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
'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.'