It was highly publicised child murder and abuse cases such as the murder of two pupils, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman by a school caretaker that led to the establishment and development of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), covering England and Wales. Similar arrangements were set up in Scotland (Disclosure Scotland) and Northern Ireland (Access Northern Ireland).
If you wanted to work with children or vulnerable adults in schools, voluntary organisations or professional bodies your employer had to check to see if you had a criminal background. Many people, including me, saw this change as important and long overdue.
For some types of work, especially involving children and vulnerable adults, an employer may request an enhanced or standard CRB check. In March 2012, figures from the CRB revealed the the checks had prevented more than 130,000 unsuitable people, including rapists and paedophiles, from working with children or vulnerable groups.
So in a nutshell, why the change? Things have been far from straightforward for the CRB. Long waiting lists and general dissatisfaction with the service were followed by the Singleton Review, which led to the planned introduction by the last Labour Government of the Independent Safeguarding Authority. Aspects of this plan were ill thought-out, and led to much (justified, in my opinion) public criticism. The new Coalition Government changed the scheme and wrapped it up within The Protection of Freedoms Act. So a pretty traumatic birth, for the new Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS), which started operating in December 2012.
So what has changed? Well some definitions of what activities are regulated, no checks for those under 16 years of age, and more rigorous police checking for example.
One of the biggest problems with the CRB check, was that it happened at a point in time. All that it could confirm was the criminal record status of that person, when the certificate was issued. They would need to be redone on a regular basis, if the employer wanted to be absolutely sure that their employees were still safe to work with children and vulnerable adults.
The biggest change is that from later on this year, the DBS will introduce a new Update Service, which will allow people (if they choose to subscribe to it, and pay a small fee) to apply for a criminal record check once and then, if they need a similar sort of check again, to reuse their existing certificate, with employers checking online to see if it is still up to date. This will avoid many unnecessary repeat applications. This change is very welcome, but it really depends on the number of people who sign up to it.
So is that an end to the changes? A government-backed review into CRB checks last year recommended the introduction of a “filter” to remove old and minor conviction information from the checks. Blanket checks have also been found to be uncompatible with the Human Rights Act, as they may prevent a persons right to a private or family life, according to the Court of Appeal. So we are likely to see further changes ahead.
So, what happens next? Well, if you are expecting a CRB check – you will find that it comes from the DBS, and you have a chance to see it before it goes to your employer, so that you have the chance to challenge anything that it might highlight. Old CRB checks will still be valid, of course. If you are a tutor, then it may well be worth signing up to the Update Service.
Turning to the world of tutoring, the situation regarding checks is unchanged, as a freelance / self employed tutor there is no compulsory, legal requirement to be checked. This changes when they are employed by a tutoring agency.
It has long been the case that parents with young children feel much happier if their tutor is checked. It for this reason that we require tutors listed on this website to be checked.