Parents warned over plans to cut criminal record (CRB) checks

Boy - posed by model The government says the system of checks on child workers has become too bureaucratic

Parents should teach their children about the risk of paedophiles, a minister has said as he defended plans to ease Criminal Records Bureau checks.

Lord Henley said the current system was "disproportionate" with "unnecessary red tape and discourages volunteering".

Ministers plan to drop the checks for adults if someone who has been cleared, such as a teacher, is supervising.

But Lord Bichard warned "dangerous adults" would "take advantage" of the proposed changes.

Lord Bichard, whose report after the murder of Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman by a school caretaker led to the present system being set up, warned the safety of children "must come before our desire to minimise regulation and bureaucracy".

Start Quote

What we are trying to do is create a system that will provide the necessary safeguards but does not make parents feel that their children are automatically safe”

End Quote Lord Henley Home Office minister

He said that "children assume that adults who are trusted to offer guidance or instruction can be trusted - not just in those limited circumstances such as the youth centre or playing field but wherever they are encountered".

"I fear that we will very quickly find that dangerous adults will realise that there are some settings and some ways in which it will be easier in future for them to gain access to vulnerable children," he told peers.

"The people we are talking about are manipulative and clever. They will take advantage of those opportunities."

The proposal to cut the need for Criminal Records Bureau checks for adults working under supervision with children is part of the red tape-cutting Protection of Freedoms Bill currently being pored over in the Lords.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced the proposed change a year ago, saying he wanted to get the checks "into proportion" and end the "atmosphere of distrust over adults who are simply trying to do their best by their own children".

Defending the proposed changes, Home Office minister Lord Henley said that "whatever the setting, we believe that parents have the primary responsibility for educating their child in how to react to an approach from an adult if it goes beyond that adult's normal role".

Lord Henley said "what we are trying to do is create a system that will provide the necessary safeguards but does not make parents feel that their children are automatically safe - parents must still have the duty of looking after their children by warning them of potential dangers".

'Not fair to parents'

He also conceded that schools and other organisations would be allowed to insist on CRB checks: "We want to emphasise the importance of good sense and judgement by the managers on the ground when they look at the issue."

A number of peers joined Lord Bichard in raising concerns - including the Archbishop of York - that dangerous adults who gain children's trust in the supervised setting might be able to take advantage of that trust when not supervised later.

One of those unhappy with the plans, Labour peer Lord Harris of Haringey, said he agreed a balance had to be struck and "no system will necessarily protect all children against abuse and against predators".

But, he said, "the difficulty is that the normal assumption of parents will be that every person whom their child comes into contact with in a club or other activity is safe".

Lord Bichard, who withdrew his amendment to the government's plans after assurances there would be further discussions about the issue, said all sides agreed on the need for less bureaucracy.

The issue was the need to avoid people who were a risk having "privileged access to our children".

"Parents expect schools, clubs and centres to be places where they can leave their children with some confidence... I do not think it is fair to expect parents to be able to monitor those kinds of situations."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    I am also surprised at the comments on here. The current system may be bureaucratic but that is fine by me if its protecting my children. My son has High Functioning Autism and has zero social imagination. He just has no understanding of what a stranger is.

    Cutting CRBs and leaving me the impossible task of educating him on stranger danger is putting him at risk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    Surprised at the comments on here.

    If my child is at a youth club or any establishment where the organiser has a duty of care, they should have carried out proper checks to ensure that they are employing or using people who are suitable to be around children.

    Every time we start to get these issues right, we change the rules and get them wrong again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    I understand and sympathise with the thinking behind CRB, and with the current point about cutting them.

    It was right to introduce them, but like anything else, once introduced, it should be kept under review. No need for hysteria on either side of the debate. We need checks, and to ensure we don't drown under bureaucracy.

    And there will always be child-molestors, CRB or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    There has always been pedos, children need protecting but the current rules do not work and affect the wrong people.
    I was convicted of a drug offence 30 years ago when i was 20, I`m 50 now, i got 3 years imprisonment, it was my first and last offence (never been in any trouble before or since) yet this prevents me from helping at my daughters gym club, why?
    I`m no danger to anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    There has been far too much fear that other people want to hurt your children raised in the last 20 years. There have always been a few Myra Hindleys and Robert Blacks and always will be. Instead of 'stranger danger' we need to create 'stranger safety'. Very few people cause harm, the vast, vast majority will help not hurt. Aren't you one of the latter?


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