CRIMINAL; Charities Attack Records Bureau after Delays with Background Checks Deter Volunteers

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Byline: Claire Tolley

DELAYS and mistakes plaguing criminal records checks could cause a severe shortage of charity volunteers, according to a new study.

A third of charities surveyed said volunteers had been put off because the checking process by the Liverpool-based Criminal Records Bureau was long and costly. The damning six-month consultation said staff were poorly trained while inaccuracy caused huge delays in processing applications. Nearly half of the charities surveyed rated the service provided by the bureau as very poor - the lowest possible rating.

Comments during the study by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations ranged from information supplied being `` complex and jargon-laced'' to ``CRB administrators are not following guidance'' and ``everyone has a different answer to the same question so I find myself having to phone several times on the same queries to gauge a consensus.'' Another said staff were reluctant to check things with supervisors. One charity spokesman said of the process: ``First impressions are very good but inaccuracies smash the illusion. ``What is even more depressing is that when the errors are corrected by the applicant they are not picked up by the CRB.'' Charities warned the NCVO the checks were damaging attempts to recruit volunteers.

The cost of checks is being passed on to volunteers because they, or umbrella organisations they belonged to, could not afford the pounds 300 registration fee. The cost for checks levied by umbrella charities ranged from pounds 15 to pounds 30 per person.

Last night, a spokesman for the NCVO said that, while there was no evidence to prove that criminal records were being missed, when a service designed to protect children and vulnerable adults had problems, the Government had a duty to do something about the situation. …