CRB checks seen as 'a windfall'

Nathalie Thomas

Voluntary organisations are using the new system for applying for Criminal Records Bureau checks as a way to generate income.

Charities registered with the CRB can now charge to process applications for other voluntary groups, businesses and public bodies that do not meet the annual threshold of 100 checks - below which the CRB will not allow registration.

Although some registered organisations are processing applications for free, others are charging up to £70.

"We feel this is a real opportunity to earn money for our core services," said Judith Oliver, chief executive of Disability Action Yorkshire, which is charging £7.50 per application.

Demand has been so great that Oliver's team is processing between 80 and 100 applications a week. She is hoping to create a new part-time position specifically to deal with CRB applicants.

Oliver said there was nothing ethically wrong with her charity charging other, often smaller charities for the service. "We think £7.50 is a reasonable charge for using our time and expertise," she said. "Others should view volume of demand as a windfall, rather than a problem."

But not everyone shares Oliver's positive outlook on the new regulations.

Following a Third Sector report highlighting the difficulties several organisations are facing in finding an appropriate body to process their applications, the NCVO has said it plans to lobby the Government.

"Our response comes out of frustration," said Pete Moorey, parliamentary officer at the NCVO. He said the Government had been given ample warning during a consultation last year about the problems the sector could face.

"Sixty per cent of respondents opposed any kind of threshold," he said.

"My concerns are not just about access to umbrella organisations, but also about whether enough consideration has been given to the potential cost of deregistration."

One NCVO member has estimated that its application costs could amount to as much as £1,000 a year on top of CRB fees.

FACT FILE

- In April, the CRB began deregistering charities that are not able to submit 100 applications a year

- The CRB has set up an online database of 'umbrella bodies' - charities, businesses and public bodies that meet registration criteria

- It says the reduced number of registered bodies will allow it to "focus its resources more effectively".

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