Sunday, October 2

CRB - slight rant, so be warned!

Please be aware from the outset that I completely agree that children and vulnerable people deserve to be safe and kept safe in whichever situation they find themselves, and likewise those working or volunteering need to prove that they are suitable and trustworthy to hold such a position. If you choose to twist my intentions about this entry that's up to you, but at no point am I advocating for a removal of safeguarding which is absolutely paramount and must be anyone's first priority at all times.

The CRB is a document which states whether you have ever had any criminal convictions, when and what for and whether they are now spent. An admirable document most would think - after all you would want to know your child is safe with a teacher or youth worker, surely? Any adult working with children or vulnerable adults is required to produce such a document, and quite rightly so.

However, and this is where my argument comes in - is this the best way? My reason for asking is that the paper document is only as good as the day it is printed and not a living document. Each time you work for a new authority or new organsiation you are required to apply for a new crb, even if it's 2 days apart. Documents can take weeks to be processed, they are all done at one place and the majority of the time they are done accurately. The organisation you work or volunteer for is responsible for securing the document, yet it is your information each time.

A solution - if the DVLA can manage a live document with your driving licence why can't we have similar with the CRB system? I have long argued to various councillors that a CRB should remain your personal property and therefore removes the demand for a new one each time you change employers. In theory if you are a supply teacher or a youth worker with 4 authorities (which can happen) you could have up to 5 current CRB's all processed at the same time and same place and all containing the same information and paid for 5 separate times. Even a child can see that that is ineffective and costly.

So, I propose that you apply once, get issued a photo id with a chip that is live, much like your driving licence and it become a national system that is recognised by all institutions. The main reasons for this are:

1. allow for the document to be updated as offences are known about or cleared in real time rather than waiting 3 years as can happen

2. reduce long term costs and duplication of information required

Given that the CRB is currently the single most recognised document amongst this group of workers, switching it to a photo id card system would not be a problem. Cost - ahh the sordid topic of coin - employers are currently asked to pay for each new crb and they are expected to be renewed within a two to three year interval depending on internal policy. So, all I'm asking is that the costs be switched around a bit. Yes, it would cost more to produce a laminated photo id card in the first instance but long term would be more effective. Plus, and this is the bit that irks me most - it needs to be a living document. That, I suspect would be the hard bit - asking courts and police to link up and provide the information. It would require a culture of push the information rather than pull as required. To explain further - if you apply the crb will 'pull' the information from police and other records, whereas the system I propose requires them to 'push' information which would mean systems being set up.

I accept that it needs more thought, especially around the detail of how the information arrives at the right place at the right time - but, if we really want to safeguard properly we really need to be prepared to think around the issue rather than keep adding plasters to an exisiting process. Just a thought!