CRB may have to cut back its check targets

9 Oct 03
The Criminal Records Bureau is likely to refocus and scale back by millions its original targets on criminal records checks after privately conceding that it has misjudged demand for basic disclosures, Public Finance has learned.

10 October 2003

The Criminal Records Bureau is likely to refocus and scale back by millions its original targets on criminal records checks after privately conceding that it has misjudged demand for basic disclosures, Public Finance has learned.

According to insiders, the CRB has concluded that there is no real market for basic criminal checks, due to be available to anyone changing jobs, and will not now introduce them. It is likely to scale back its targeted activity from an eventual 6 million checks a year to its current 2.6 million.

The move, still under discussion at the CRB, will have a significant impact on its pledge to become self-funding by 2007 and its expected levels of service.

Basic disclosures, officially postponed until the CRB has the capacity to cope, would have doubled the bureau's activity and earned it an extra £100m between 2003 and 2007.

The delay in introducing the basic checks, originally due last year, is thought to be one of the reasons behind the hike in fees for standard and enhanced disclosures from £12 to £29 in July. The Home Office has also been forced to grant the bureau an extra £19m to keep it afloat.

A source said: 'The truth of the matter is that they devised the scheme, then consulted. They got the capacity wrong and thought that demand would be higher. They are now looking into adapting the system.'

But Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat spokesman for older people, cast doubt on the bureau's motives for scaling back its activity. 'How could you have got so far into a project entirely based around meeting the needs of customers and come up with that at this stage?'

'It sounds like the facts and the history behind this are being rewritten to justify past mistakes.' he said.

The CRB, jointly run by the Home Office and Capita in a public-private partnership, has already commissioned an independent report into the flexibility of its beleaguered IT system.

The report, seen by PF, states that its IT is 'scaleable' to meet the CRB current processing levels of 2.6 million checks a year, but makes no mention of its official target of 6 million annual checks.

It also found that it was able to manage a steady volume of 40,000 checks a week, again its current capacity. 'The report was geared to investigate the adaptability and flexibility of the IT system in place, not its capacity,' a spokesman for Capita confirmed.

But it may not all be plain sailing for the bureau, even if it does abandon basic disclosures. The report warns that solutions to problems in its IT system can take more than six months to implement.

PFoct2003

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