Josie Appleton's blog

Oz catches 'Santa's lap' panic

An Australian child protection adviser has called for shopping centres to 'update child protection policies' so that children 'stand beside Santa' rather that sit on his knee. This sparked a national debate about the rights and wrongs of sitting on Santa's knee (Is it wrong if the child asks to do it? Where should Santa put his hands? Which part of the knee?)

How many criminal checks does an exam invigilator need?

I just received this email from an exam invigilator – in response to my Civitas report on vetting - about the frequent requests he receives for criminal records checks. Some of these requests appear to be motivated by DfE guidance that if a volunteer hasn’t been into school for the previous three months, they be asked to carry out a separate check. All of which shows that requests for repeat vetting continue apace – and that the rules underlying these requests remain confusing and illogical.

Teachers told: 'Carry CRB check at all times'

I just received an email from a teacher, reporting that the teaching agency he works with told him: 'carry your CRB copy with you at all times'. That is, he would be expected to produce his criminal records certificate not just on the first day of a job, but at any time in the course of working life. (Over coffee in the staffroom? In the middle of a class?).

This request to carry one's criminal records check on your person is a sign of how this piece of paper has become an index of trustworthiness; you could be challenged at any moment and asked to prove your legitimacy, a question which is answered by a photocopy of a database search. The CRB check functions as a kind of clearance, a licence to be in a school which one must carry just as a foreign visitor must carry a visa.

Making parental emotional abuse a crime

Justin Wiley has written a good piece about emotional abuse at the New Observer. He includes the following pertinent example:

Secret lists and confusion: on the new 'filtering' system for criminal records checks

A guest post by David Wacks, director of CRB Problems Ltd, on the new proceedures for removing old and minor convictions from criminal records checks.

On the 29th May 2013, the law was changed so that some old criminal information is to be filtered off criminal records checks – even enhanced disclosure for working with vulnerable people – and need not be disclosed on most job applications. This includes:

1. A Reprimand given to someone under 18 would be filtered off 2 years after it was given provided it was not on the list of more serious offences.

2. A Caution would be filtered off 6 years after it was given, again, if not for a serious offence.

Note for Mr Lamb: Vetting laws bar neighbours from helping elderly

The heath minister Norman Lamb has called for Neighbourhood Watch and other groups to help care for elderly residents in their area - providing companionship, and help with feeding and washing. He criticised the current 'uncivilised' abandonment of the elderly to live 'miserable' and solitary lives.

Yet this 'uncivilised' abandonment has been fomented by the state - which has for many years insisted on criminal records checking anyone who offers such 'care and companionship' to elderly people in their area.

Elderly people are defined as 'vulnerable adults', and anyone offering help is asked to complete criminal checks to prove that they are not seeking to 'take advantage' of their 'position of trust'.

Has the DBS solved privacy concerns?

After a Court of Appeal judgement, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) today introduced new 'filtering' proceedures, meaning that old and minor convictions will be filtered out from criminal records checks.

The case that led to this decision was that of a man whose criminal records checks returned details of convictions for stealing bikes in his youth. This is a common problem, which in effect bars thousands of people with minor convictions or cautions from large areas of the job market.

So the new filter is to be welcomed as a step forward. Today the DBS sent an email to bodies that process checks, telling them:

With 112 pages of 'guidance', who would organise a kids' sports event?

The NSPCC has produced 112 pages of 'updated guidance' for how to organise 'safe' sports events for children.

What is striking from this extensive document is just how much 'safeguarding' is regulation for regulation's sake. From pre-event risk assessments, to consent forms covering every aspect of the event, to 'recruitment proceedures' for volunteers - there appears to be a faith in the power of paper to make people safe.

Australian primary school bans swimming photos

An Australian primary school has banned parents from taking photos of their kids' swimming gala.

The headteacher justified the move thus: "We want parents to be able to have a record of the children's events and be part of that, but it's about protecting our children. (Swimming) is part of their curriculum and they should be able to participate in that while feeling safe."

It's official - no change to criminal records checks

Last September the coalition introduced a series of measures with the aim of reducing criminal records checks to 'common-sense levels'. Officials predicted that vetting would halve.

A written question by Lord Vinson, however, reveals that September's changes have had no effect on the overall level of checks. There were 1.9 million criminal records checks between September and February last year - exactly the same number as the year before. There has been a slight reduction in the number of barred list checks, but no change in the overall level of enhanced criminal records checks.

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