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CRIMINAL RECORD CHECKS COULD LEAD TO SOCIAL EXCLUSION

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The better regulation task force has emphasised the need for improvements to the effectiveness of checks to help en...
The better regulation task force has emphasised the need for improvements to the effectiveness of checks to help ensure that vulnerable people and children are properly protected. However, it highlighted policy confusion over when and how to use fit person checks. It warned against an over-reliance on criminal record checks which could create a false sense of security for employers and result in large numbers of people being unfairly excluded from working in occupations such as minicab driving and door supervision.

In its report on Fit Person Criteria, the task force welcomed the

creation of the Criminal Records Bureau as a 'one-stop shop' for

vetting but raised concerns that it could encourage excessive

checking with unintended consequences:

'No-one would suggest that employers should ignore a criminal record

where the type of offence is relevant to the particular job,' said

task force chairman Lord Haskins. 'But given that a third of all

males had been convicted of a non-traffic offence by the age of 40 -

and millions more have received a caution - a 'checking culture'

could easily result in large numbers of people being unnecessarily

excluded from work. We believe that criminal record checks should be

objectively used to prove unfitness to work with vulnerable people.

'In addition, excessive use of criminal record checks could tie-up

employers and voluntary groups in red tape, causing delays in

recruitment. Most importantly, in the majority of cases criminal

records checking would not improve protection for vulnerable people -

and could in fact create a false sense of security. It is no

substitute for the use of reference checks and good management

practices, such as training and supervision.' The report calls for

clear guidance for policy makers and employers to help ensure the

suitability of workers and reduce the risk of abuse. To this end,

the task force has designed a checklist to guide policy makers in

reviewing or developing fit person regimes. The task force

recognises the need for a full range of checks where vulnerable

people are at high risk. In other cases the task force fears that

some measures would be disproportionate to the risks posed, for

example proposals to license those working within the private

security industry such as alarm installers and even locksmiths.

The task force is particularly concerned about the impact of a

'checking culture' on small businesses and voluntary organisations.

As working group chair Stephen Alambritis, explains: 'We are keen to

ensure that fit person checks are workable for the small

organisations that play a vital role in sectors such as childcare and

minicabs. We have called for a review of the Rehabilitation of

Offenders Act to make this important legislation simpler for

employers to comply with. This should help to improve protection for

individuals. We have also called on the government to minimise

duplication in checking requirements.'

The growing use of qualifications as an indication of suitability to

work with vulnerable people is also addressed by the report.

Referring to the findings of previous task force reviews of

long-term care and early education and childcare, the report

concludes that qualifications may say very little about the caring

attitudes needed to work with children and elderly people. In large

measures the problems in this sector have resulted from failure of

enforcement and lack of application of existing regulations.

However, the task force has highlighted the need for greater clarity

in terms of responsibilities for both owners and managers.

In responding to the task force report, the minister for the vabinet

office said: 'I welcome the task force's important contribution to

this sensitive and complex area of policy. It supports the

government's efforts to improve protection for vulnerable people, but

also highlights the importance of fully assessing the impact of

business of all regulations. The government will be responding to

the Task Force recommendations in full within two months.'

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