Skills shortages as CRB crisis deepens

Employers in the health and charity sectors are losing out on new staff
after having to wait for up to six months to receive clearance for recruits
from the crisis-hit Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

Tracy Myhill, president of the Association of Healthcare Human Resource Management,
said some members were reporting delays of between 12 weeks and six months for
the bureau to complete checks on new staff who will be working with children.

"This has led to delays in appointments at a time when we cannot afford
them," she said.

Myhill is concerned the situation could get worse after the Government
ordered the CRB to ensure all school staff are cleared to work with children in
time for the start of the autumn term following the Soham tragedy.

The Home Office has redeployed 100 extra staff to cope with demand, but the
CRB is struggling to cope with a backlog of 195,000 applications.

Clare Smith, HR director of charity Leonard Cheshire, which employs 7,500
people and provides care staff for the disabled, said her organisation is
currently losing around 25 per cent of its new recruits who are finding
alternative jobs because of the processing delays.

The crisis is set to deepen over the coming months because the new National
Care Standards mean existing staff will also have to be checked by April 2003.

"Checks on existing staff will lead to a million new applications from
the care sector alone," said Smith.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said the CRB had implemented a recovery
plan and was improving response times, although no date had been set for
reaching the original target response rate of completing checks in three weeks.

Plans to offer all employers basic checks on staff have been postponed
indefinitely because of the huge backlog of applications.

By Ross Wigham

The CRB’s role

The Criminal Records Bureau opened in
April 2002 to check the criminal records of staff working with children or
vulnerable adults.

It took over responsibility for the service from the police.

It offers three types of disclosure:

Standard: For staff working with children or vulnerable
adults. This gives details of all convictions, including those that are spent
as well as cautions and reprimands

Enhanced: Similar to standard but includes police
intelligence and information on suspected or alleged criminal activity

Basic: All staff can be asked by employers to obtain a
certificate of basic disclosure which will show all unspent convictions
(postponed indefinitely)

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