Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. The rush to vet new teachers and charity workers has put the troubledCriminal Records Bureau under pressure and created further problems for charityand public sector employees. Mike Broad reportsWith teachers having returned to the classroom for the new school year, thecrisis over the delays in checking their criminal records has receded from theheadlines. The Government’s u-turn in September allowed teachers waiting for clearanceto work at the discretion of their head teachers and diverted the media’s gazefrom the Criminal Records Bureau’s (CRB) failure to complete 22,000 checks onschool staff in time for the new term. But the crisis has not ended. Many employers in the public and voluntarysectors are suffering severe recruitment difficulties because of the delays inprocessing disclosures. The latest figures show a backlog of 198,000unprocessed checks, of which half are over three weeks old. Before employers can appoint staff to work unsupervised with children orvulnerable adults, they need an enhanced CRB check, but the long delays meanthat few employers can afford to wait for clearance. Many employers are concerned that the resulting recruitment difficulties arestarting to damage the provision of services. President of the Association of Healthcare Human Resource Management TracyMyhill, said some members were reporting delays of between 12 weeks and sixmonths for the CRB to complete checks on new staff. “This has led to delays in appointments at a time when we cannot affordthem,” she says. NHS hospitals in London, for example, are losing nursing staff at a rate ofup to 38 per cent a year, according to new research by the King’s Fund thinktank. The delays are also damaging moves to improve the recruitment of social workersfollowing the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie. David Wright, of the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS),said: “Every local authority has suffered delays, but its effect depends ontheir rate of staff turnover in social services. “For those with highervacancy rates, it is increasing the pressure on service delivery, andrepresents a real risk-management problem.” A recent report by the ADSS, which has members in 150 local authorities,says there is an urgent need to improve the recruitment and training of socialworkers to prevent further tragedies. Leonard Cheshire, a care services provider for the disabled which employs7,500 staff, is currently losing a quarter of its new recruits becauseprocessing delays are forcing people to seek alternative jobs. Clare Smith, HR director of the charity, said: “We have sent 800applications to the CRB since April and received 200 back. It is causingserious recruitment problems.” The Government’s guidance to employers in these sectors has been that theycan employ people still awaiting checks, as long as they are continuallysupervised. But most of the charities and public sector bodies concerned cannotafford to pay staff to work in pairs, claims Valerie Smith, independent sectoradviser of the Royal College of Nursing. “Care homes are already struggling to survive on the rates paid forpublicly funded residents, and are failing to meet their overheads,” shesaid. “If you add the supervisory requirement, you need more staff at a timewhen they are difficult to find. Homes will close because of these financialburdens.” In the wake of the Soham tragedy ministerial demands for teachers’applications first to be processed by the CRB provoked fears of further delaysfor health and social care staff. “The biggest reason for the current delays is that priority is beinggiven to teachers. I doubt whether anybody else is being processed – we are onhold,” says Leonard Cheshire’s Smith. It means that most organisations dealing with children and vulnerable adultsare relying on their own risk assessment procedures when appointing staff. Principal manager of children’s charity Barnardos, Bob Cook, said employersmust strike a balance between keeping services running and ensuring the safetyof beneficiaries. “We are only recruiting where there is an absolute need for the serviceto continue, and when we bring someone in there has to be a reasonable degreeof safety and compliance,” he said. Barnardos is using a range of internal safety measures in addition to theCRB disclosures, ranging from CV checks to supervision, inspections andwhistle-blowing procedures. But in the short-term, striking this ‘balance’ hasimplications for the scope of their service provision. “If we are running a project for vulnerable teenagers who have beeninvolved in crime, but cannot appoint appropriate members of staff, then wecannot provide the service. Without it, those teenagers might go back to doingwhat got them into trouble in the first place,” said Cook. The CRB crisis is not only damaging the recruitment of paid staff in thecharity sector – volunteers are also being affected. Furthermore, the umbrellabodies registered to process the checks for volunteers are charging between £6and £15 for the privilege, despite Government assurances they would be free. Director of public policy of the National Council for VoluntaryOrganisations Campbell Robb, said: “There is a very real danger ofvolunteers being deterred by a poorly-run CRB.” The Home Office claims the appointment of 100 additional staff at the CRBhas improved its performance. “Ministers have acknowledged initial teething problems owing tointroducing such a large scale and highly complex process,” said a HomeOffice spokesman. “They have ensured both the CRB and Capita areaddressing these difficulties through a detailed service improvementplan.” But many believe the problem could become worse on 1 April 2003, when allexisting staff working with children or vulnerable adults are due to be vettedby the CRB. Of the 458,000 applications received by the CRB since it opened in April2002, 260,000 disclosures were issued by the end of August. When all staff haveto be checked, the CRB will receive up to a million applications from the caresector, warned Leonard Cheshire’s Smith. With service delivery expectations increasing and skills shortages nowaffecting certain areas of the public and voluntary sectors, the CRB crisiswill continue to hinder effective recruitment. As Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Associationof Probation Officers, said: “The old system could take as little as acouple of hours to check new recruits. It begs the question: why have we set upthis bureaucracy?” The CRB story– The Criminal Records Bureau openedfor business in April 2002. It has replaced the police in providing criminalrecords checks on people working with children or vulnerable adults– It offers three types of disclosure: basic, standard andenhanced. It is the latter, which provides conviction details and policeintelligence on suspected criminal activity, that has been subject to longdelays – The CRB is run by a private company, Capita, which charges£12 for each check. Initially, Capita promised to respond to 90 per cent ofenhanced applications within three weeks– Eventually, the CRB will offer all employers the opportunityto check potential staff, but the date for this has been postponed. From 1April 2003, all existing staff working with children or vulnerable adults willneed to be vetted CRB backlog causes a recruitment crisisOn 1 Oct 2002 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.