminals who will never reform, throw them in prison, throw away the key & spend the money that had been spent on.....
    Ah the old lynch mob cliches, spend what money exactly, given that imprisonment for life isn't cheap either.


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