Kent and East Sussex council CRB checks 'unjustified'

CRB information file
Image caption CRB checks show current and spent convictions, cautions and reprimands

Councils in Kent and East Sussex have been accused of carrying out unjustified Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks for job applicants.

Ex-offenders charities said the checks for posts such as beach cleaners and leisure centre catering assistants could stop people getting jobs.

Tim Linehan, of crime reduction charity Nacro, said: "For some people it is devastating."

The Home Office said it was reviewing guidance and processes for CRB checks.

The checks are intended for teachers, care workers and others working with children or vulnerable adults.

They can also be carried out for workers such as cleaners, caretakers and catering staff at schools or care homes.

CRB checks show current and spent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings held on the Police National Computer, as well as other information held by local police.

Swale Borough Council in Kent carries them out for jobs including beach cleaner and park ranger, saying they all come into contact with children.

'Secure services'

Councillor Mike Cosgrove admitted its checks could be described as "somewhat over-zealous".

"That is a balance which we are continuing to review," he said. "But I would say that we are doing this in good faith.

"We want to make sure that those services which we operate which touch children and vulnerable adults are as secure as possible."

Ashford council carries out CRB checks on workers such as leisure centre receptionists and catering assistants, while among the posts Tunbridge Wells council does them for are healthy lifestyle co-ordinators and community development officers.

Both said staff in those roles might have contact with children and vulnerable adults.

In East Sussex, Eastbourne council carries out checks on environmental health officers and building control and planning officers.

Image caption Councillor Mike Cosgrove said Swale's CRB checks could be seen as "over-zealous"

Again, it said they might have contact with children while visiting properties such as schools.

Unlock, the National Association of Reformed Offenders, said the possibility that a worker might come into contact with children was not sufficient justification for disclosing a spent criminal conviction.

"There is a balance between punishing somebody and letting them prove that they can leave crime behind," said spokesman Christopher Stacey.

Mr Linehan said some of Nacro's clients had been refused jobs because of offences committed 30 years ago which came up on CRB checks.

"They undermine people's hopes, their aspirations and their desire to contribute to society," he said.

The Home Office said it was looking to bring back a sense of proportionality to CRB checks.

"The criminal records regime is under review to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between preserving civil liberties and protecting the public," it said.

"This work will include a comprehensive review of all eligibility guidance, processes and procedures and further monitoring of ineligible applications for CRB checks."

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