Senior partner Mike Griffiths writes to Safeguarding and Public Protection Unit

Our senior partner Mike Griffiths has today written to the Safeguarding and Public Protection Unit following the announcement earlier this year of the proposed changes to the Disclosure regime and the Vetting and Barring Scheme.
Dear Sir,
We have read Sunita Mason’s recommendations and the details of the proposed changes to the Vetting and Barring Scheme, and have some very real concerns about their effect on the delivery of Disclosures and the impact for employers.
It is important to remember why Disclosures were introduced in 2002. They were introduced to protect vulnerable adults and children. The system was set up to enable the ’employer’ to request a Disclosure for someone who was to ‘work’ with either or both of these groups. The system was designed to make this procedure as easy and quick as possible for the employer and free from any possibility of an applicant falsely applying for a Disclosure. What we have ended up with is all of this and a system that above all else is trusted by employers. This is crucial, because it is the employer who is taking all the risk when he/she engages someone to work with a vulnerable adult or child.
The Future
The proposed changes appear to be creating a system which is totally controlled by the applicant. This would be fine if all applicants were honest, well organized, computer literate and fully familiar with the Disclosure process. Unfortunately they are not. Therefore the new system will need to be flexible and will need to include a good deal of involvement by the ’employer’. For Sunita Mason to suggest that the Disclosure ‘is only issued directly to the individual applicant’ is nonsense and a recipe for complete chaos. Most Disclosures will be paid for by ’employers’ and if they are clear, a copy should be made available to them as soon as possible either in paper form or via an online system, which is the way we deal with them at the moment. If there is criminal history, I can see the sense in delaying them, but only for a few days whilst the applicant has an opportunity to dispute the information. After all, based on the very few times the CRB get it wrong, whilst regrettable, this does not to my mind justify delaying the vast majority of correctly issued Disclosures.
No where in Sunita Mason’s recommendations does she deal with how the new system should be delivered. There is no mention of Registered Bodies or Umbrella Bodies, only of employers. The existing Registered Body/Umbrella Body system has proved to work very well and has removed many of the day to day hassles from the CRB, leaving them to concentrate on producing and issuing the Disclosure. The existing structure has provided a further benefit in that identity checking can be dealt with face to face with the applicant, thus reducing the likelihood of someone applying for a Disclosure they are not entitled to receive.
I am in no doubt there are far too many Disclosures issued at the moment. Common sense, portability and continuous updating will reduce their number overnight. However I would be very worried indeed if we ended up with a system where ’employers’ are requiring Disclosures but there delivery is entirely dependent upon the applicant’s organizational qualities, not to mention their honesty.
Yours faithfully
Mike Griffiths
Senior Partner
Member of the CRB Health and social Care Consultative Group