More time for checks on care staff after fiasco at crime records bureau

The time limits set for criminal records checks to be completed for
staff working in care homes, nurse agencies and domiciliary care
agencies are to be extended as a result of processing problems at
the Criminal Records Bureau.

Care home staff employed before 1 April 2002 will have the time
limit for their checks extended by more than a year. Originally,
the checks should have been completed by 31 March 2003 but the
staff will now be able to obtain them “during the course of 2004”.

New care home staff and registered providers and managers will
still need completed checks before they are employed.

Meanwhile, the government has pledged to extend indefinitely the
time limit for checks on staff supplied by domiciliary care and
nursing agencies.

Regulations for these agencies are still expected to come into
effect next February, but without the requirement for checks.
Instead, staff will have to provide a statement setting out whether
they have a criminal conviction.

In a written answer to MPs, Home Office minister Lord Falconer
admitted that the bureau “has not so far been able to provide a
satisfactory service”.

He said that, although the government recognised the importance of
criminal records checks, providers must still be able to

“Care homes have to be able to continue to employ existing staff
and we believe the domiciliary care agencies and nurses’ agencies
should not be prevented from being able to place staff because they
have not obtained checks,” he said.

But older people’s charity Help the Aged has expressed concern over
the changes and has urged the government to set an early date for
checks to be mandatory for home care staff. It points out that “the
opportunity for abuse is much greater when staff work on a
one-to-one basis with clients in their own homes”.

Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat health and social care spokesperson,
said it was “appalling” that home care and nursing agency staff
would not be vetted.

“Non-vetted staff caring in the privacy of a person’s own home will
do so unseen and unmonitored, putting the most vulnerable people at
risk,” he said.

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