Thinking of recruiting staff for your youth arts project? Virginia Haworth-Galt points out how changes in CRB procedures will affect you.
There was a time in recent memory when implementing basic child protection and safeguarding procedures during recruitment was relatively straightforward apart from issues around the length of time it sometimes took for a Disclosure to come through. We knew to follow Arts Council/National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children guidance (Keeping Arts Safe) and to take out Enhanced Disclosures for anyone working with children and young people in the arts. Working for a registered body the system was fairly simple during the recruitment process: keeping Disclosure documents in a secure place with the option of renewing them every two or three years for permanent members of staff, and freelance employees exercising the portability options for their Disclosures.
How times have changed! Last year saw a massive cull of bodies who were previously registered to process the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) forms. Those not meeting the 100 Disclosures a year threshold were deregistered and advised to use umbrella organisations. Warnings about penalties for contravention of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA) under the Exceptions Order were issued. This basically meant that arts organisations had to adapt to a complete change in emphasis. No longer able to go for the safety first approach recommended by Keeping Arts Safe, employers are now forced to shrink the safeguarding zone in terms of employment procedures and have to ensure that they dont over check employees.
The CRB works to a published list of nine positions known as the Exceptions to the ROA (Disclosure Access Category Codes). The act also makes certain professions and positions Exempt from the act. Arts organisations can only legally check employees whose role falls into one of the Exceptions or Exemptions. The focus is obviously on those who work in direct contact with young people, specifically if their work is unsupervised. As expected, none of the roles immediately suggest youth arts and a certain degree of decoding has always been required to work out which category an arts role might fall into.
What the categories give no flexibility on is those who do not have actual contact with children or young people, but do have access to records or information about them. This is often the case in arts organisations where it is common for only some of the team to work with young people, usually off-site, but all staff have access to a range of information about those young people. For some arts organisations, reassurance regarding safeguarding may only be achieved if all staff are subject to CRB disclosures.
Now that most arts organisations will have to work through an umbrella organisation, the umbrella organisation has to agree with your reasons for wanting a CRB check for a particular role. The CRB states that the umbrella organisation must be happy with the category of check you chose for a member of staff, as it is their decision to submit or not. The CRB admits there is no guidance on this and different umbrella organisations will take individual views on this. It also states that the average wait is two weeks for a Standard and four weeks for an Enhanced Disclosure. Delays may be caused be incorrect applications, police delays or additional information requests. Once an employer receives a Disclosure what do they do with it? Potential employers should not keep the
Disclosure form: for data protection and security reasons, it should be destroyed once the recruitment procedure is complete. When a person is recruited an employer can keep their form for six months in a secure cabinet, which only authorised personnel can view. In any case, according to the CRB, the Disclosure is only valid up to the date of issue. It cannot reveal any convictions subsequent to this.
Disclosures are no longer portable. A freelancer can show an old certificate to a new employer and they can decide if they want to accept it or not. The CRB advises considering the date of issue and the categories checked, and always to take up valid references. There is a major cost implication for freelancers if they are required to keep paying for Disclosures.
Finally it is worth flagging up a new safeguarding development. From August 2008 the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is bringing in a new Vetting and Barring Scheme delivered via an Independent Barring Board. This will not replace the CRB but it will offer another layer of employee checks. It comes as a direct result of the Bichard Inquiry (following the Soham investigation). The DfES states, Safeguarding children is a top priority for the Government. Staying safe is one of the five outcomes of Every Child Matters& the overriding aim of the new vetting and barring scheme will be to help avoid harm or risk of harm to children and vulnerable adults. The scheme aims to provide employers with a more effective/streamlined vetting service for potential employees. It also seeks to bar (as quickly as possible) unsuitable individuals from working or seeking work with children or vulnerable adults.
Virginia Haworth-Galt is Director of Artswork.
See also http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/vettingandbarring/ and http://www.crb.gov.uk