Volunteering England and leaders of 27 major charities and voluntary sector umbrella bodies have called on the government not to charge volunteers for the planned portable Criminal Records Bureau checks.
The Protection of Freedoms Bill, which is before Parliament, proposes two types of criminal records check from 2013: a one-off check, which would remain free for volunteers as under the existing system, 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 earlier this month the government was considering whether volunteers would have to pay a yearly subscription for the portable check.
In a letter to the Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone and Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, Justin Davis Smith, chief executive of Volunteering England, and 27 other senior sector figures, including Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Kevin Curley, chief executive of Navca, call on the government to pledge to make the proposed portable checks free for volunteers.
"In the current system CRB checks are free but not portable, but government risks solving one problem only to create another if in the proposed new system they are portable but not free," the letter says.
"If the cost of the online system is passed on to volunteers, it would provide a perverse incentive to apply for a new check for each role. This would represent additional costs and unnecessary bureaucracy for the organisations involved," it says.
"Some of us have already conveyed our concerns to government that any costs could have a negative effect on volunteering. Therefore, while volunteers across the country tirelessly continue to give their time for the benefit of our communities, we ask government to ensure they are not burdened with unnecessary paperwork and costs."
A spokesman for the Home Office said portable checks would be subject to a fee to recover the costs of the service and the government was considering how this would be administered.
"The Protection of Freedoms Bill contains a number of proposals aimed at scaling back the system to bring a long-overdue element of common sense," he said.
Full list of signatories
Justin Davis Smith
Chief executive, Volunteering England
Sir Stephen Bubb
Chief executive, Acevo
Head of volunteering, Age UK
Head of volunteering, Barnado’s
Sir Nick Young
Chief executive, British Red Cross
Tom Flood CBE
Chief executive, BTCV
Lynne Berry OBE
Vice chair, Canal and River Trust
Chief executive, Children England
Chief executive, Girl Guiding UK
Lucy de Groot
Chief executive, CSV
Chief executive, Deafblind UK
Head of volunteering, Jewish Care
Director of volunteering, Marie Curie Cancer Care
Director of volunteering, The National Trust
Chief executive, Navca
Sir Stuart Etherington
Chief executive, NCVO
Chief executive, NCYVS
Chief executive, RNIB
Head of volunteering development, RSPB
Chief executive, Sport and Recreation Alliance
Chief executive, Sue Ryder Care
Chief executive, The Scout Association
Volunteer services manager, Sported
Chief executive, The Stroke Association
Chief executive, v, the National Young Volunteer Service
Director, Voice4Change England
Chief executive, WRVS