I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of the Criminal Records Bureau's Corporate and Business Plan for 2003–04. After a difficult first seven months of operations, the Business Plan builds on the steady improvements in performance since last autumn. The average number of Disclosures issued each week since October stands at 40,000 compared with 24,500 a week last August. Turnaround times have reduced from over eight weeks to under five and the number of aged applications over six weeks old (and not awaiting further information from the applicant) has been reduced from a peak of 76,000 to under 10,000.For 2003–04 I have set the CRB challenging but realistic service standards which take into account the experience of the first year of operating. The CRB will now seek to process 90 per cent. of applications for a Standard Disclosure within two weeks and 90 per cent. of applications for an Enhanced Disclosure within four weeks.
As a result of the service improvements in recent months the CRB is able to increase its capacity to 60,000 Disclosures a week and consequently it can now commence criminal record checks on care workers postponed last November, 4 November 2002, Official Report, columns 102–04W.
Subject to consultation, the programme for introducing checks will be as follows:
EXISTING CARE HOME STAFF (care home staff who were in post just before 1 April 2002)
The deadline for checks for this group will be brought forward from 31 October 2004 to 30 June 2004. In order to make sure the CRB check has been completed by the new deadline, applications will need to be submitted to the CRB between 1 October and 30 November 2003. In order to make best use of the CRB's increased capacity these checks will be carried out at the level of a Standard Disclosure.
DOMICILIARY CARE AGENCY AND NURSES AGENCY STAFF
In order to ensure a smooth introduction of these checks, we propose making a distinction between new and existing domiciliary care agency and nurses agency staff. We are consulting on the definitions of new and existing staff in order to ensure that they are clear both to agencies and their customers. All domiciliary care and nurses agency staff will be required to obtain Enhanced Disclosures.
From 1 October 2003, a CRB check will be required before a new agency domiciliary care worker or agency nurse can take up their placement.
Existing domiciliary care agency staff will be asked to submit applications for checks to the CRB between 1 October and 30 November 2003. The CRB will complete these checks by 30 June 2004.
Checks on existing nursing agency staff will commence in spring 2004 once those on existing domiciliary agency staff have been completed.
The Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) list will be introduced as soon as possible.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has today issued a consultation paper on the necessary amendments to the Domiciliary Care Agencies Regulations 2002, Nurses Agencies Regulations 2002 and the Care Homes Regulations 2001.
The lower volume of throughput, as a result of the slower introduction of checks on the key groups mentioned above and the deferment of Basic Disclosures, together with other factors have resulted in higher unit costs. The costs for 2002–03 have been met by the three key departments, namely the Home Office, Department of Health and Department for Education and Skills. The Business Plan develops a costing regime retaining free checks for volunteers and a new full cost recovery plan with full effect from 2005.
The Government made it clear when the current £12 fee was announced, 2 April 2001, Official Report, column 69W, that it was our intention that the Bureau would be self-financing in the medium term. That remains our objective. However, in the short term, the costs of the CRB will continue to be met by a combination of fee receipts and contributions from the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Department for Education and Skills. As we move towards full cost recovery it is necessary to increase the Disclosure fees. From 1 July the fee for a Standard
Disclosure will be £24 and that for an Enhanced Disclosure will be £29. Volunteers will continue to receive free Disclosures. The necessary amendment to the Police Act 1997 (Criminal Records) Regulations 2002 has been laid before Parliament today.