Plans are on track to restore common sense to employment vetting processes while ensuring public protection, criminal information minister Lynne Featherstone said as the government responded to an independent review.
A full response was published on 6 December to a review of the criminal records regime by Sunita Mason, the government’s independent advisor on criminality information management.
The response sets out which of the recommendations from the first part of the review are now before parliament in the protection of freedoms bill. These changes will improve the proportionality and efficiency of employment vetting by overhauling the work of the criminal records bureau (CRB).
The government also set out how it will respond to the second part of Mrs Mason's review, which addresses what defines a criminal record, how records are managed, and the international exchange of information.
Lynne Featherstone, criminal information minister, said:
'The protection of the most vulnerable in our society is of paramount importance to this government. But it is crucial that the way we vet people who work with them respects individual privacy.
'Our proposals will bring a long-overdue element of common sense to this system, making it easier for applicants and employers to use while making sure the public are protected.
'Sunita Mason has made an extremely valuable contribution to our work to transform this system for the benefit of vulnerable people, workers and employers.'
The protection of freedoms bill contains a number of proposals aimed at making significant improvements to the processes of the CRB, including:
- ensuring that only relevant and accurate personal information will ever be disclosed by the police
- stopping checks on under 16s
- the opportunity for applicants to review and, if appropriate, dispute any information held about them by the police prior to it being disclosed to an employer
- online status checks, enabling certificates to be reused for different employers across the same sector, instead of requesting a new certificate every time they apply for a new role
- substantially reducing the scope of 'regulated activity' from which people can be barred. Although Mrs Mason recommended a significant reduction in those that are eligible for checks, the government believes it is important to retain the capacity to apply for criminal records checks in relation to a broader set of sensitive roles.
The government accepts in principle the recommendation that there should be a clear timescale for the police to make decisions on disclosures. However, it does not accept that certificates should be issued while information is still being considered by police, as this could pose significant risks to public protection.
Following recommendations in the second part of the review, the government will maintain the current arrangements for holding criminal records on the police national computer, while ensuring the controls on accessing those records are sufficiently strong.
Mrs Mason's recommendation for a clearer definition of what constitutes a criminal record and a review of which convictions, and other disposals such as cautions and warnings, should be recorded on national systems will be taken forward.
The strategy for international exchange of criminal records will also be reviewed and updated.