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Vetting keeps lecturers waiting

Last updated 11 May 2008, created 12 April 2002, viewed 528

New system of checking criminal records is taking too long and colleges are set to foot the bill. Sue Learner and Steve Hook report

MORE than a thousand college lecturers are out of work because of the red tape involved in deciding whether they are allowed to associate with students.

M More…any have been waiting since the beginning of March to be vetted, according to Education Lecturing Services, the largest post-16 supply agency which this week changed its name to Protocol Professional.

A bureaucratic bottleneck was created when the Department of Health vetting system was replaced by the Criminal Records Bureau.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "From March 11, the CRB has been operating a telephone centre and they have been dispatching application forms, although we do understand that only some people have received those forms."

The previous system of checking ended abruptly at the beginning of March and the new centralised "one-stop shop" CRB did not take over until April 2.

Richard Eve, director of external relations at ELS, said: "The whole thing is a shambles. The CRB was meant to be fully functional from the middle of March. The Department of Health pulled the plug on their system well before and we were left with nothing. It wasn't very joined up of government to not have anticipated what was going to happen.

"We had a clear arrangement with the Department of Health that they would continue up to April 2 and they pulled the plug on it.

"We have been holding on to applicants since the beginning of March and they are not at all happy about it. We have only just received the forms and now we have to wait for the CRB to process them."

He fears the delays could lead to non-ELS lecturers being hired before they have been vetted.

A Home Office spokeswoman told FE Focus that an alternative telephone service was available from the CRB which enabled lecturers to give their details over the telephone, cutting the vetting process to three weeks from the time of the telephone call.

But an FE Focus journalist who rang the CRB advice line posing as a lecturer was told the forms are always sent out.

The Association of Colleges says the new vetting system could put a financial strain on colleges. Before the CRB, checks were carried out at no cost to colleges or lecturers. "Colleges will now have to pay £12 per applicant as they will be reluctant to ask potential employees to pay," said an AOC spokeswoman.

"We do welcome the enhanced security which the measures represent, but we are worried about costs."

The CRB will carry out three levels of checks. The highest will be for people whose work involves close contact with children or vulnerable adults. The CRB has promised to turn 90 per cent of the highest-level checks around within three weeks and 95 per cent of other checks within a week.

The vetting process, which took up to six weeks under the old system, is designed for applicants who have been resident in the UK and includes a check against List 99, a register of people deemed unsuitable to be teaching children. There are no international arrangements to protect against unsuitable lecturers from abroad. Colleges are obliged to report cases where lecturers are dismissed for inappropriate conduct towards students, or where they resigned ahead of a disciplinary process.

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