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Volume 493: debated on Tuesday 2 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what requirements there are on the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) for completion of a CRB check within a specified period of time; and what the average time taken to complete such a check was in the latest period for which figures are available. (276314)

The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) operates to a set of published service standards (PSS) which include issuing 90 per cent. of Standard Disclosures within 10 days and 90 per cent. of Enhanced Disclosures within 28 days.

Data concerning the average time taken to complete a Disclosure are not a performance target and are not collated by the CRB. Average figures do not give an accurate indication of performance, since any force's performance can be affected by a number of factors, including the volume of cases sent to a force to process in any given month, the number of staff available to process the checks and the IT resources on hand to forces. With these variables, performance can fluctuate within individual forces from one month to the next.

Between April 2008 and March 2009 the CRB issued 396,000 Standard Disclosures and 3,459,000 Enhanced Disclosures. During this period the CRB exceeded its targets for Standard Disclosures with a cumulative total of 99.1 per cent. issued within 10 days but did not meet PSS for Enhanced Disclosures, issuing 88.6 per cent. within 28 days. The principal reason for this has been the high volume of Disclosures that have been presented for processing. This has put a great deal of pressure on the police Disclosure Units involved in the processing of Enhanced Disclosures.

An improvement plan has been initiated aimed at reducing the volume of outstanding work at police forces and number of aged cases, which are those applications that have been outstanding for longer than 25 days. This improvement plan has contributed towards a steady decline in the number of these cases over recent months.

There are a number of other factors which can affect the timely completion of checks, including but not restricted to the length of time it can take for an employer to deal with the initial application; the accurate completion of the Disclosure application form; the clarity of the information provided and the existence of conviction or non-conviction information.

To explain further, Enhanced Disclosures must include any local police force information which, in the chief officer's opinion, might be relevant to the application and ought to be included in the Disclosure. Such decisions must balance the need to protect a person's right to privacy with the need to protect the public from potential harm and therefore require careful consideration. Consequently, some applications can take longer to deal with.