As the national volunteering development agency, we were very alarmed by the tone of the article 'Criminal checks fail to exclude staff', and the related editorial in a recent issue of HSJ. There appeared to be little understanding of vetting procedures, Criminal Record Bureau guidelines or accepted good practice in balancing the safety of vulnerable people with the right of ex-offenders to integrate back into society.
The editorial referred to applicants 'failing' CRB checks. There is no such thing. CRB checks reflect information, which is.used by responsible recruiters to make a decision on whether or not a potential employee or volunteer is suitable. Why should a minor offence in a person's past bar them from contributing to our public services? As one in four people have a criminal record, it would be an ill-thought through recruitment policy that instantly discounted a quarter of potential staff. In any case, CRB checks are merely one element of a broader professional approach to safe involvement of volunteers and paid staff with vulnerable service users.
Volunteering is a perfect way for ex-offenders to take control of their own rehabilitation. It is a way of giving something back to the community, gaining self-confidence, and proving oneself to future employers. We would be very concerned to see routes to volunteering cut off by ill-informed comments. Any organisation interested in further guidance on involving ex-offenders as volunteers should visit the Volunteering England website at www.volunteering.org.uk, or call our volunteer management helpline on 0800 028 3304.
Mark Restall is head of information at Volunteering England.