Memorandum by the Central Council of Physical
INQUIRY INTO THE CRIMINAL RECORDS BUREAU
The CCPR welcomes the establishment of the CRB
and supports measures to ensure greater protection for children
and vulnerable adults. However there are concerns about some details
of the CRB's operation. Particularly proposed charges for criminal
records checks will have an adverse affect on sport and recreation
which is supported by the tireless efforts of 1.5 million volunteers.
Proposed charges will place a financial strain on voluntary clubs
which are funded by membership fees, and be a disincentive to
volunteering. The NCVO have estimated that charges will deter
60 per cent of volunteers in the 19-21 age group. The CCPR urges
Government to follow the example of the Scottish Executive by
meeting the costs of criminal records checks for volunteers in
England and Wales from public funds.
1.1 On behalf of the national governing
bodies of sport and recreation, the Central Council of Physical
Recreation (CCPR) is pleased to respond to the Home Affairs Select
Committee inquiry into the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).
1.2 The CCPR welcomes the establishment
of the CRB as a measure designed to improve the safety of children
and vulnerable adults. Criminal records checks will be part of
wider child protection policies already being undertaken by governing
bodies. However there is concern among members about some of the
details of the CRB's operation, particularly the proposed charges
for obtaining disclosure certificates.
2.1 Volunteers provide the backbone of UK
sport, with an estimated 1.5 million people offering their time
unpaid to sport and recreation. On average volunteers work 125
hours per year, with the annual labour market value of their time
an estimated £1.5 billion. The value of volunteer time is
approximately seven times the amount sport receives from the lottery,
thereby illustrating the significance of voluntary effort.
2.2 Most of this volunteer effort is channelled
through the work of an estimated 150,000 voluntary sports clubs
in the UK. These clubs are voluntary community based organisations,
who are mainly non-profit distributing and funded from membership
fees. These clubs provide a crucial link in this country's sporting
development, and are a significant contribution to make to the
Government's wider social agenda.
2.3 The Prime Minister highlighted the contribution
sport and recreation could make across policy issues, in a speech
to British Olympic medal winners on 11 January 2001. Mr Blair
said that investment in sport was
"a pro-education policy; a pro-health policy;
an anti-crime policy and an anti-drugs policy".
3.1 Individuals will have to apply for a
disclosure certificate through a registered body. It is anticipated
that the larger sport and recreation governing bodies will apply
for registered status as umbrella organisations on behalf of member
clubs. It is not yet clear what arrangements smaller governing
bodies, who do not have the administrative capacity to process
applications, will make. Such bodies require advice and assistance
on how best to proceed on this issue, and the CCPR will be exploring
this with the members.
3.2 However, there is concern that the draft
"Code of Practice for Registered Bodies" drawn up by
the Home Office may be administratively cumbersome. Governing
bodies often only have a handful of office staff but membership
in the thousands. Some of the requirements of administering the
system, for example having to physically store documentation relating
to applicants, will pose a large imposition on clerical staff.
In terms of the cost implications, the Rugby Football Union has
suggested that registered bodies be given financial assistance
to fund the start up costs of administering the system.
4. CHARGING FOR
4.1 The Government have indicated that charges
for criminal records checks are likely to be in the region of
£10 per disclosure. The cost will be met either by the applicant
or the employer.
4.2 Such a charge is potentially crippling
to the voluntary sector. For example the Scout Association would
be required to carry out checks on an estimated 70,000 volunteers,
costing them £750,000 per year when administrative costs
4.3 Furthermore the charge, effectively
a tax on volunteers, would be a deterrent on voluntary effort.
Research by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
has shown that 60 per cent of 19-21 year olds, and half of those
aged over 65 (key age groups for volunteering) would be discouraged
from volunteering if they had to pay for checks. Clearly those
least able to pay for checks will be the lower social groups,
impacting upon the Government's social inclusion agenda.
4.4 Tamworth Sports Council have pointed
out that a swimming gala involving a number of clubs could involve
up to 50 volunteers. The Council argues that to expect the clubs
to meet the cost of criminal checks on such a large number of
people is "prohibitive", adding:
"Asking volunteers, who have already freely
given up their time, to pay for themselves would further dry up
the stream of helpers and further jeopardise the existence of
4.5 A further disincentive to volunteers
could come from the administrative costs of the system. It is
possible that registered bodies may pass on a handling charge
to applicants, which will hit volunteering further.
4.6 It is not yet clear for how long disclosure
certificates will be valid. Making volunteers apply for checks
on an annual basis will place a cumulative financial strain on
the voluntary sector.
4.7 The Home Office is currently undertaking
a regulatory impact assessment of the impact of charging on the
voluntary sector. The results of this assessment should be published
as soon as they are available.
4.8 Our members were greatly encouraged
by the recent announcement from the Scottish Executive stating
that it would meet the cost of criminal checks on volunteers in
Scotland, at the cost of £1 million per year. Making the
announcement Jackie Ballie, who had chaired the Voluntary Issues
Review Group, said:
"With this announcement we are demonstrating
how highly we value the work of the voluntary sector. Their contribution
can be seen throughout Scotlandin youthwork, children's
play, homes and hospital visiting".
4.9 We would urge the Government to make
a similar commitment to the voluntary sector in England and Wales,
particularly in light of the recent comments by the Chancellor
Rt Hon Gorden Brown MP about the value of volunteering, and the
Government aim of recruiting a million more volunteers over the
next four years. The Government has indicated that underwriting
the cost of volunteer checks would not be sustainable on the public
purse. However, if the Government cannot meet the costs, then
how can the voluntary sector be expected to afford them?
5. UK WIDE CHECKS
5.1 The CRB will only cover England and
Wales, working alongside the Scottish Criminal Records Office,
and whatever system is introduced for Northern Ireland. In order
to reduce the administrative burden on registered bodies there
must be greater co-operation between the different criminal records
5.2 For example, would an applicant applying
for a position with a UK wide remit have to apply for multiple
checks with different agencies? Since CRB checks would cover convictions
in the UK as a whole, it would seem logical to make only a single
6. OVERSEAS APPLICANTS
6.1 The Home Office draft "Code of
Practice for Registered Bodies" urges caution in employing
people from overseas due to difficulties in obtaining information
on individuals. Whilst this is sensible in the short term, in
the long term the Government should work towards greater international
co-operation in the sharing of criminal records data to make it
more easily accessible to employers.
The CCPR has approached the European Commission
to see what assistance could be given in respect of European checks.
7. ACCURACY OF
7.1 The CCPR is seeking clarification from
the Home Office as to whom is to be held liable in the event of
inaccurate data. Could national governing bodies of sport, in
their role as umbrella organisations, be drawn into any legal
disputes? Should governing bodies take out insurance policies
to protect themselves against such an eventuality?
7.2 In evidence to the Social Inclusion,
Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee established by the Scottish
Parliament, reference was made to an audit carried out by the
Metropolitan police. This had revealed that 86 per cent of the
criminal records information processed in 16 London boroughs contained
errors. Clearly this raises questions about potential future litigation
concerning inaccurate data.
8.1 The CCPR is pleased to respond to the
Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the CRB. Sport and
recreation welcomes the establishment of the CRB as a measure
to ensure greater protection for children and vulnerable adults.
8.2 Sport and recreation in the UK is sustained
by the tireless efforts of 1.5 million volunteers, making a valuable
contribution to this country's sporting development, as well as
health, education, crime and social exclusion issues.
8.3 However, there is particular concern
about proposed charging for criminal record checks. Such a measure
will impose a financial strain on voluntary sports clubs and be
a disincentive to volunteering. The recent announcement by the
Scottish Executive that it will meet the costs of volunteer checks
in Scotland is greatly encouraging, and we urge the Government
to take a similar stance in England and Wales.
18 January 2001