Monday, 15 March 2010

Money For Old Rope

The old rope in question is known as the CRB check. The idea is that, when someone applies to work with children, they fill in a form which gives permission to a company [a private company] to ask a public company to search through the archives/computer records/whatever in order to check that the would be worker-with-children doesn't have a criminal record which might make them unsuitable to work with children. So, provided that you haven't been convicted in the past of child abuse, you'll be okay to work in a school, or a youth club or whatever.

So now you have a form, which cost your local authority/school/youth club just under £100 a throw, which proves that either you've never abused children or that you've never been caught. So, it's okay. This new employee can now work, even one=to-one with children. This creates what I would call a false sense of security.

But there is more old rope on offer here. Now, you don't just need a CRB check as you start work somewhere; you need a new one [cost: just under £100] every three years. Of course, your colleagues might have spotted if you had been arrested, tried and convicted of a child abuse offence. I'd have thought that those years in jail would have been a give-away. But no, here goes for a few more acres of South American forest as we all fill in the same name, address, previous name, name of refereee, post-code, and this takes up two sides of A3, and, if you've ever been allergic to the passport form, it's the same.

And, wait for it. The private company has thought up some more ways of getting money out of that rope. If you work for more than one school or organisation you will need more than one CRB check. So, for example, this week a colleague of mine filled in two idential CRB forms. They will both be processed at the same time, both with the same [private] company, and will both achieve the same result.

This is going well, said the rope company. What about running these checks on visiting artists and authors, even if they are never going to be on their own with any children or even in school long enough to develop a relationship [grooming] with any of them? What about checking the music service's peripatetic teachers who have already got a check with their music service? Couldn't we get another check for each school they visit? [This one is a little bit ongoing.}

And what is that result? Hundreds of thousands of totally innocent teachers, charity workers, youth workers, nursery workers, volunteers filling in forms which prove nothing at all. In some cases, they might show up a minor, but embarassing teenage shoplifting misdemeanor; and in some cases this might put off really good, enthusiastic workers from ever applying for the job of their dreams. In some cases, as ignorance is no guarantee of innocence, what I would describe as the false sense of security effect would come into play.

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