Wales politics

Charity warns of background checks admin costs headache

St John Ambulance volunteers Image copyright Getty Images

Clubs and charities which employ volunteers will soon be hit by extra costs for background checks, the head of a major charity has said.

Free checks by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) end on 31 May.

The Welsh government said funding would now be focused on training to prevent people who pose a risk from working with children and vulnerable adults.

Keith Dunn, chief executive of St John Ambulance Wales, said they now faced paying admin fees of £5,000 a year.

Checks via the UK government's Disclosure and Barring Service - previously known as Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks - are free of charge for volunteers and organisations, and chargeable for paid employees.

But they have to be applied for through a registered body, which may charge an administration fee for the service.

WCVA, which has been funded by the Welsh government to do the work free of charge for charities in Wales since 2003, has written to charities explaining that its service would end on 31 May.

Mr Dunn estimated that another organisation may charge administration fees of £5-£10 a time to carry out the checks, and called on ministers to think again.

"We are very concerned that a vital service in the vetting of potential volunteers wishing to join charities like St John is being cut," he said.

"This decision will affect every charity in Wales and is short sighted and potentially very harmful to the sector as a whole."

Welsh Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have also criticised the funding decision which has led to the end of the WCVA service.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "Circumstances have changed since the grant was introduced 12 years ago.

"In 2003, criminal record checks were expensive and difficult to access - today, such checks are free to volunteers and employers, and cost just £13 a year for employed staff.

"We are not stopping our work and funding in this area - we are instead focusing on improving training and practices to ensure people who may pose a risk to children and vulnerable groups, do not work or volunteer in the sector."

The spokesperson declined to comment on the question of extra administration fees charities might now face.

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