Sector leaders oppose charging volunteers for 'portable' criminal records checks

Letter to ministers is signed by Justin Davis Smith of Volunteering England and 27 others

Justin Davis Smith
Justin Davis Smith

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


John Ramsey

Head of volunteering, Age UK


Karen Sparkes

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


Maggie Jones

Chief executive, Children England


Clive Martin

Director, Clinks


Denise King

Chief executive, Girl Guiding UK


Lucy de Groot

Chief executive, CSV


Jeff Skip

Chief executive, Deafblind UK


Sonia Douek

Head of volunteering, Jewish Care


Ruth Bravery

Director of volunteering, Marie Curie Cancer Care


Helen Timbrell

Director of volunteering, The National Trust


Kevin Curley

Chief executive, Navca


Sir Stuart Etherington

Chief executive, NCVO


Susanne Rauprich

Chief executive, NCYVS


Lesley-Anne Alexander

Chief executive, RNIB


Alan Murray

Head of volunteering development, RSPB


Tim Lamb

Chief executive, Sport and Recreation Alliance


Paul Woodward

Chief executive, Sue Ryder Care


Derek Twine

Chief executive, The Scout Association


Helen Varley

Volunteer services manager, Sported


Jon Barrick

Chief executive, The Stroke Association


Terry Ryall

Chief executive, v, the National Young Volunteer Service


Vandna Gohil

Director, Voice4Change England


David McCullough

Chief executive, WRVS

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