Hundreds of thousands of social care staff are working in settings with vulnerable adults before they have been given a full Criminal Records Bureau check.
Employers are appointing people who have been checked against the Protection of Vulnerable Adults list only, instead of an enhanced CRB check, to tackle high turnover and vacancy rates.
The list, which is managed by the Department of Health, is a register of people banned from working with vulnerable adults. There are 2,211 people on the list.
Povafirst checks, which were introduced in July 2004 and are carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau, are supposed to be used only in “very exceptional circumstances”.
But Community Care has found that, between November 2004 and December 2006, the CRB processed 441,192 applications, and experts estimate that it can take at least six weeks for a full CRB check to be processed. During this time, people are eligible to work under the supervision of a named person. All Povafirst applications are supposed to be completed within three days.
Daniel Blake, policy and development manager at charity Action on Elder Abuse, said the figures were “extremely high” but reflected high staff turnover.
“Many managers fear they will lose their candidate if they have to wait around for a month or longer for a CRB check before they can start work. So it looks like they are circumventing the bureaucracy of the system.”
Robert Hill, who has worked with people with learning difficulties for 16 years and is the co-founder of www.adultprotection.org.uk, which provides practitioners with information on adult protection, said: “It is risky but the reality is the turnover of staff is so high and care homes need to have a certain staffing ratio.”
He said Povafirst applications were also driven by the need to cut expensive agency staff bills.
Crucial safeguard against dangerous predators
● Enhanced CRB checks show current and spent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings held on the police national computer, plus any relevant information held by local police forces.
● The following databases can be searched: Protection of Children List, Pova and information held under section 142 of the Education Act 2002, which includes people barred from working in education.