It takes a string of errors before an organisation can arrive at
the level of catastrophe now facing the Criminal Records
As so often when public services are outsourced to private
companies, both sides are blaming each other. But, as so often when
outsourced services go wrong, both sides must share the blame. From
the Home Office’s initial failure to predict the scale of the task,
via the CRB’s failure to start the work on time, or to clear the
backlog, we have arrived at a situation where an agency set up to
protect children is now leaving them at risk.
Panic is never a good frame of mind for decision-making. Criminal
records checks are just one building block of a child-safe society;
they would not have saved Holly Wells or Jessica Chapman. However,
the government’s decision to prioritise checks on teachers is worse
than just unnecessary: it has done more harm than good.
Everyone else who dispenses a limited resource is expected to do so
on the basis of greatest need. Obviously the CRB must be resourced
so that it can process all the necessary checks within a reasonable
timescale. In the meantime, however, situations where children are
most vulnerable should be prioritised. That includes young people
in care. It does not include those in the classrooms of mainstream
The CRB must do more than just stop prioritising checks on
classroom teachers. It must prioritise those on individuals who
spend time working or living on a one-to-one basis with already
Moreover, the idea that once the CRB is operating properly our
children will be safe is a treacherous one. It follows from the
myth that children are most at risk from non-relatives who could
previously have been identified as dangerous if only some
professionals somewhere had done their job properly.
When it comes to building a child-friendly society, getting the CRB
sorted out is the easy part.