Severe backlogs built up at the Criminal Records Bureau because
employers were not consulted early enough about how they would use
the service, MPs say.
A report on the debacle by the House of Commons Public Accounts
Committee says that the Home Office assumed the service would be
largely telephone-based, but employers actually preferred to send
paper-based applications in bulk.
The backlog at the CRB peaked at 300,000 in October 2002, six
months after the service went live, causing serious delays to
recruitment of staff, volunteers and foster carers.
Performance has since improved, but turnaround targets were relaxed
last year, and the bureau is still not providing the service first
envisaged, the report says.
Capita, which has the CRB contract, bid £100m less than its
rivals for it, but the project ended up costing far more – rising
from £250m over 10 years to £395m.
Capita’s bid assumed that only 15 per cent of applications for
disclosure would be paper-based, but at least one unsuccessful
bidder for the contract had assumed 40 per cent, which was closer
to the true figure, the report says.
Government departments should be prepared to retest the market if
their business assumptions change during development of a project,
says the report.
“Launching a service which does not work may be more inconvenient
for users than delaying a service introduction to get the system
The committee recommends that CRB disclosures should be extended to
all staff working with vulnerable adults, not just new ones.
Checks made by the bureau have led to three arrests and the
investigation of another five people, but research needs to be done
on whether crimes and abuses against vulnerable people are falling
as a result of the CRB, its adds.
l Committee of Public Accounts, 45th Report. Criminal Records
Bureau: Delivering Safer Recruitment is available from