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CRB red tape must be reduced

Last month, I wrote about my intention to start volunteering and my disappointment at the lack of variety in the roles available.

After a prolonged search, I finally found two positions that I thought I could do, and so I contacted the charities. Four weeks passed, with no response.

Finally, the intermediary company that has been helping me find a placement got in touch to find out about my progress and I quickly explained nothing had happened. It then contacted the charities on my behalf.

The next day I had a response from one charity which said it hadn’t received my initial request. After a brief chat, when I explained my intention to go ahead despite the delay, I was told I’d need to come in for a meeting.

And so came the first hurdle. As I work full-time, I explained it would be difficult to fit within her 9-12, Monday to Friday time slots. Which meant I’d have to take holiday in order to attend.

After reluctantly agreeing to do this, along came the next challenge: the dreaded CRB check.

I’ve read about the problems with CRB checks in Third Sector, but I didn’t quite expect them to be so arduous. I’m sorry for any third sector professionals reading this blog that know what’s involved, but those who don’t, at the meeting I would need to supply:

•            Either my passport, birth certificate, driving licence (photocard plus paper)

•            Plus two of the following: my marriage certificate, a utility bill (not more than three months old), financial or credit card statement, council tax statement, vehicle registration document

•            At least one document should show my date of birth, and at least one show my current address (not more than three months old)

•            As I married recently I would need to bring the marriage certificate as well as something showing my maiden name

•            Then, I need to bring details of any addresses I have lived in during the past five years, without any gaps

•            Then, finally, I have to give the name and contact details of someone who would be willing to provide a character reference for me and, if I am willing to do the occasional drive, let them see my driving licence and car insurance.

I can fully appreciate the need to be careful, because I may be visiting vulnerable people who need protecting – and they don’t know me from Adam. But it does seem completely excessive to have to supply all this information just to drop off someone’s shopping once a week.

The lady I was speaking to was hugely apologetic – she is probably used to a less-than-positive response.

I’m determined to do this so I’m willing, if not happy, to comply. But I can completely appreciate how other well-meaning, would-be volunteers would be put off. Something has to be done to reduce the red tape involved.

I’m afraid if the other charity does ever reply to my request and asks for the same procedures, I might not be so willing.

  • Rob Jackson

    Oh dear, it seems you have had an all too common experience Gemma.

    I think your experience highlights what I firmly believe – that the biggest barriers to volunteering are not things like CRB but organisational attitudes to and systems around volunteering.

    Four weeks to wait for a response is totally inexcusable – there is no excuse for that kind of poor service. Similarly the expectation that you will engage with them on their terms with regard to the interview times.

    We wouldn’t put up with such poor service in any other aspect of our lives so why should we put up with it from volunteer involving organisations? No wonder that many people never even get to the stage of CRB checks.

    And then the interview and CRB.

    Yes, those documents are the kind of things you’d need to provide.

    But did they even talk about the range of roles on offer, your interests, what their needs were etc. before launching into CRB checks?

    Is it a case that you ‘may’ or ‘will’ have (unsupervised) access to vulnerable people (that’d make a difference in the need for a CRB check)?

    Did they do any other form of screening or just rely on the CRB?

    And please tell me this wasn’t required at the first meeting with you and the organisation.

    This process heavy approach to engaging volunteers just doesn’t cut it anymore and too many people get the kind of experience you’ve had. When volunteering is increasingly important to organisations as people have less money (but often more time) to give we need to stop offering these kinds of experiences and wake up to the reality of what people today expect.

  • J Cravens

    Rob told me I had to come over and read your posting, because I just blogged about my own frustrations trying to volunteer (http://coyoteblog.posterous.com/im-a-frustrated-volunteer). I’m so sorry you have had your own frustrating experience.

    I know it seems excessive to have to do so much “just to drop off someone’s shopping once a week” but, indeed, it really is necessary, because of the vulnerable population you will have access to – they deserve that kind of scrutiny for the people that will be bringing them food.

    However, everything else – ARGH! This experience wasn’t at all welcoming, wasn’t all accommodating to you – again, I say, ARGH! You are singing my song… as a volunteer management trainer and researcher, I remain stunned that so many potential volunteers such as yourself are being so poorly treated again and again and again. Rob, myself and a lot of other mavericks are trying to change things – your story helps us illustrate to so many people who refuse to change that, indeed, THEY HAVE TO CHANGE.

    Thank you so much for this terrific blog!

  • http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/ Gemma Quainton

    Thank you both for commenting on the blog. Sad to hear that it’s a common experience for would-be volunteers.

    Rob, to answer your questions – no they haven’t spoken to me about what I would like to do, although I don’t think there’s an awful lot available. I think that the visits would be unsupervised, so I do understand the need for the checks. Aside from meeting me, I think the CRB checks are the only screening, along with a reference and yes, all this is required at the first meeting.

    I do completely understand the need to keep vulnerable people safe, it’s just a very frustrating and lengthy process. It’s a shame that’s so complicated.

  • Heidi Blair

    Ok but if the sign on the market stall says ‘Fresh Fish For Sale’ but it still stinks from a mile away, you don’t take much notice of the sign. In fact, if you’re the market stalls regulator, you’d ask the man behind the stall to close down because he’s a danger to the public.