CRB/ISA empire continues to grow


by Rumbold
21st February, 2010 at 10:30 am    

Nobody wants potentially vulnerable people (whether children, those with disabilities, etc.) to be put at risk. Nor does anyone want to be the person who allowed those people to be put at risk. Which is why the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) regime is so insidious. No government will ever be able to prune it much, for fear of a tabloid storm if someone subsequently suffered as a result (“PM let paedos work with children”- that sort of thing).

Yet it does need to be curbed. The rigorous nature of the system means that more and more people are not bothering to offer their services, whether on a part time of temporary basis. It is an expensive hassle. One friend of mine has undergone four CRB checks in the last one and a half years, despite his first one which was enhanced, so could have been transferred over to his other roles. Another friend was unemployed for three months while he waited for his to come through. And they were two of the lucky ones, with hundreds of people incorrectly being branded criminals by the CRB.

Now the ISA (which has a wider remit than the CRB) is poised to take this totalitarian (and it is totalitarian) regime one step further with new rules that would allow people to be banned from working with vulnerable people even if they have never done anything wrong:

Workers judged to be lonely and to have a chaotic home life could be barred from working with vulnerable people, even though there is no evidence that they pose a risk, according to guidelines from the Government’s new vetting agency. Decisions about staff will be taken by officials who have never met them, based on details passed on by their employers…

Guidance seen by The Sunday Telegraph, which has been given to more than 100 case workers at the ISA reveals that those referred could be permanently blocked from work if aspects of their home life or attitudes are judged to be unsatisfactory. It says case workers should be “minded to bar” cases referred to them if they feel “definite concerns” about at least two aspects of their life, which are specified in the document.

It means, for example, that if a teaching assistant was believed to be “unable to sustain emotionally intimate relationships” and also had a “chaotic, unstable lifestyle” they could be barred from ever working with children.

Given how many roles this involves it is chilling. If the Conservatives don’t pledge to sack every single individual at the ISA and emasculate the CRB on their first day of government they aren’t fit to take over.

(Via Tim Worstall)


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  1. pickles

    Blog post:: CRB/ISA empire continues to grow http://bit.ly/9PRIa4


  2. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: CRB/ISA empire continues to grow: Nobody wants potentially vulnerable people (whether children, those wit… http://bit.ly/a2Gpak


  3. Rose Little

    Pickled Politics » CRB/ISA empire continues to grow: It means, for example, that if a teaching assistant was belie… http://bit.ly/cF954v


  4. David Marsden

    Where will this Criminal Record #Bureaucrazy end? ? @hidihidi: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/7574


  5. Di

    @dmarsd thought u might be interested in this http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/7574




  1. MiriamBinder — on 21st February, 2010 at 11:03 am  

    It is scary isn’t it. Trouble is that we, as a society, tend to want everything iron clad. Whenever a horrendous story, such as Baby P or nursery paedophile Vanessa George, hits the headlines we come over all spewing self righteous indignation and seeking to lay the blame on anything and anyone however remotely connected.

    I agree that we need to keep vulnerable individuals protected. However I also think that seeking iron-clad assurances is unreasonable. Life is not iron-clad, deodorised, sanitised and risk-free. When something horrific as in the two instances referred to above happen, the perpetrators should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law without any hesitation. However we need to remember that they are horrific precisely because they are not an everyday occurrence. More people have been killed or maimed as a result of car accidents.

  2. douglas clark — on 21st February, 2010 at 1:03 pm  

    Now there’s a libertarian idea I can subscribe to!

  3. Rumbold — on 21st February, 2010 at 1:40 pm  

    Douglas:

    I don’t think it is even a libertarian idea- it should be one that resonates across the political spectrum; it is a question of trust and proportion.

    Miriam:

    Good points. These incidents, however horrific, are atypical. And all the paperwork pften doesn’t prevent them (paedophiles have to start somehwere).

  4. Shatterface — on 21st February, 2010 at 1:56 pm  

    If they’re banning people unable to sustain emotionally intimate relationships who the fuck’s going to teach geography?

    And what is an emotionally stable relationship anyway? Straight, married, 2.4 children and a red setter?

    This is a licence for social engineering of the most reactionary, normative kind, and nothing at all to do with child safety.

  5. douglas clark — on 21st February, 2010 at 2:21 pm  

    You are right Rumbold, however the society we live in has given up completely on freedom in favour of theatrical hysterics, and a complete inability to assume that bad people will do bad things. Far easier to blame a Social Worker than a child killer.

    The pretence that this actually achieves anything appears to be ingrained into our politics.

  6. Alice G — on 22nd February, 2010 at 9:07 am  

    In my experience, one side effect is that men are being air-brushed out of life with children, which is to be regretted. Boys especially will lose out and risk becoming disaffected as certain people, women especially, do not understand or accommodate the more boisterous needs of some lads.

  7. MaidMarian — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:15 pm  

    I’ll tell you what your problem is here Rumbold. You talk about fear of a tabloid storm. It’s not a fear, it is a very real probability. Rumbold, about a year ago an independent parliamentary auditor asked a junior clerk in a office in Newcastle to put a database onto a CD and give it to a private sector courier. When the CD was lost, the media started to blame the PM – that is how ridiculous this has got.

    It is indeed regrettable that this level of risk avoidance is necessary, but I don’t think that getting all pent up on the internet is very helpful. After all, a Conservative government would face exactly the same pressures wouldn’t it?

    The stark reality is that we live in a world where someone from officialdom must always be to blame.

    I can sit here and agree all day with arguments that this is too risk averse. But I’m not the one who will have the Sun give me a million signature petition demanding I lock up the paedos. Candidly, neither are you. We have a blame culture and in that context, the only thing worse than, ‘something must be done,’ is, ‘something should have been done.’

    If you really want to do something about this, you need to take it up with the witch hunters and the victim groups. You have popular sentiment on your side, but I suspect that that sentiment is very wide and very thin.

    And by the way, it seems that ISA has not actually done anything yet – you could at least let them start before getting disgusted?

  8. Rumbold — on 22nd February, 2010 at 7:35 pm  

    Douglas:

    The pretence that this actually achieves anything appears to be ingrained into our politics.

    Yes. It is now enough to be seen to be doing something, whatver that something is.

    MaidMarian:

    It is indeed regrettable that this level of risk avoidance is necessary, but I don’t think that getting all pent up on the internet is very helpful. After all, a Conservative government would face exactly the same pressures wouldn’t it?

    I am trying to highlight a serious and far reaching change that would see people’s careers and lives destroyed if they don’t conform to what someone thinks of as normal.

    I agree that this culture has been created in part by society as a whole. Which is why the ISA and its ilk need to be shut down and this mentality faced down.

  9. MaidMarian — on 22nd February, 2010 at 8:14 pm  

    Rumbold (with all respect) – I’m not the one you need to convince. I agre with you, whether every parent out there would is quite another matter.

    Out of interest, do you have a suggestion for a better model than the ISA, or are you in favour of a free-for-all?

  10. Rumbold — on 22nd February, 2010 at 9:31 pm  

    I would continue with the CRB system. But:

    (a) reduce its scope significantly

    (b) make it transferable

    (c) make it quicker (most take months)

  11. Trofim — on 22nd February, 2010 at 9:39 pm  

    This is simply one more manifestation of wider societal phenomena. In less than a couple of generations the general perception of the human individual in our society has radically changed, from that of an autonomous, robust, resilient entity, to a fragile, delicate creature, susceptible to psychic and physical injury. Hence health and safety, hence the culture of being offended and upset and so on, in addition to the perceptions of children as vulnerable. The other societal trend is a changed weltanschauung, a different attitude towards the nature of life. Up till now, for the most part, there has been an acceptance that the world is inherently imperfect. Accidents, tragedies, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are an unavoidable part of existence. Opposed to this is the attitude that all the imperfections of life are potentially remediable and preventable, given time, motivation and resources.
    “However I also think that seeking iron-clad assurances is unreasonable. Life is not iron-clad, deodorised, sanitised and risk-free”. At least that’s one thing I can agree on with Miriam Binder.

    A couple of days ago I drove my 5-year-old great-niece across Birmingham in my car, at my niece’s request. Only afterwards did it suddenly occur to me, that it was possibly a risky thing to do nowadays.

  12. Kulvinder — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:03 pm  

    Hopefully, in time, the ECHR will strike it down…

    I agree with you though, its appalling, and its caused by MPs not having the backbone to go against sensationalism. As grieve stricken as Sara Payne is, her experiences – or her those of her children – shouldn’t affect our liberty, the state ultimately causes far more harm than any individual; the ‘satanic ritual abuse’ hysterics of the late 80s and early 90s is pretty much the direction we’re once again headed in.

  13. MaidMarian — on 22nd February, 2010 at 10:06 pm  

    Trofim is correct. Rumbold, I think that your suggestion is more or less sensible. But what you miss is that this level of government intervention did not just come out of thin air. We – society – have not trusted each other. We have beckoned government in to regulate and guide, we created the panics and the fears that led to the CRB/ISB.

    We have come to see and indeed need government to arbitrate our relationships and bluntly we have no one to blame but ourselves.

    The most powerful political force today is not left or right or nationalist or green – it is fear. These panics and the government response are legitimate targets for criticism – but we should never forget that they are responses.

  14. Rumbold — on 23rd February, 2010 at 7:10 pm  

    MaidMarian and Trofim:

    I wholeheartedly agree. This is part of a wider societal trend. Which is why, for once, government needs to take the lead and face down this attitude.

  15. Don — on 23rd February, 2010 at 8:17 pm  

    Rumbold, I agree with your post.As a teacher, particularly as a special needs teacher, I am quite happy for my record to be regularly checked and I have always found the paper-work straightforward and the turn-around time to be about a fortnight. And I don’t have to pay.

    But this expansion is nothing to do with protecting children and everything to do with expanding control. It seems we are heading for a place where children view every adult as a lurking predator and adults view children as feral thugs.

    Can’t end well.

  16. persephone — on 23rd February, 2010 at 8:24 pm  

    Before a review is done (by any govt) surely their effectiveness should be looked at.

    Are there figures which show the impact before & after the CRB system and ISA were put in operation?

    Basically do they work & to what extent?

  17. persephone — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:01 pm  

    To judge the impact of the CRB & ISA it would be worth assessing the impact before & after introduction and then review for expansion/retraction accordingly.

    On the face of it, the ISA drive to put to suspicin anyone identified as lonely & having a chaotic life is not an expansion or preventative measure that makes sense ie proven informally ‘guilty’ before an offence.

  18. persephone — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:02 pm  

    To judge the impact of the CRB & ISA it would be worth assessing the impact before & after introduction and then review for expansion/retraction accordingly.Is this expansion based on statistics?

    On the face of it, the ISA drive to put to suspicin anyone identified as lonely & having a chaotic life is not an expansion or preventative measure that makes sense ie proven informally ‘guilty’ before an offence.

  19. Rumbold — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:03 pm  

    Thanks Don. The problem with the CRB now is that the backlog is building up. I have heard from a dozen people about months’ long delays- and organisations have complained about the same thing.

  20. Rumbold — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:33 pm  

    Persephone:

    To judge the impact of the CRB & ISA it would be worth assessing the impact before & after introduction and then review for expansion/retraction accordingly.Is this expansion based on statistics?

    Nope. It is based on power/money. To justify a body’s funding there needs to be activity. For more money and power, there needs to be more activity. I don’t doubt that the system has stopped a few people. But a few people doesn’t justify such as system.

  21. MaidMarian — on 23rd February, 2010 at 9:59 pm  

    Persephone – You are probably right in that there should be a review. But this should be done by Parliament. There is no reason why any number of committees could not take on this role.

    The problem you have though is that Parliament as much as anyone else are vulnerable to those who shout, ‘something must be done – what are you going to do?’ I agree with you, but the press and the victim groups do not pore over the stats, both you and Rumbold are trying to apply a rationality to something that has none.

    I don’t mean this as a criticism. However I think that you are looking at a conspiracy to control that simply is not there. By all means hold these bodies open to scrutiny, but you need to do it on terms other than hard stats and the public narrative about government intrusiveness. Rightly or wrongly those standards get short shrift once something terrible happens.

  22. MiriamBinder — on 23rd February, 2010 at 10:09 pm  

    I’ll agree with MaidMarian in that this is not necessarily a conspiracy to control. I do however think that there is a conspiracy of protectionism … It is the Govt. and the statutory agencies that get hauled over the coals when things fail.

    What is needed is someone to get up there and tell people that life maybe a bed of roses but even roses have thorns … get real. What you have here is just one example of interventionist govt. Cradle to grave, we’ll keep you safe. It isn’t realistic long term; it was hard enough trying to keep it viable medium term.

  23. persephone — on 24th February, 2010 at 11:22 am  

    MaidMarian – I don’t see it as a conspiracy to control but want to cut through the knee jerk response of the state in (over)protecting their role to the extent it gets in the way of being effective & competent.

    I want to see a review to assess their impact but to avoid situations like the CSA which operated for 10 years before someone decided it was not working. 10 years is a long time to wait (especially given a child). As to how much resources it sucked up in that time is another matter. I cannot remember seeing figures comparing the results from when lawyers had to handle these cases with post CSA. They did not even make their clients aware that the CSA had not worked & was being replaced by another state agency – great client service.

    Such examples makes one lose confidence in other state organisations over & above the issue of pressure groups & the state being self protectionist etc.

    Yes I can see that even if one child, say for example, was saved by these organisations then the relevant parents/families would say it was worth any resources invested. And I can also see that the state has to limit its responsibility to track these situations where you have the parent, as in Baby P’s case, trying to hide injuries when the social worker visits.

    But if a minimal number crimes are being averted/ escalated for state intervention at great resource it raises competency issues. If less cases are averted before something dire happens then that is also an issue. Without these queries being answered it is hard to see if they need to expand or retract. And the lack of data/transparency (eg CSA) sometimes means it is not working.

  24. MaidMarian — on 24th February, 2010 at 7:07 pm  

    persephone – I see your point, but I am not sure that the CSA is a good example. The CSA failed simply because it was founded on an assumption that was just not true. That being that there were vast numbers of feckless parents (largely fathers) who were witholding money which could cut the benefit bill. Both parties persevered but had to accept that the founding premise was just not true. No amount of ‘reform’ changed the core problem.

    In this sense, the ISB is different because no one is saying that the stats back this up. By your rationale, every medical error would suggest taht we should abolish the medical profession.

    You are right about knee-jerk, but remember, knee-jerks are a reaction. I would love for a politician to say, ‘no,’ to a media panic. But the government’s critics need to recognise that it is very easy to say this on a talkboard. Reality is rather less clear cut.

  25. persephone — on 24th February, 2010 at 10:51 pm  

    Maidmarian

    The govt is evermore aiming to measure the impact of their activity as pressure is mounting on them to be more accountable & transparent. Its a reality they are having to face for eg its a core requirement in their recruitment.

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