Crippling, Ruinous Bureaucracy (CRB)

I’m about to launch into the Christmas courses at Bedfordshire Music, where I’m lucky enough to conduct the County Youth Third Orchestra. At the last minute, the regular viola tutor has become unavailable. That’s OK – we have a regular dep. But – oops – his CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check has just run out. That’s OK – he has a CRB check from another organisation. But no – that doesn’t count, it has to be one from Bedfordshire. How about asking one of my other friends in the profession – viola players who work regularly as teachers and education project leaders and are CRB-checked up to the eyeballs? No, can’t do that, they haven’t got the RIGHT CRB check. (I know of one artist who has 17 different CRB checks, to cover each of the organisations she has worked with over the past three years.)

So what do I do? Well, I’m going to have to contact one of the other conductors and ask if I can borrow their viola tutor, and rearrange both our schedules so that we can have our sectionals at different times. I can’t see the viola tutor being overjoyed by this either. And it’s certainly not going to be the best thing for the young players in terms of tuition, support and feeling looked-after and included. Then again, their parents might not consider it great value for money.

CRB-checking has become a behemoth, a ridiculous bureaucratic burden and frankly, a threat. We have recently been told that those of us who don’t have contact with Bedfordshire children in between the Christmas, Easter and Summer courses (this includes me) must have a new check before every single course. It has been estimated that this is going to cost the service around £7,000 – not so much because of the fees, but because of the administrative costs.

Add in the Vetting and Barring scheme and it’s all starting to look really stupid.

There must be many educational programmes and projects up and down the land – not just in the arts – which are facing just this costly, burdensome and absurdist nightmare. The argument that one child’s safety makes it all worthwhile doesn’t stack up. At this rate, this is going to drive youth orchestras (and probably youth drama, dance and other arts provision) into the ground. That means that, theoretically, one child’s safety is being pitted against the artistic, personal and social education of thousands and thousands of children, and, by extension, the artistic future of the nation.

It doesn’t add up.

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Published in: on December 17, 2009 at 10:05  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Such is the Kafkaesque quality of the CRB system that even the proposition that it ‘protects’ children must surely be questionable. My not-for-profit sports club was joined by a man who was recognised by our President as having been of interest to the police in the past in connection with a child protection issue. We contacted the child protection officer at the sport’s governing body with our concerns (not least because the club has changing rooms and showers used by both children and adults)and to ask for advice, only to be told that they could do nothing unless an incident were to take place, and that the police would not even tell us whether that person was on the sex offenders register. We were also warned that our President should not make his suspicions known to other memebrs, as this would be considered to be defamatory. So with enormous loopholes like that in the legislation, the whole process is a bit of a joke anyway.

  2. It’s horrifying. Maybe they should just close all schools and all providers as they are so awfully threatening and all the kids can stay home. Oh no… wait… most abusers are relatives or family friends…

  3. Hmmm. Here’s a viola player with several current CRBs, but, as no Bedfordshire one, I can’t help, much as I’d like to. I’ve just been asked by a possible employer to take out my own, private CRB so that I can work in their school on a self-employed basis, yet I bet that, even if it were miraculously issued by the time the BCYO courses start, I wouldn’t be able to use it for Beds teaching. It’s a complete farce. I’m all for CRB, but think one check per person should be enough and that it should be available online: ie everyone working with children should register with a central bureau, have an initial check and then be aware that if their personal circumstances changed (as in, they committed an offence)it would automatically be logged on that site, with ‘please check with office for further info’. It would have to be cheaper and more efficient in the long run.


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