Support for tougher background checks using online ID card and passport links

In line with recommendations from the Bichard Report, the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) is examining the security benefits that ID cards may bring.

Oct 19, 2007
By David Howell

In line with recommendations from the Bichard Report, the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) is examining the security benefits that ID cards may bring.

In a joint trial with the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), 160 volunteers piloted two online services aimed at accelerating and toughening up background checks on people who want to work with children and vulnerable adults. The first is a short-term process using UK passports, and the second a longer-term process using ID cards under the National Identity Scheme. Plans have been given a resounding thumbs-up by volunteers in a trial of the new process.

A new report reveals that the overwhelming majority of trial participants back the new services, with 96 per cent saying the passport-linked service is an improvement on current arrangements, and 87 per cent saying that the ID card-linked service would be even stronger.

Home Office Minister Meg Hillier said: “I am very pleased by the positive reaction of the volunteers in this joint venture between the CRB and IPS. Clearly, establishing identity quickly and accurately is absolutely crucial when dealing with people who want to work with children or vulnerable adults. Employers have to make sure that the person applying for the job is actually who they say they are. By linking your details to your fingerprints, the National Identity Scheme will make it easier and quicker to prove identity as well as protecting your personal details from fraudsters.”

Sir Michael Bichard, in his June 2004 Inquiry Report, said there should be “improvements to the systems for checking identity” and that the Government’s proposals for ID cards “would go a long way to solving this problem”. The process enhancements trialled jointly by the CRB and IPS are in line with recommendation 23 of the Bichard Inquiry Report. In combination with a range of improvements the CRB is making to its service, turnaround times for some checks could be reduced from four weeks to as little as four days.

CRB Chief Executive Vince Gaskell said: “The CRB constantly works to enhance its processes and accuracy. The National Identity Scheme will help make the Criminal Record check even faster and more robust. That is good news for employers and employees, and good news for the children and vulnerable people they work with.”

IPS Chief Executive James Hall commented: “IPS and the CRB have been in close collaboration to explore how the National Identity Scheme can help further strengthen the CRB process, in particular around verifying the identity of an applicant for a CRB disclosure. As we move forward with procurement and delivery of the scheme, we are also taking forward other joint ventures with organisations such as the Border and Immigration Agency and retailers.”

The CRB/IPS trials took place between May 25 and June 26 2007 in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, London, and Manchester, involving volunteers mainly from organisations with extensive experience of the current procedures for Criminal Records checks.

The CRB has issued over 13 million Criminal Records disclosures since it began operation in 2002, and is now issuing more checks than ever, faster than ever. However, an improved application process using ID cards to confirm identity via online application could dramatically reduce turnaround times. The first ID cards for UK citizens will be issued in 2009, with large-scale volumes being issued by the Identity and Passport Service in 2010.

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