Merton youth workers critical of enhanced CRB checks


Controversial tougher controls for people working with children are causing a stir among parents and youth groups in Merton.


By Kerry-Ann Virgo, Rachel Bull, Kristina Oumouassan, Christian Tobin and Joseph Thompson

Controversial tougher controls for people working with children are causing a stir among parents and youth groups in Merton. 

The new scheme, introduced by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) last month, tightens regulations to increase child protection and enforces harsher penalties on institutions that do not comply.

The stricter controls are a result of recommendations made by the Bichard Inquiry into the Soham murders.  They have been praised by child welfare organisations.

Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “It is essential that children are properly safeguarded and we must do all that we can to ensure that they are protected from those who might do them harm.”

However the CRB checks can take a long time to process and some argue they are too stringent and create a culture of fear.

Malcolm Bally, head of administration at Merton Sea Cadets, feels there are too many restrictions and says they already find it difficult to get instructors without extra obstacles.

He said: “A number of us at the cadets agree that the CRB restrictions and health and safety regulations have gone too far.  The paperwork takes too long to fill out and recently the checks have taken much longer to process.”

This can be a problem at this time of year when grottos are starting up and employers are wary of hiring an unchecked Father Christmas.

Wimbledon father, Dairush Sahrair, said: “Imagine if somewhere couldn’t get a Santa because they couldn’t find one with a CRB check – it’s ridiculous.”

He added: “The checks are unnecessary, they just make people afraid.  We can’t leave our own child with people we trust because they might not meet the specifications.” 

Grace Chouikhi, from Morden, is currently in the process of applying for a CRB check to work in a playgroup.

“It takes a very long time and is very costly,” she said.  “I’ve been waiting for mine for two months.”

Even if the new regulations are problematic in the short term, many parents and workers feel they offer reassurance and are necessary to keep children safe in the future.

Peter Weekes from the Malden Scout Association supports the new measures.  He said: “CRB checks keep people out who shouldn’t be involved with children.”

Natasha Osman, a parent from Wimbledon, agreed. She said: “I wouldn’t let my daughter go to anyone that wasn’t checked. It’s only when you’re a parent that these things become important to you.”

Picture by Stephanie Hofschlaeger

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