In June 2010 the new Home Secretary Theresa May called for CRB checks to be "scaled back to common sense levels."
The good news is that the number of CRB checks undertaken by local councils on volunteers was down in 2010/11 compare to the previous year. It is now below a million. In 20010/101 it was 942,329. In 2009/10 it was 1,136,947. Given the time lag between guidance being changed (or clarified) and the difference working its way thorugh to the system it is reasonable to hope there will be a further reduction in th current year.
But the bad news, also covered in The Manifesto Club report, Vetting Tree Surgeons, is that many checks are still being carried out unnecessarily. This is a burden and insult to volunteers and a cost to Council Taxpayers of £45.2 million. For some councils the bill for CRB checks was £1 million each Hertfordshire (21,680 CRB checks), Essex (21,610) and Devon (20,095 checks).
The report says:
Many local authorities demand CRB checks on parent volunteers who listen to children read, or help out on school trips. These checks can put people off, and are unnecessary since parents are under teachers' supervision.
- Bristol City Council checked 460 parent volunteers in schools and 169 reading buddies;
- Hertfordshire County Council checked parents who volunteered at the school disco and as Father Christmas;
- Bristol, Hertfordshire, North Yorkshire, Devon and Essex councils checked host families for language exchanges.
Local authorities also carry out unnecessary checks for jobs that
involve no work with children:
- East Riding Council checks burger and ice-cream van sellers;
- Durham County Council checks smoking cessation volunteers, volunteers on cycle rides and walks, and volunteers at a garden group;
- Warwickshire County Council checks tree surgeons and historic environment managers.
Josie Appleton, Manifesto Club director and author of the report, says:
"There is no good reason why parent volunteers in schools should be CRB checked. This is a tax on goodwill.
"It is surprising that councils can find the money to CRB check tree surgeons and leisure centre managers. They should cut these unnecessary checks rather than frontline services.
"If the government is serious about scaling back vetting, it should introduce proper procedures for investigating over-checking authorities – and penalties for unnecessary checks."