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CRB chief promises tough vetting checks

James Rogers

The managing director of the Criminal Records Bureau has promised that any Capita staff accessing data from the Police National Computer will undergo the same security checks as civil servants.

 

The Home Office recently amended the Criminal Justice Bill, enabling staff from the CRB's private sector partner Capita to access extracts of data from the Police National Computer.

 

"We need to make the process as efficient as we can. Obviously, if that happens then you would expect any person accessing it would undergo the same level of security check that civil servants [accessing the data] undergo, and I am sure that will be the case," said John O'Brien, CRB MD.

 

But he said that the government’s plans to allow Capita staff to access CRB have yet be finalised, adding that CRB customers will be consulted.

 

The CRB, which became operational in March 2001, aims to help employers identify candidates who would be unsuitable for certain types of work, especially jobs that involve contact with children or other vulnerable people.

 

Last summer, teaching unions expressed dismay over backlogs for processing background checks at the bureau, which caused some schools to remain closed after term began.

 

But last week the government announced that the CRB has more than doubled its capacity to process applications. It can now process 60,000 checks a week, compared with only 24,500 last August.

 

However, the Home Office also revealed that fees for carrying out standard and enhanced disclosure checks will increase next month. The cost for a standard disclosure will double from £12 to £24 and the cost for an enhanced disclosure will rise to £29.

 

O'Brien, however, said he was satisfied with Capita’s staff vetting, adding that Home Office security staff had been consulted over the matter.

 

A Capita spokeswoman said, "For all of our contracts we put in place the most appropriate people, we make sure that they are trained properly and that they are cleared to the security level agreed with our clients."

 

"In the CRB, all staff who work there have been security cleared and they will have a further level of security check if they go on to access the Police National Computer," she added.

 

Capita, along with the Department for Education and Skills, was also at the centre of controversy over its role as the IT supplier for Government's flagship Individual Learning Accounts programme, which was abandoned at the end of 2001.

 

The two organisations have been heavily criticised in successive inquiries for mismanaging the programme and leaving it open to fraud by failing to secure its IT systems adequately.

 

Training firms recently accused Capita of staffing its call centre with untrained youngsters who were clueless about the operation of the scheme.


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