The new system consists of a new body, the Independent Safeguarding Authority which will hold a database of every adult who works with children or vulnerable adults, including volunteers. The information in this database already exists but is distributed across the counties.
A similar system currently exists today, of Criminal Records Bureau checks performed locally and List 99, kept by the DfES.
The key is to apply the system at the point of recruitment. When a teacher is hired, a football coach joins a youth football club or a school governor is appointed, a CRB check is made and a certificate is issued. This is done each time someone joins an organisation. If you are a school governor who teaches swimming in your spare time and teach in a Sunday School, you will have three certificates, each with a three year expiry. This has been going for years and is not controversial within schools, sports clubs, churches etc..
So what is different about the new scheme?
- The CRB database is national rather than local. This means convicted paedophiles cannot get away from their record by moving to a different county.
- You only have one entry in the database, no matter how many organisations you work with. It will save some of the bureaucracy, for example today, if a school changes its name all the CRB certificates have to be re-done. A new application is not necessary when you move job.
- There is no expiry or renewal process. Any new conviction information will be added on and passed to employers immediately.
- The old CRB scheme only covers criminal convictions. The new one includes recorded suspicions that were never tested in court. To me this is the really controversial element, hardly picked up in the Daily Mail hysteria. Malicious accusations are made all the time of teachers that a child does not like - these could find their way onto a record with no method of appeal and wreck a career.
The scheme will not apply to parents giving lifts to other children, unless it has been arranged by an organisation. If parents have their own rota for collecting from cubs that can continue. If Cubs asks you to volunteer as a driver to drive children unknown to you, you need a check.
Does it brand everyone a paedophile? I don't think it does. I have a CRB check for my work as a school governor, I don't think the people reading my application form suspected me to be a paedophile, this is just the system they have to find people that are, a needle in a haystack. The people setting this up and running it know full well that paedophiles are very rare. But as with bombers smuggling knives and explosives on planes being screened by X-ray machines and metal detectors, the screen that is supposed to stop them has to apply to everyone to work. Or consider the US Visa waiver form - are you offended that the US Govt thinks you are a Nazi or have convictions for Moral Turpitude? No, of course not, you know they are just covering themselves. The system will work, to the extent that it makes it less likely that known paedophiles are working with children, due to the "theatre of security" designed into the system.
The system has two functions: one to deter known paedophiles from applying for jobs or volunteering with children. and two to protect schools and clubs against employing someone with a criminal record involving child abuse. People with criminal records that don't involve children will still be employable, the Rehabilitation of Offenders act ensures this, the only exception is for child abuse convictions. You won't be barred from being a scout helper if you have 3 points on your licence or even if you did 18 months for breaking & entering.
Will the system completely protect children? Of course it cannot do that, there will be paedophiles today working with children who do not have any previous history. But there really are paedophiles out there, using the loopholes in the current system to access children. The changes to the system arose from the Bichard enquiry following the conviction of Ian Huntley for the abuse and murder of Holly & Jessica. The old CRB system did not catch, or more likely deter, Ian Huntley, hopefully the new system will deter future Ian Huntleys.
The information here was gleaned from a course I attended run by the child protection officer at my local council.