Having screwed the economy, what can Govt. screw up next...
I'm afraid this is probably going to win the "longest posting" prize...
There are over 3000 comments on BBC's "Have your Say" website following Friday's Radio 4 "Today" story about the ISA Vetting and Barring Scheme, most disagree with the scheme.
It which seems in many respects just to be an extension of CRB, a third level of checking, less detailed then the two levels of CRB.
I had a CRB check in order to work as a volunteer with teenagers (actually ECRB, the enhanced version which includes "soft" evidence which can be hearsay and unsubstantiated opinion). I was cleared and have been doing that work for a few years, however I have a substantial list of concerns:
In my opinion CRB is nothing more or less than a scam to that was set up give some of Blair's buddies (Capita CEO, Labour party donor) cozy jobs and to create the impression that the Government was "doing something".
The CRB is not transferrable. A friend applying for teaching jobs needed a new check for each job.
Similarly if I moved to a different youth group I'd need a repeat CRB check.
They have an unacceptable "error rate" - but we only get to hear about the errors which disadvantage the applicant, if there's an error passing someone as OK who shouldn't be, who will ever know? Is the applicant going to complain? No, they're teaching your kids.
There is no "recall" process so a woman who gets a paedophile conviction the day after getting the CRB cleared is looking after your kids.
I have heard that most offences (92%?) against children are committed by family members and close family friends - they aren't subject to CRB/ISA checks (yet?).
The check only discovers evidence that is on record. Personally I'd regard as potentially unsuitable to work with children someone who pays for photos of scantily clad young ladies as featured in some of our less reputable newspapers.
As a parent I cannot obtain a CRB check for an uncle, nanny or babysitter so the law is unconcerned about one of the highest risk situations: leaving a sole child alone with a sole carer, no third party to intervene or report inappropriate behaviour.
I don't like being "presumed guilty until proved innocent" but in any case the CRB check doesn't prove anything but that the applicant has never been CAUGHT doing anything that might appear on their record. I don't care if a government minister tells me otherwise, he may as well tell me the moon is made of cheese, I feel there's a presumption of guilt and that was enhanced when I started as a volunteer. For the several weeks wait for the CRB check to be completed I was not allowed to work with the kids - what clearer "presumption of guilt" could there be?
Defenders of the system say "it doesn't deter volunteers". That's just not true. When I signed up as a volunteer I did so before I was advised that there would be a CRB check, not really being fully aware of the scheme. Had I been told that before making the committment I would not have offered my services. I suspect there are many people who have something on their Police record, not material to the role they are seeking and yet which they'd prefer not to be brought to the attention of their future supervisor (smoking a joint or a motoring offence when much younger). I think a police warning for drunken behaviour when one was at university would appear on the ECRB check. How that would be interpreted - would it bar the applicant from working with kids? Either way I guess the applicant would be embarrassed to have that information disclosed and so would be deterred. I'm told there's already a shortage of volunteers for tasks such as Scout/Guide leaders. Scouts have a waiting list of 30,000 youngsters not able to join because there aren't enough adults to look after them.
I think the effect of CRB checks is damaging to kids. The fee is a drain on the resources of volunteer organisations - money that should be being spent on enrichment activities for kids.
Where do kids from disfunctional families find their role models? The entire community has a role to play in raising kids. CRB just constitutes a further obstacle. I can't ask a parent to help out by transporting a bunch of kids because that will involve getting a CRB check and, yes, some checks may only take a few days but others can take many weeks or months. Kids organisations have a high turnover, some kids join and find it's not for them. Parent volunteers are unlikely to stick around if their kids have quit.
Extending the number of adults children are involved with in one way or another is an essential part of their upbringing and safety. In my organisation we are aware that some kids come from difficult backgrounds and we are alert to the need to take appropriate action if we have any concerns. The more such different environments kids are involved with the greater the chance that a third party will identify a concern and that there will be an adult the kid feels able to approach with their concerns.
It's interesting that the story comes in the same week as the conviction of two young Doncaster boys for the horrific acts of violence committed against two other boys. CRB checks did nothing to help those victims. One result of the CRB system is to increase youth disaffection leading to more such disfunctional kids. If those offending boys had some more interesting options to fill their empty days than hanging around on street corners looking for weaker kids to rob maybe things would have been different. Contact with more adults might result in the difficult behaviours being identified and a remedial response being initiatiated.
In fact ISA/CRB is in some respects a cover-up for the failure of social services to address the REAL risks to kids: bad parenting. How stupid to respond to that by further restricting those kids' involvement with other potential figures of authority, support, role models and often experienced parents that do have parenting skills.
Judging from press coverage the decisions to implement both the CRB and the new ISA Vetting and Barring Scheme scheme have been based on anecdotes, "expert opinion", and government's need to be seen to be doing something (while afraid to tackle the issue of problem parents). There are some dodgy statistics being thrown around: "In a survey 91% of adults agreed that people working with kids should be vetted" is represented as meaning "CRB checks don't deter volunteers" (and we all know that survey results are easily manipulated by the phrasing and context of the questions and the make up and size of the group surveyed).
What are the figures for child abuse cases before and since introduction of CRB? - in particular if those statistics are broken down by type of offender into: child on child, family and close friends, and the collection of groups which may fall into CRB check territory such as teachers, youth workers, sports coaches, ministers of religion.
Also, what has been the change in offences committed by youngsters?
By the way, when a kid in our group reaches 18 she needs a CRB or has to leave (they can stay till 21). After 18 she cannot share a tent with a kid under 18. On the other hand the two Doncaster boys were about 11 so no problem if one of them wants to share a tent with your kid...
One response to negative comments about CRB/ISA has been "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. So why do the police need a search warrant, why can't they just come to my house whenever they please and search my private papers, my computer. Suppose they found an illegally downloaded music track - better report that to the PRS - and a dodgy copy of a movie on DVD? They guy's clearly a crook...
No material evidence? while they're here why not strap me to a lie detector and show me some porn, sweaty skin or a change in brain activity means I'm stimulated and so I must be a pervert. By saying in defence of CRB/ISA "if I've nothing to hide I've nothing to fear..." you smear me, I have nothing to hide but my privacy, I have something to fear, a police state.
Would a different political party take a different view? I doubt any would have the courage to face the storm of indignant protest from the mollycoddling brigade. They'd be branded as "friends of the paedoes". The best we can hope for is to give youth groups the OPTION of requiring CRB/ISA checks and require that parents are advised of the organisation's policies.
I'd quite like to see a government that manages the economy on a sound basis and whose members don't fiddle their expenses. Maybe if they didn't spend their time trying (and failing) to micro-manage every aspect of every citizens llife they'd have time to focus on the economy.