The government is considering charging volunteers to use the ‘portable’ criminal records checking system that is due to come into force in 2013.
Under the system, laid out in the Protection of Freedoms Bill currently before parliament, there would be two types of criminal records check: a one-off check and a portable one based on a continuously updated criminal records database, which would allow an individual to work or volunteer for a number of organisations.
A Home Office spokesman said the one-off check would remain free for volunteers. He said, however, that the government was looking closely at whether volunteers would have to pay a yearly subscription fee to have the portable check.
"We would like to make the whole system free for volunteers," he said. "However, we are still looking at whether they will pay a fee, and this is subject to the government’s calculations on costs."
He said charities and companies would have to continue to pay for all checks on paid staff under the new system. The size of the fee had not yet been set, he said, but would be "at a level necessary to recover the costs of the service".
The spokesman said the government would decide whether to charge volunteers in about six months’ time, when the Protection of Freedoms Bill is due to become law.
If the bill is passed in its current form, each person subject to a criminal records check would be issued with a unique number.
Charities and employers that wanted to recruit that person could enter the number on a website, which would then tell them whether any new information had been placed on the person’s record since the original check was carried out.
They would need to ask for a new criminal records check only if the website showed that new information was available. No details of the new information would be available on the website.