Everyone knows that the most vulnerable people in our society need to be protected. The young, frail, the elderly and so on. For their safety, to avoid employing someone who has convicted or proven tendencies that could harm these individuals a system was set up to protect them.
This was known as the Criminal Records Background check, or CRB.
Everyone that works with any of these vulnerable people has one done on them. They are not transferable, that is, the agency charges every place you work at to produce the same check on you time after time. So, if you work full-time as a Teacher, understandably, they do a CRB check on you. Should you then decide that you are going to help out with a Sunday School, the Church does another check on you. This is the same check, on the same form, that produces the same results, except that the different institutions have to pay. If any of you are thinking that the system seems to double as a way of stealth-taxing those that need the money most (charity, schools, hospitals), then you are probably thinking the same way I do.
The basic CRB covers for most jobs with Children. It shows that you have no convictions against you, and are not currently being investigated for any possible crimes. Makes sense. Seems a fairly sensible approach.
There is also another level. This is an Enhanced CRB. This is designed for people who will be in sole care of children. Playgroup leaders, Scout Leaders and so on. The baddly-designed CRB Website gives the following as an explanation of what an Enhanced CRB is. (This was found in the Glossary Section on the website. There doesn’t appear to be anywhere to click through to find out more information).
Enhanced CRB Check
Also referred to as an Enhanced Disclosure. These are for posts that involve a far greater degree of contact with children or vulnerable adults. In general the type of work will involve regularly caring for, supervising, training or being in sole charge of such people. Examples include a Teacher, Scout or Guide leader. Enhanced checks are also issued for certain statutory purposes such as gaming and lottery licences.
This level of check involves an additional level of check to those carried out for the Standard CRB check – a check on local police records. Where local police records contain additional information that may be relevant to the post the applicant is being considered for, the Chief Officer of police may release information for inclusion in an Enhanced check. Exceptionally, and in a very small number of circumstances (typically to protect the integrity of current police investigations), additional information may be sent under separate cover to the Countersignatory and should not be revealed to the applicant.
The idea seems to be fairly straight-forward. If your applying for a job somewhere near these vulnerable people, and you have done something, or are currently being investigated for something then the people employing you need to know. The grey area comes with the case of John Pinnington. He was the deputy principal of Thomley Hall, a college for Autistic Children. He was fired when a change in his responsibilities prompted his employers to request an Enhanced CRB check. This showed up an allegation of sexual abuse made against him by an Autistic child four years earlier that had been dismissed by the police.
This all arises from Soham Murders. Ian Huntley murdered two school girls for an unknown reason. Their disappearance sparked the biggest man-hunt in British History. This is probably why a public inquiry was launched. Turns out that Ian Huntley had been investigated, but never charged with sexual assault. He did apply for the job as Ian Nixon, but did state that he was once known as Ian Huntley on the application form. At the time, information about the unproven assaults would not have been put forward when a CRB was made. After an inquiry set off by that oh-so-reputable David Blunket, things changed.
The CRB was initially set up in 1997 to protect those organizations in the statutory sector for staff who had ‘substantial unsupervised access’ to children. It is important to note here, for the sake of completeness that the Soham Murders happened in 2001, a year before the final launch of the CRB services as we have today in 2002.
An Enhanced Check would have stopped Huntley. It also stopped John Pinnington.
John Pinnington had been fighting to have this information removed from his CRB form, and today Lord Justice Richards ruled:
In relation to employment with children or vulnerable adults, it is information of which an employer should be aware. It is then for the employer to decide whether the employment of the person concerned involves an unacceptable risk.
This is one of those deep-water situations. An allegation could be the precursor to something more, or it could be some brat trying to get their own back on a hated teacher. Under this current system, they are the same thing. The NASUWT gives this statistic of it’s mebers:
Over the last few years there have been 2,316 allegations against NASUWT members alone.
Of the 2,231 which have been concluded, in a staggering 2,116 either no grounds were discovered for prosecution or the allegation was not proven at court.
So that’s a worrying 2116 people who would fail the enhanced CRB check in this instance.
The details of John Pinnington’s allegation are unknown to me at this time, but it seems to me that there’s something just a little broken with this system. It gives a lot of weight to malicious children, and can ruin the livelihood of (presumably) upstanding people. It also means that even if it is proven that the child is lying, it is still going to end someone’s career.
The system at this point is obviously broken. Anyone working with children runs the risk of running afoul of the allegations. Not just teachers, but Vicars, Playgroup Leaders, Scout Leaders, and a whole host of other volunteers just trying to do their bit. This is not a state of affairs we want to be in.
It means that you can no-longer stop to help a child. If you offer help, and they cry wolf, your screwed. It’s much better for you if you just ignore them. Pay them not attention. Don’t get involved. Don’t help. If you do, and they, or their parents (because your trying to stop visible physical abuse, say), call foul, that’s you out of the game.
What a situation. It’s better all round if people don’t stop and help children.
What a wonderful world.