Vast time and money is spent on CRB checks for people who come into contact with children. These checks now cost £131 million a year. Often people have to have multiple checks in a bureaucracy spiralling out of control. The Lib Dems, to their credit, have highlighted the issue. The cost is not just financial. Some are put off helping as a result – such as children's authors who have stopped school visits because they regard the requirement as insulting.
Anyway, they don't seem to work very well. The Evening Standard today has (another) expose of Labour-run Haringey Council. This time they placed a child with foster carers who shared a house with Abdulla Ahmed Ali – the ringleader of a Heathrow bomb plot. One of his ideas had been to board a plane with a child to avert suspicion.
But apparently Abdulla Ahmed Ali passed his CRB check. All the boxes were ticked. "The placement here was made after checks and before anyone was made aware of any terrorist activity in the extended family network," says a Haringey Council spokesman. "The placement was ended immediately when the police were in touch and the arrests were made. The family no longer fosters for Haringey."
Update: Shadow Children's Secretary Michael Gove has added his reaction to the story:
“It’s truly frightening to think that the social services department of this council placed a child with a terrorist, and even more so to think that the child could have been used as part of the foil for the bomb plot. Haringey council needs to make public exactly what vetting procedures it has in place to ensure that this can never happen again. As with the Baby Peter tragedy, there has been far too much secrecy, which raises the concern that lessons will not be learnt.”
Cllr Alan Dobbie, Conservative councillor for Noel Park on the London Borough of Haringey, commented:
"Haringey councillors and residents were repeatedly assured that lessons in child protection would be learnt after the publication of the Lamming Report. Then those same assurances were given after the tragic death of Baby P. And now this. Can our Social Services Department get any worse? No, I doubt it can, so we would support the government stepping in and taking charge. We don't pretend that there are 'quick fixes' but Labour-run Haringey have proved themselves to be utterly incapable of looking after and protecting vulnerable children."