Monday, May 07, 2007

Form filling

I've been doing some prison visiting, and thus far have managed to avoid filling in the forms as I've always been with a Chaplain. Now, though, I've been asked to go through the security check. This runs to a rather impressive eight sets of forms. Form A is a Basic Check Verification Record (BCVR). Form B is a request for check against QAS form (whatever QAS might be). Form C is a request for check against QAS on counter signatory. From D is a criminal conviction check form. Form E is a criminal conviction declaration form. Forms F and G are vetting questionnaires and form H is a reference form. Having completed these, and had them certified by a manager of grade F or above, a "pre-appointment checklist for people not directly employed where an enhanced check is required" can be completed and the vetting process can begin. As they helpfully point out it is no longer possible to "fast track" applications. The whole process will probably take months to go through.

Similar things happen in parishes for CRB checks. I started a youth group in one parish, and managed to get a great team of young adult helpers. They were all working in jobs where they already had enhanced CRB checks, but the Diocese insists on doing its own checks in case there were police suspicions about them that weren't recorded on the CRB check. Before they'll even issue the forms, however, the Diocese has its own process. The volunteers had to fill in a lengthy form about why they wanted to help with the youth group, what talents they had to offer and why they would be suitable. They also had to provide the addresses of two referees and show various proofs of identity to the parish child protection co-ordinator. The paperwork went off to the Diocesan Child Protection Office (who are overworked and understaffed, naturally). They eventually followed up the references and approved the applications, issuing CRB forms to the parish co-ordinator. She then met with the volunteers again and checked more documents before sending the paperwork back to the Diocesan office who sent it off to CRB. The CRB check itself takes ages, particularly if they have problems with any of your details. One friend of mine had lived in Turkey and so got a phone call from CRB asking why his Turkish address didn't have a postcode. He explained that Turkey doesn't have postcodes. Unfortunately they weren't able to accept that over the phone, and asked him to write a letter to them explaining this.

For my volunteers, the process took between 6 and 10 months. Meanwhile, according to Diocesan Child Protection Procedures, they weren't allowed to help with the Youth Group. We need to have rigorous procedures in place to protect children, and I know that these procedures have worked in doing this, but I do think that we have gone too far. I know a number of people who have stopped helping out with catechesis of children and other activities because they felt insulted at having to fill in the Diocesan forms about why they would be suitable. In other cases I know really enthusiastic people who've wanted to start parish youth groups, but have failed because it's taken too long for the CRB checks to come through. Surely this is actually damaging to the children in our parishes, who are deprived of opportunities.


holyfamoley said...

Yes, I couldn't agree more. My husband and I both have CRB clearance in other work that we do for the local education authority (school work and youth work respectively) and yet if we want to do work with young or vulnerable adults voluntarily for the church, we have to go through the entire ridiculous procedure of CRB again. And what does it prove in real terms? Either you haven't offended (yet) or you haven't been caught! I understand that with recent scandals the church wants to be seen to be a beacon of child protection procedures but I can't help thinking that we are going over the top. As you rightly state, many people are put off by the form filling or get bored of waiting for the letter to come through. It's hard enough to recruit volunteers for parish youth/children's work or indeed visitors to the sick and housebound. Red tape - who needs it?

Ttony said...

"Surely this is actually damaging to the children in our parishes, who are deprived of opportunities."

Of course it is. But it's nothing to do with child protection: it's all about making sure that nobody can sue you subsequently.

Welcome to our world. It gets worse...

David Palmer said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of prison security!

ukok said...

It took about 4 months for me to get my clearance,precisely because of the department being understaffed and overworked. In the meantime, who do you think did the Baptism
Preparation Programme and First Holy Communion Programme in the parish...yes, me.

The forms weren't too difficult to wade through, but I couldn't really understand why there was a section asking for bank details. It was optional - but I included them in an attempt to hurry things along.

Didn't hurry it much though, did it!