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Criminal record checks could hit over 14 million people

New CRB regs produce a nation of suspects

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Analysis If we had suggested, ten years ago, that one day soon, the government would draw up a list of prescribed occupations: that they would build a database of millions of people who would need to register for those occupations; and that a committee of Public Safety would be set up with power of absolute veto over every individual on the database; it is just possible that you would have decided that even El Reg had taken leave of its oh-so-cynical senses.

But lo! All of the above is soon to come to pass - and there is a good chance that it will affect a far larger proportion of the population than you might imagine, far more people than the 11.3 million the Government claim it will affect. (14.3 million and rising is our prediction).

The history of this strange development has its roots in a brutal murder. In 2002, school caretaker Ian Huntley abducted and killed two Soham schoolgirls. After the event, it was discovered that some government agencies had access to some information that might have led to his not being employed. Hindsight is a marvellous thing. An inquiry was set up under the chairmanship of Sir Michael Bichard, and this duly reported in 2004.

It found that the existing regulatory framework for monitoring individuals who might pose a risk to children - or vulnerable adults - was messy. At present, employers should obtain a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check for new job applicants wishing to work with children or vulnerable adults. According to the intensity of the relationship, this can be at either Standard or Enhanced level. The latter includes 'soft' information about individuals, including allegations about past behaviour.

Decisions on suitability for employment are taken locally, often on an ad hoc basis, and not all workers are required to have an enhanced check. The current system is backed by a number of separate barring lists, operating under different legislation: List 99 (Section 142 of the Education Act 2002), Protection of Children Act List and the Protection of Vulnerable Adults List. They are reactive, with individuals barred only after harm has occurred.

For a government obsessed with legislation and micro-management of public behaviour, the situation was intolerable and ripe for overhaul.

Summary total of those liable for CRB checks
Best guess Formal Volunteers in need of Vetting (England only):   7,500,000  
Estimate of Formal Volunteers in need of Vetting (Wales only):   438,994  
       
Total Vetting need in Employment   6,584,537 (Adjusted for England/Wales)
Total Vetting need in Self-Employment   926,082 (Adjusted for England/Wales)
       
  Less overlap -1,396,410 18.6%
       
Misc: Childminder Partners 100,000 (estimate)
  Foster Parents 100,000 (estimate)
  Adoptive Parents 50,000 (estimate)
       
  Total Vetting requirement 14,303,203  

The result was the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (SVGA), introduced in the Lords in February 2006 and passed into law in November of that year. Although it is now 'the law', many of its provisions are only slowly being put in place.

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