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CRB Report

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									Independent Complaints Mediator

Annual Report

Foreword                                                 1

The Role of the ICM                                      3

Statistics                                               4

Police Force Delays                                      5

Poor Communication                                       7

Misinformation                                           9

Dissatisfaction with Redress                            11

Conclusion                                              13

Key Recommendations                                     14

Appendix I: Key Recommendations 2005/06                 15

Appendix II: Complaint Handling at the
Criminal Records Bureau                                 18

Appendix III: The ICM Team                              19

Appendix IV: Glossary                     Inside back cover
                                         ICM Annual Report 2006/07


I am happy to present this report,
which is my fourth as the Independent
Complaints Mediator (ICM). The report
is presented to Vince Gaskell, Chief
Executive, and covers the period from
April 2006 to March 2007.

I am now in the third year of my contract as             The impact of this on the workload of the CRB
the ICM, and this affords me a unique                    is currently under consideration. The
opportunity to observe the changes                       introduction of e-services will ensure that
experienced within the Criminal Records                  more services are accessible electronically.
Bureau (CRB). This has been a period of                  There will be new forms and new data
consolidation, in relation to the operational            collection fields, and these will be
work of the organisation. This has been                  accompanied by an effective marketing
reflected in the type of complaints that I have          programme to increase take-up. The
dealt with. I have received a significantly              completion of the RB rationalisation
increased number of complaints this year, yet            programme, which is anticipated to occur in
the categories of complaint analysed has                 early 2008, will result in a reduction of RBs
reduced. This is a reflection of great                   from 14,000 to 5,000, and the provision
improvement in the overall operation, and also           of a better trained and more experienced
highlights one particular area of concern,               RB network.
which I will cover in the body of my report.
                                                         The CRB has done much work in planning for
Within this context of consolidation, the CRB            all these changes, but it is clear that there is
and its staff are preparing for some very major          still much to be done. In particular, the impact
changes. These will have wide-ranging impacts            of all these significant changes on the users of
on the organisation and its stakeholders. These          the services and the type of complaints we
include the introduction of the Vetting and              might be asked to investigate requires further
Barring Scheme (VBS), e-services and the                 consideration. The original introduction of the
completion of the Registered Bodies (RBs)                CRB in 2002 highlighted the importance of
rationalisation programme.                               establishing accessible, simple complaints
                                                         procedures at the start. Linked with this is the
The VBS, which is planned to commence in                 need to publicise these procedures to the
autumn 2008, will result in the need for the             wider stakeholder audience. I hope that the
production of up to five million applications            experience gained at that time will be used to
a year in the early years of its operation.              good effect. I would be happy to contribute to
                                                         the discussions associated with these changes.

                                        ICM Annual Report 2006/07

During this period of internal consolidation            None of this would have been possible without
alongside major planned future change, a key            the hard work of my team within the CRB.
theme of partnership has evolved. This is               They carry out the bulk of the work and are
evident in the improved relationships I am              responsible for the daily ongoing follow up on
experiencing in the response to my                      investigations. This requires dedication,
investigations. I commented on this in my               tenacity and subtlety. I would like to thank
last report, where I complimented the                   them for their hard work and support.
response of the private partner, Capita, to
recommendations made in the previous                    The relationship with the Chief Executive and
Annual Report. This positive response has               the Management Team is also essential to the
continued and is reflected in the reduced               effectiveness of the work of the ICM; I would
number of complaints received which relate              not be able to carry out my work without their
to the customer’s experience of using the call          support and encouragement. The production
centre. This is obviously helpful in ensuring           of a leaflet, detailing the work of the ICM
that the quality of the information being given         which was funded by and distributed through
to the customer is as accurate as possible.             the CRB, has been an example of this support.
                                                        This has helped raise the profile of the ICM,
This theme of partnership is also evident in            role, and has increased its effectiveness.
the enhanced relationships I have experienced           I thank them for this. I look forward to the
with CRB staff. I am heartened by the very              year ahead and the challenges that we, in
positive response I continue to get to my               partnership, face.
recommendations. This report will highlight
some areas where I have been able to                    I am always keen to improve the quality of the
influence operational changes, based on the             service that we offer and in order to achieve
findings of the complaint investigations. This          that, I welcome any feedback on this report
is one of the key benefits of having such a             or on your experience of using the ICM.
scheme and it reflects well on the CRB
management and staff. I would like to thank
them for their openness and adaptability.

One outcome of this increased partnership is
the improved status of the ICM scheme within
the Ombudsman community. In particular, the
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
(PHSO) now recognises the role of the ICM in
effecting change within the CRB. As a result of
this, it has been agreed that all complaints
received by the PHSO will be referred to the
ICM for investigation before being considered
by the Ombudsman. This reflects well on the
thoroughness of the investigations and the
capability of the ICM to make achievable
recommendations.                                         Ros Gardner
                                                         Independent Complaints Mediator

                                             ICM Annual Report 2006/07

            The Role of the ICM
a. The ICM’s remit includes all cases of the                     recommendations is provided by the ICM
   CRB’s activity, i.e. Registration, Disclosure                 for each case dealt with. This is normally
   and any other relevant activity, but is                       within 10 days but, where this is unlikely to
   restricted to exclude legal issues relating to                be achieved, complainants are provided
   relevant legislation.                                         with regular updates.
b. The ICM’s remit excludes disagreements                    f. The ICM reviews the complaints process
   between Disclosure applicants and third-                      quarterly and produces a short quarterly
   party data-source holders about the                           report for the Chief Executive highlighting
   accuracy of the records disclosed by the                      key themes and trends of complaints.
   CRB. These are referred to as ‘Disputes’ and
                                                             g. The ICM consults the CRB as necessary
   the CRB resolves these through its Disputes
                                                                 when formulating recommendations, so
   procedure. Having said this, outside the
                                                                 as to have regard to the operational,
   content of the Disclosure, any issue
                                                                 contractual and financial consequences
   of maladministration falls within the
                                                                 for the CRB.
   ICM’s remit.
c. The ICM is able to review complaints:
   •   That occur as a result of the CRB’s
   •   Against all CRB staff, except that the role
       is restricted to exclude any disciplinary
       procedures against individuals.
d. The ICM investigates complaints relating
   to mistakes, delays, staff behaviour and
   administrative errors, and provides
   recommendations for the Chief Executive
   to include comments on:
   •   Response standards and targets met.
   •   Recording and monitoring of the
       progress of complaints.
   •   Training and quality of staff involved.
   •   Confidentiality of complaints.
   •   Quality control checks.
   •   Review of complaint systems.
   •   ’Fast track’ investigations.
e. The ICM may decide the method by which
   individual complaints are considered, but
   must ensure that they are dealt with
   expeditiously, confidentially and effectively,
   having regard to the CRB’s published
   service standards. A written briefing giving

                         ICM Annual Report 2006/07


    Categories        2006/07                2005/06     +/–

Delays                   2                           2     –

Police force delays     29                      15       +14

PNC matching
process                  1                           3   – 2

Dissatisfied with
redress                  4                           2   + 2

Service quality          3                           6   – 3

Misinformation           2                           1   + 1

Police matters           3                           2   + 1

Dispute process          3                           4   – 1

Outside remit            –                           –     –

Total                   47                      35       +12

                                                       ICM Annual Report 2006/07

                       Police Force Delays
The majority of the complaints that I have received this                 negotiation continues which is not obvious to the customer.
year have related to delays experienced when Disclosure                  The impact of these delays can be extremely significant to
applications have been held up at police forces. This has                the applicant, resulting in delays in taking up employment
been a major cause of complaint for the last three years,                and, in some cases, the loss of the position. During this year,
and each year personnel at the CRB have reassured me                     the media have highlighted the impact these delays have on
that changes are being made to improve the situation.                    individuals.
The uplift in the overall number of complaints has been
                                                                         In the process of my investigations, I have had a number of
significantly impacted by the increase in complaints from
                                                                         discussions with the Operations Manager throughout the
this area. This year the total of complaints in this category
                                                                         year. It is clear to me that much hard work has been carried
has been the highest for any of the three years. This has
                                                                         out in improving the situation. This work has been
been a particularly difficult area for the CRB to resolve.
                                                                         undertaken both at the Disclosure Units of the forces and
Once the CRB has completed its own checks, which include                 by the Police Liaison Managers (PLMs) at the CRB. This
PNC (Police National Computer) matching, all applications                should be reflected in the decline in complaints to me
for an Enhanced Disclosure have to be sent to other police               of this nature in the year ahead. The nature of my
forces for additional checks. For some applicants, who                   investigations is that they provide a retrospective picture of
move frequently, this can involve checks being carried out               the situation, and are usually six to nine months behind
at a number of different forces. Each force has its own                  current reality.
arrangements for conducting these checks. The CRB
                                                                         It is proposed that ACPO will impose the SLA on those forces
reimburses the forces for the provision of these checks and
                                                                         who have so far declined to sign up to it. This will be helpful
also traditionally has provided support and guidance in
                                                                         to the CRB as it will allow it to expedite aged applications
processing expertise. Features of these checks include:
                                                                         more effectively.
•   Local searches.
                                                                         Other ways in which the CRB has helped the Disclosure Units
•   Additional information.
•   Record amendment.
•   Fingerprinting service.                                              • CRB staff attached to Police Disclosure Units.
                                                                         • Police processing work carried out at the CRB premises
The CRB has established a Service Level Agreement (SLA)
                                                                           using a combination of CRB and police force staff.
with the police, which has been signed by the Association
of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) on behalf of the Disclosure              I was invited to attend the Disclosure Unit Conference in
Unit at each police force. The SLA contains targets for the              March 2007, where I saw at first hand the efforts made to
Disclosure Units and performance against these is published              improve relationships with senior personnel working in the
on the CRB website. This action has had the effect of                    Disclosure Units. Here I was able to see the work carried out
increasing their overall performance levels.                             by CRB management to ensure that staff are kept informed
                                                                         of the CRB’s future developments as well as participating in
However, should the Disclosure Unit at the police force
                                                                         discussions on the operational issues they are working on
experience difficulties, resulting in delays, it has traditionally
                                                                         together. I was pleased to be able to address the conference
been difficult for the CRB to influence the speed at which
                                                                         and discuss with the delegates my investigation findings.
the Disclosure is processed. This has resulted in some major
                                                                         I was impressed with the professionalism and energy I saw.
communication issues and misunderstanding between the
                                                                         It is clear to me that everyone involved in this work has a
CRB and the applicant. From the complainant’s point of
                                                                         great determination to improve the current situation. I will
view, their contract is with the CRB and they frequently
                                                                         continue to monitor the progress of the operation and will
have difficulty understanding the nature of the relationship
                                                                         report next year on the improvements I confidently expect
between the police and the CRB. The majority of the
                                                                         to see.
complaints that I have investigated which fall into this
category have been exacerbated by these
Once the customer recontacts the CRB chasing their
application they can become increasingly frustrated when
they perceive the CRB as being powerless to speed up the
process. This does not reflect the real situation, as much

                                                                                                           CASE STUDY
                            Police Force Delay

Mr A complains that the CRB took an excessive            I found that the Disclosure service is
amount of time to process his application and            conducted by two distinct processes: the
send a Disclosure certificate to him. Mr A wrote         police and the CRB. Each is separately
to the CRB expressing dissatisfaction and                accountable for its part of the process and
requesting redress. Mr A believes that the CRB           for redressing customers who suffer as a
should be held responsible for the delay and             consequence of its maladministration. The
not the police.                                          police checks are outside the direct control
                                                         of the CRB and, as such, the CRB cannot
My investigation found that the CRB took                 influence the length of time they take. I could
25 weeks and 3 days to process Mr A’s                    find no evidence of maladministration on
application, during which time it was with               the CRB’s behalf and therefore the CRB was
Constabulary B for 25 weeks. Mr A was                    precluded from making Mr A an award.
contacting the CRB on a regular basis,
endeavouring to expedite his application. My
investigation found that CRB agents correctly
advised Mr A that his application was at the
police force checking stage.

The CRB has an SLA with the local
Constabularies, which allows the CRB to
contact the relevant force once an application
is 60 days old. I found in Mr A’s case that CRB
agents correctly followed this procedure. The
CRB agents sent emails to Constabulary B to
remind it that Mr A’s application was
outstanding. Once Constabulary B informed
the CRB it had completed its checks, the CRB
issued Disclosure certificates that day.


• The CRB should evaluate the effectiveness of
  the SLA within nine months of introduction to
  all forces.
• The CRB should identify best practice across all
  forces and ensure that it is promulgated via
  the Disclosure Units.
• The CRB should continue to explore the
  possibilities of taking on more of the
  processing work for forces where there are
  specific problems, either long or short term.
• The Operations Manager should provide the
  ICM with regular updates on the progress of
  the work.

                                               ICM Annual Report 2006/07

                Poor Communication
One specific type of complaint that I have                        Customers are led to believe that they will receive the
investigated this year is linked with delays at Police            Disclosure shortly. My investigations have indicated
Disclosure Units. It relates to those Disclosure                  that this is maladministration on the part of the CRB.
applications that have taken a very long time to                  When this happens, I have recommended that the
process. This is referred to as an ‘aged’ application             CRB provides a payment to reflect the consequential
and applies to an application over 60 days old.                   loss of income that has resulted from this element of
                                                                  the delay. When I have made such recommendations
Within the conditions of the SLA, signed by the
                                                                  I am pleased to report that the CRB has always
majority of forces and endorsed by ACPO, the CRB is
able to expedite applications that are over 60 days
old. In practice, this is only done if the applicant              I believe that by working closely with the CRB I will
contacts the CRB to chase the Disclosure application.             be able to assist in achieving the most efficient,
When this happens, the individual is given details of             transparent service for the customers, while helping
the force responsible for the delay. This allows the              the CRB to maximise its effectiveness. This includes
applicant to contact the police force direct to chase             ensuring that any mismanagement of customers’
their own application. Often the police force is                  expectations is minimised.
allowed another 10 days before the applicant is put in
                                                                  Currently, all police forces firmly deny any liability in
contact with them, giving a total of 70 days. It is of
                                                                  terms of redress for loss of earnings due to delay at
concern that only the applications from customers
                                                                  their element of the process, and there is no budget
who directly contact the CRB are chased.
                                                                  within their funding to cover such costs. The result
This process, which is incorporated in the SLA, can               being that there is no direct financial penalty to
frequently lead to significant misunderstandings with             forces that do not give this the necessary priority
applicants. When applicants telephone the CRB                     and they are not directly accountable for the
requesting information on the progress of their                   consequential delays. This can make the work of
application, they are initially told that the application         the CRB Management Team difficult.
is with the local police. This can give the customer the
                                                                  This situation could be eased by some changes, which
impression that the application is held up at the
                                                                  I will incorporate in my recommendations. I would
police force nearest to their home. This is not always
                                                                  urge the relevant parties to resolve these matters
the case as the application may be being processed at
                                                                  as soon as possible. While there has been very
a force in whose jurisdiction the applicant has lived
                                                                  significant improvement to all elements of the
during the previous five years. On occasions, this
                                                                  service, it is essential that these problems are
has resulted in an applicant visiting their local police
                                                                  removed prior to the uplift of work anticipated
station requesting their completed Disclosure.
                                                                  with the introduction of the VBS.
Personnel in the CRB call centre have been made
aware of these anomalies, and attempt to explain
the situation accurately, without giving out any
information which is outside their remit.
When an applicant continues to contact the call
centre they are referred to Agency personnel who,
as Crown employees, have a wider range of
responsibilities and are able to provide the caller with
more information. The team handling such queries
is referred to as the Escalation Team, a name that
contributes to some further confusion. While giving
the caller a more accurate picture of the process, in
practice they do not actually escalate the application
but merely remind the force that this application is
still outstanding. The use of the term ‘Escalation’ can
result in the applicant believing that their application
is being processed more quickly than it actually is.
This leads to a mismanagement of customers’
expectations, which can have very negative results.

                                        ICM Annual Report 2006/07

                                                                                                           CASE STUDY
                      Poor Communication

Mr C complains about the length of time the             The Disclosure service is conducted by two
CRB took to process a Disclosure certificate.           distinct processes: the police and the CRB.
Mr C claims the CRB failed to provide a                 Each is separately accountable for its part of
satisfactory response for the delay. Mr C               the process and for redressing customers
claims he was prevented from commencing                 who suffer as a consequence of its
employment in a profession he worked hard               maladministration. Consequently, when either
to attain.                                              organisation maladministratively falls outside
                                                        the target delivery times, it is liable to award
My investigation found that the CRB took                redress payments to place customers in the
16 weeks to process a Disclosure certificate            position they should have been in but for
to Mr C. Constabulary D took 15 weeks to                the delay.
conduct its checks and Constabulary E took
four weeks and five days. Mr C telephoned the           There are occasions where it is difficult to
CRB regularly regarding the progress of his             attribute fault. When, for example, the CRB
application. I found that CRB agents misled Mr          misleads the customer about its ability to
C by advising him that his application would be         expedite delayed applications, falsely building
referred to the CRB Escalation Team.                    the customer’s expectation that the police are
                                                        on the point of providing the CRB with the
My investigation revealed that the CRB                  requisite information. Here the CRB will
mismanaged Mr C’s expectation, leading him              address the maladministration in the round
to believe that he would receive a Disclosure           and award the appropriate consolatory award
certificate much sooner than he actually did.           for lost opportunity to earn.


• All Disclosure applications that are at police
  forces for more than 60 days should be
• The issue of financial redress when there has
  been significant delay at police forces should
  be resolved as soon as possible.
• The possibility of the allocation of a budget
  for redress to the police forces should be
• Police forces that continue to delay the
  issue of Disclosure documents should be
  considered for financial penalties.
• Scripts used in the call centre should be
  reviewed to ensure that customers’
  expectations are accurate in relation to
  referral to the Escalation Team.
• Efforts to manage the expectations of
  customers who have contacted the
  Escalation Team should be made.

                                                   ICM Annual Report 2006/07

One area that continues to cause concern to CRB                      I am conscious that these decisions are complex, balancing
customers relates to the provision of information when the           the protection of children and vulnerable adults against the
Disclosure application does not progress smoothly. This can          rights and needs of the individual applicant. Personnel who
occur for a number of reasons. Some of them, as already              are asked to communicate these types of decisions require
described, can relate to delays in the processing. Others can        guidance in doing so. The provision of scripts that mirror
be due to complex personal histories captured on the                 the policy statements made to the media should be made
Disclosure application forms. The nature of this work will           available to all personnel involved in this work, whether
frequently require the issuing of a current Disclosure for           working for Capita or for the Agency.
each new post.
                                                                     When applicants experience delays, either during the
Another situation that can result in the provision of                original Disclosure issue or during the Disputes process, the
misinformation is when an applicant disputes data shown              reasons for the delay should be conveyed to them as clearly
on the Disclosure. The CRB has a specific procedure to               as possible. This is again sometimes difficult as the reasons
handle such situations which are dealt with by the Disputes          for the delay may be complex and it can be difficult to
Team. My remit does not allow me to investigate any                  explain the situation to the customer’s satisfaction. The
decisions taken as a result of a disputed Disclosure.                customer may often question the processes without really
However, I am able to investigate the process by which the           understanding what is occurring. The staff member can be
Dispute is handled, in order to ascertain whether any                left justifying a course of action about which they have only
maladministration has occurred.                                      limited knowledge. The need for support in these situations
                                                                     is obvious.
All of these situations require the applicant to be in contact
with personnel within the CRB, either Capita or Agency               In previous reports, I have recommended specific advanced
staff. Generally the more complex information provision is           customer care and complaint training, which includes some
made by Agency staff. When these situations occur they are           conflict resolution for all staff involved in such work. This
a source of major concern and anxiety to the applicant. The          should be comprehensive and should include relevant
delay in the issue of the Disclosure can result in a delay in        personnel from both Capita and the Agency. It is a matter
starting a job and in some cases the loss of a specific              of concern that this training has not been undertaken.
position with the resultant loss of income.                          While there is much improvement in the quality of the
                                                                     information provided by the call centre staff in particular,
I have investigated complaints during this year where the
                                                                     it is clear from my investigations that they require further
provision of information to the applicant who is chasing up
                                                                     training when dealing with these more complex issues. The
the Disclosure has been less than effective. In particular,
                                                                     need for such training is also evident in certain Agency staff.
there has been confusion in the explanation provided
                                                                     Given the increased workload anticipated in the next few
relating to policy decisions made by the CRB. One common
                                                                     years, and the increasingly complex decisions staff will be
requirement of all complainants is an explanation why a
                                                                     expected to explain and justify, I would suggest that
specific situation has occurred. Linked to this is a need to
                                                                     management give this matter the priority that it needs.
understand why certain procedures are required. Any
confusion relating to the reasons for a decision only                Similar misinformation can occur when the CRB
exacerbates the sense of inefficiency and frustration that           corresponds with applicants. I am aware that a review of
the customer can experience.                                         correspondence relating to Disputes has taken place in the
                                                                     past year but my investigations indicate that this needs to
One area where there have been changes in policy relates
                                                                     be kept under review. It can be difficult to provide accurate
to the portability of a Disclosure. The CRB no longer
                                                                     and meaningful explanations to customers when the
facilitates the portability of Disclosures between positions,
                                                                     matters being dealt with are complex and ever changing.
due to the risks involved. The individual’s criminal record or
                                                                     A further review of all customer correspondence would
other relevant information could have changed since the
                                                                     be beneficial shortly, prior to the introduction of the new
issue of the original Disclosure. It has been decided that
                                                                     arrangements within the CRB.
using a previously issued Disclosure check does not
constitute a fresh CRB check. This particular difficulty will
be resolved with the introduction of the VBS but until then
it is a complex policy decision to convey to customers. In
particular, it can be difficult to explain this policy without
giving the customer the impression that their reputation
is under question.

                                         ICM Annual Report 2006/07

                                                                                                             CASE STUDY

Dr B complains that, as a locum doctor, she              The CRB no longer facilitates the portability
should be able to use one Disclosure certificate         of Disclosures, due to the risks involved. The
issued to any address. She believes the                  person’s criminal record or other relevant
cessation of portability has affected her right          information may have changed since the issue
to seek employment and is a means for the                of the Disclosure. Using a previously issued
CRB to raise funds. Dr B believes that the CRB           Disclosure does not constitute a fresh CRB
should keep records of Disclosures to avoid the          check. I found that this was not explained to
police carrying out unnecessary checks on                Dr B in the responses the CRB sent.
addresses that have already been investigated.
Dr B believes that if the CRB does not issue a           My investigation revealed that the reason the
Disclosure within the four-week target, the fee          number of Constabularies checking Dr B’s
should be reimbursed.                                    details increased was due to police forces
                                                         returning information to the CRB seeking
Dr B claims that during her communications               clarification. This is known as a conflict. Where
with the CRB she has been given contradictory            a conflict arises, the CRB returns information
information relating to reasons why the delays           to all the police forces involved. I found
have occurred and how many police forces her             that when Dr B queried the contradictory
applications were currently with.                        information relating to the number of
                                                         outstanding Constabularies, the CRB failed
I found that Dr B completed two Disclosure               to provide an explanation.
application forms differently. During the five-
year period relevant to her application she              To conclude, my investigation identified areas
lived at 47 addresses. This unusual pattern              of maladministration and Dr B was referred
of residence caused the CRB to require                   to the Maladministration Team to assess an
Disclosure checks from 20 police forces.                 appropriate payment.
The CRB did not explain this to Dr B clearly,
nor that, in these exceptional circumstances,
it would take longer than four weeks to
process the application.


• All staff who are involved in direct contact           • Where possible, all customers who have a
  with potentially dissatisfied customers should           Dispute with the CRB are given regular
  be given advanced customer care training                 detailed updates regarding the status of
  which includes some conflict resolution.                 their application.
• Staff working in the call centre should be             • Regular reviews of customer correspondence
  given detailed scripts to use when required              should be undertaken within the CRB.
  to provide complicated explanations to
• These scripts should reflect closely the
  content of any relevant media statements.

                                                       ICM Annual Report 2006/07

                       Dissatisfaction with
A number of complaints that I investigate relate to the                From investigation I am happy with the amount of these
provision of redress. The CRB processes many millions of               payments. They fall within Treasury guidelines and closely
Disclosure applications annually and the majority of these             reflect payments made by similar organisations. It is
are delivered without any problems. However, when things               necessary to manage customers’ expectations regarding
go wrong, for whatever reason, the impact on the applicant             these awards and, wherever possible, ensure maximum
can be extremely upsetting. It can lead to delays in taking            transparency and objectivity. It is also necessary to keep the
up employment or the loss of a specific position resulting             level of these payments under review.
in reduction or loss of income.
                                                                       More complex problems arise when there is an element
The CRB has a Redress scheme to handle these situations.               of loss of earnings involved. Again customers can have
The scheme has been adopted, in line with Treasury                     unrealistic expectations regarding the amount they might
guidelines, to reflect the impact on the customer and                  be awarded. An award will only be made if:
to minimise the cost to the public purse. Awards are
                                                                       • It is clear that the loss of earnings is due directly to
categorised into two separate areas:
                                                                         maladministration on the part of the CRB.
• Consolatory loss awards – aimed to reflect a gesture                 • This loss has not been mitigated by other earnings
  of goodwill on behalf of the CRB. These payments are                   received from work where a Disclosure is not necessary.
  generally modest and are not related to any possible                 • The customer has not contributed to the loss by poor
  loss of earnings. They reinforce the CRB’s apology.                    or inaccurate completion of the Disclosure application.
• Consequential loss awards – these payments are                       • Documentary evidence can be supplied to support
  made when the CRB has been clear that its actions have                 the claim.
  directly led to a loss of earnings for the applicant. These
                                                                       Unless all the relevant criteria are met, the Maladministration
  payments will always need to be supported by
                                                                       Team will not be able to make an award. This needs to be
  documentary evidence.
                                                                       explained to applicants as part of the complaints procedure.
Problems can occur when the applicant is unhappy with the              Better management of customers’ expectations could
level of redress awarded. When I have investigated such                reduce the level of complaints in this area.
complaints, my findings frequently relate to unrealistic
                                                                       Another factor that would reduce such complaints would
expectations on the part of the customer.
                                                                       be the publication of the calculations behind each award.
The CRB will only make an award if there is evidence of                This would be helpful in terms of transparency and would
maladministration during the processing of a Disclosure                also provide an audit trail if required. This change might
application. This is not always clear to the customer. Delays          necessitate a review of the awarding mechanism within
can occur for a number of reasons. They are sometimes                  the Maladministration Team. This could be helpful both in
caused by inaccurate information provided by the applicant             enhancing the skills of the team and ensuring that each
on the original Disclosure application. They can also be due           award is made to the same strict, objective criteria.
to errors at the RB checking process, although this happens
                                                                       My investigations have reassured me that the majority of
less frequently. It is only when the delay has been caused by
                                                                       redress awards are appropriate and accurately reflect the
maladministration at the CRB that an award is made. The
                                                                       responsibility of the CRB. My findings have indicated that
nature of the award depends on a number of factors.
                                                                       most dissatisfaction is due to poor customer expectations
Claims for redress are investigated by the Maladministration           and a certain lack of transparency in the calculation of the
Team. They investigate the complaint for areas of                      awards. The recommendations that I am making will not,
maladministration and make awards when appropriate.                    I believe, substantially alter the amount of awards but
These awards are based on an objective scoring system                  may bring some clarity which will be helpful in reassuring
which reflects all the elements of the complaint and any               customers.
responsibility on the part of the organisation.
The majority of awards will fall into the consolatory
category, where a financial award is made as a gesture of
goodwill on the part of the CRB. This is usually to reflect any
inconvenience or distress caused by the maladministration.
By their nature, these awards are often modest and can
sometimes be seen by the customer as inadequate. This,
I believe, is because the nature of the award is not clear
to the customer.
                                          ICM Annual Report 2006/07

                                                                                                             CASE STUDY
               Dissatisfaction with Redress

Ms D complains that she remains dissatisfied              Ms D wrote a further complaint detailing the
with the service she has received from the CRB.           inaccuracies in the service she had received –
Ms D has written to the CRB expressing her                an incorrect letter and information sent to the
displeasure. The CRB has made three awards to             wrong address. In light of this, Ms D asked the
reinforce the sincerity of their apology. Ms D            CRB to review the award made.
believes the amount to be inadequate.
                                                          The Maladministration Team wrote to Ms D for
My investigation found the handling of Ms D’s             evidence to assess a claim for loss of earnings.
application to be poor. The CRB agents initially          The CRB apologised for the errors and made a
delayed the application by writing to the RB              further consequential award. This award was
twice requesting the same information. I found            miscalculated and Ms D wrote to query the
that the CRB redressed Ms D sufficiently for this.        amount. I found Ms D’s complaint was escalated
However, correspondence from the CRB’s                    to the Maladministration Team Manager
Maladministration Team was erroneous and                  to review. Ms D was awarded a further
somewhat misleading.                                      consolatory award.

I found that once Ms D received a Disclosure              Following my investigation, I recommended
certificate she wrote to the CRB expressing her           that the CRB should apologise for the
displeasure. The CRB agent who acknowledged               subsequent poor communication and Ms D
the complaint made reference to her daughter.             should receive a further consolatory payment
Ms D does not have a daughter. The CRB                    to represent a substantial token of the
investigated the complaint and awarded                    CRB’s regret.
Ms D an ex gratia consolatory payment.
Unfortunately, the CRB’s apology and cheque
were sent to the wrong address.


• The current scoring system for consolatory
  awards should be reviewed. All relevant staff
  involved should be updated on the new
• Comparisons with other schemes should
  continue and, where appropriate,
  amendments should be made.
• Complaints procedure documentation
  should clearly explain the nature and
  potential scope of awards.
• Acknowledgement correspondence from
  the Maladministration Team should explain
  the type and scope of any possible awards.
• Detailed calculations of the consolatory
  award should be attached to relevant

                                         ICM Annual Report 2006/07

This year has been another good year for the             I have already commented on the changes in
CRB. The volume of Disclosures issued has                the years ahead for the CRB and the challenges
again increased and many of the problems                 that they will present. It is of some concern to
experienced in the early years have been                 me that the work undertaken by the Customer
resolved. This improvement has been reflected            Care Group, which focused on strategic
in the type of complaints that I have been               customer service delivery, has been superseded
asked to investigate. Where I have identified            by the preparation for these new operations. I
areas that need change and improvement                   was a member of this group and was impressed
within the CRB, the response has mostly been             with the vision that was being developed. I was
positive and effective.                                  confident that this work would have resulted
                                                         in great improvements to the level of service
The significantly higher number of complaints            provided to all the CRB’s customers. I would
that I have investigated this year is directly           hope that the best of this work can be
related to one area of major concern, the delays         incorporated into the preparatory work for
generated at the police forces. This has been a          the introduction of the VBS.
topic of concern to me for three years and it
has been worrying that the same type of                  I do not underestimate the impact of the
complaint arises again and again. I have                 changes ahead. The increased volume of
continued to raise this in my Annual Report and          Disclosure applications generated by the
have had a number of conversations with                  introduction of the VBS, together with the
management on this subject. I had expressed              introduction of e-services, will cause very real
the view that, despite very sincere concern, very        pressures on the system and the staff. It is likely
little positive change had occurred.                     that they will also have impact on a wider
                                                         customer base than previously. It is important
This year, however, I am greatly reassured that          that all the benefits gained on customer service
real progress has been made. The introduction            in the last few years are maintained.
of published SLAs supported by ACPO across
forces has shown improvement and I am                    I look forward to working with management in
confident that, when all forces are subject to           the year ahead to meet the challenges and to
this SLA, the level of improvement will continue.        ensure that the customers of the CRB get the
The publication of performance tables on the             very best service. I have every confidence that
CRB website will also raise awareness of the             it can be delivered.
issue and will help manage customers’
expectations. I would like to compliment the
CRB management for the hard work they have
undertaken and encourage them to remain
vigilant in their efforts to maintain

                                          ICM Annual Report 2006/07

      Key Recommendations
• The CRB should evaluate the effectiveness of            • All staff who are involved in direct contact
  the SLA within nine months of introduction                with potentially dissatisfied customers
  to all forces.                                            should be given advanced customer care
                                                            training which includes some conflict
• The CRB should identify best practice across
  all forces and ensure that it is promulgated
  via the Disclosure Units.                               • Staff working in the call centre should be
                                                            given detailed scripts to use when required
• The CRB should continue to explore the
                                                            to provide complicated explanations to
  possibilities of taking on more of the
  processing work for forces where there are
  specific problems, either long or short term.           • These scripts should reflect closely the
                                                            content of any relevant media statements.
• The Operations Manager should provide the
  ICM with regular updates on the progress of             • Where possible, all customers who have a
  the work.                                                 dispute with the CRB are given regular
                                                            detailed updates regarding the status of
• All Disclosure applications that are at police
                                                            their application.
  forces for more than 60 days should be
  expedited.                                              • Regular reviews of customer
                                                            correspondence should be undertaken
• The issue of financial redress when there has
                                                            within the CRB.
  been significant delay at police forces should
  be resolved as soon as possible.                        • The current scoring system for consolatory
                                                            awards should be reviewed. All relevant staff
• The possibility of the allocation of a budget
                                                            involved should be updated on the new
  for redress to the police forces should be
                                                          • Comparisons with other schemes should
• Police forces that continue to delay the
                                                            continue and, where appropriate,
  issue of Disclosures should be considered
                                                            amendments should be made.
  for financial penalties.
                                                          • Complaints procedure documentation
• Scripts used in the call centre should be
                                                            should clearly explain the nature and
  reviewed to ensure that customers’
                                                            potential scope of awards.
  expectations are accurate in relation to
  referral to the Escalation Team.                        • Acknowledgement correspondence from
                                                            the Maladministration Team should explain
• Efforts to manage the expectations of
                                                            the type and scope of any possible awards.
  customers who have contacted the
  Escalation Team should be made.                         • Detailed calculations of the award should be
                                                            attached to relevant correspondence.

                                      ICM Annual Report 2006/07

                           Appendix I
                 Key Recommendations 2005/06

Recommendation                                         Action taken by the CRB

1. The CRB should enforce the new SLA                  The SLA has been signed by 21 forces. All
   rigorously across all forces once the               forces are measured against it and reports
   agreements have been signed.                        against all (measurable) targets are distributed
                                                       to forces, ACPO and CRB senior management.
                                                       The recent revised SLA should be more readily
                                                       accepted. This revision will take on board the
                                                       issues raised by forces. Future amendments
                                                       should ensure that all forces sign up to the
                                                       new CRB/ACPO SLA.

2. The CRB should evaluate the effectiveness           The SLA has brought increased focus from
   of the SLA within nine months of                    forces on their own performance levels and
   introduction.                                       provided them with the ability to assess the
                                                       effectiveness of measures that have been
                                                       implemented. The SLA has provided the CRB
                                                       with the opportunity to be judged against the
                                                       promises and commitments that it set out.
                                                       Having now evidenced that the CRB has used
                                                       the SLA as a tool for improvement – used fairly,
                                                       evenly and consistently, with the CRB meeting
                                                       its commitment to supporting forces. The CRB
                                                       is enjoying the benefits of improved relations
                                                       with forces and ACPO as well as improved

3. The CRB should publish police force                 The CRB began publishing force performance
   Disclosure Unit performance tables, after           figures on the CRB website in October 2006.
   the SLA has been in operation for one year.         Force reaction has, understandably, been
                                                       mixed. In publishing so early, we may have
                                                       caused ourselves/forces some avoidable
                                                       negative focus – we are now seeing significant
                                                       improvements at forces, thanks to the SLA,
                                                       Triage and other capacity-building initiatives,
                                                       yet the published tables have yet to catch up
                                                       (due to timing issues).

4. The CRB should identify best practice across        Ongoing – PLMs continue to identify good
   all police forces that have signed the SLA,         practices within their forces. The PLM structure
   and disseminate across all police forces.           is amended to share experiences across
                                                       different regions. The roll-out of the Quality
                                                       Assurance Framework (QAF) will further
                                                       enhance the sharing of best practice.

5. The CRB management should provide the               Monthly updates will be provided via this
   ICM Team with regular updates on the                template with quarterly and ad hoc meetings
   progress of implementation.                         as required.

                                       ICM Annual Report 2006/07

Appendix I (continued)

Recommendation                                         Action taken by the CRB

6. The CRB should develop a process that               There is a Dispute referral form which is in
   allows personnel to identify and distinguish        operation at the moment. The procedure is to
   repeated applications of customers who              be reviewed and an update will be provided.
   have already been disassociated from the
   record, following a Dispute.

7. The CRB management should arrange a                 Following the split between identity and
   review of all correspondence associated             accuracy Disputes, we will take this forward
   with disputed Disclosures, ensuring that            with a Joint Working Party between the
   the letters contain an explanation for the          Combined Investigations Unit (CIU) and
   necessity of the Disputes process.                  Production staff to review and agree uniform
                                                       text and explanations.

8. Customers who have disputed information             On data quality Disputes – clearance rates are
   held on their Disclosure should be provided         90% resolved within three days, 100% within
   with an explanation of what is happening at         five days. Amending the process would not
   each stage of the process.                          add any benefit to our customers.

9. All staff involved in a Dispute resolution          CIU Disputes staff are currently being trained
   should be given specific additional advanced        in all aspects of investigations, including
   customer service training.                          managing customer expectations.

                                                       All data quality Disputes staff have received
                                                       training in advanced telephone skills. All staff
                                                       receive a two-week, on-the-job training brief
                                                       via their line manager. No further training
                                                       planned. The ICM has been invited to sit in
                                                       with the team manager to reflect on the level
                                                       of competency.

10. The CRB management should conduct an               The Production Assurance Manager is now in
    in-depth review of PNC matching to gauge           post, and reports on errors and trends. The
    progress, and identify any emerging                ICM met with the Production Assurance
    trends.                                            Manager to discuss errors and trends.

11. Management should provide the ICM Team             The process has been agreed with the ICM. The
    with detailed information on the progress          Management Checking Unit (MCU) will send the
    of the new quality assurance system.               ICM quarterly updates and will meet on a
                                                       regular basis to discuss changes to the quality
                                                       assurance system.

                                    ICM Annual Report 2006/07

Appendix I (continued)

Recommendation                                      Action taken by the CRB

12. The CRB management should review the            Capita have confirmed that the new training
    effectiveness of customer care training         package has been rolled out to all customer
    within the call centre.                         care staff. Performance continues to be
                                                    monitored on a monthly basis to review the
                                                    effectiveness of the training. The terms of
                                                    reference of the Customer Care Group are to
                                                    be revisited to strengthen our processes and
                                                    procedures in this area. Capita will liaise with
                                                    the ICM on an ongoing basis and can make the
                                                    training material available for review on request.

13. The ICM and her team should continue to         The ICM has a standing invitation to the
    be involved in the Customer Care Group.         Customer Care Group.

14. CRB management should make provision            The CRB is in the process of reviewing the role
    for the continuation of the ICM scheme          and continuation of the scheme.
    beyond 2007.

                                         ICM Annual Report 2006/07

                            Appendix II
                         Complaint Handling at the
                         Criminal Records Bureau

1. Complaint handling process                            2.3 Third stage
1.1 In the first instance, wherever possible, the        • On escalation from the Director of Service
CRB endeavours to resolve any complaint at                 Delivery to the CRB’s Chief Executive.
the point the customer makes it. The CRB aims
to resolve all complaints to ‘the satisfaction of        2.4 Fourth stage
the customer’. Where customers remain                    • On escalation by customers to the ICM.
dissatisfied with the resolution proposed by             • On escalation by the Chief Executive’s Office
the CRB, they may ask the ICM to investigate               to the ICM.
them. She will resolve these complaints to
her satisfaction.                                        • The ICM may investigate any matter that is
                                                           brought to her attention. However, she will
1.2 Over and above this process is the PHSO                normally defer investigations where the
whose decision on satisfactory resolution                  Chief Executive’s Office has yet to have the
overrides both the customer and the ICM.                   opportunity to investigate complaints.
Customers can raise an issue to the PHSO at
any stage in the process through their MP.               3. CRB-specific responsibilities
                                                         3.1 The CRB is responsible for dealing with the
1.3 These escalation and entry points are not            following complaints, which should be passed
sequential; up to and including the ICM, the             to the relevant CRB team:
decision to invoke entry lies with the customer.
                                                         • Those addressed to the CRB’s Chief
2. Complaint entry and
   resolution points                                     • Those received from an MP (unless it would
2.1 First stage                                            be more suitable for Capita to reply, e.g. if a
                                                           question was asked regarding Capita’s
• A complaint may be received by any person
                                                           recruitment policies).
  at any point within the CRB. This can be to
  the Director of Service Delivery or the Chief          • Ministerial or other similar cases (e.g. referred
  Executive’s Office. In most instances, the               from HM Private Office).
  customer will raise their initial complaint to
                                                         • PHSO complaints or investigations.
  the call centre or to the CRB Customer
  Services Manager. Within this stage, it is             • Compensation elements of complaints (i.e.
  expected that if an agent is unable to resolve           Capita answers the complaint then refers it
  the issues raised, the complaint should be               to the Agency).
  referred through the normal chain of
  command (i.e. Team Leader/Co-ordinator/
  Head of Section, etc.) before being escalated
  to the next stage.

2.2 Second stage
• On escalation from CRB operations (both
  private and public partner) to the CRB
  Director of Service Delivery.

                                         ICM Annual Report 2006/07

                          Appendix III
                                     The ICM Team

Ros Gardner                                              Hugh Batterbury
Independent Complaints Mediator                          Operations Manager to the ICM

                            Graduating from                                           A commercial and
                            Southampton                                               contract specialist
                            University, Ros                                           in the private
                            joined a major                                            sector, Hugh’s
                            retailer, undertaking                                     public service
                            a variety of                                              career has involved
                            appointments                                              investigation.
                            divisionally and at                                       Following a 12-year
                            Head Office. Ros                                          break in commerce
now runs her own successful consultancy,                 and the legal profession, Hugh returned to
specialising in Customer Care Excellence and             the Civil Service in 1997. He heads the CRB
Complaint Handling. Working with a wide                  Combined Investigation Unit, which looks into
range of clients, she continues to help                  maladministration, redress, disputed identity
businesses exploit the opportunities that                and malpractice. In addition, Hugh occupies
customer care provides.                                  the part-time role of Operations Manager to
                                                         the ICM.
As a professional keynote speaker on the
subject of Customer Care Excellence, Ros has             Pamela Lucas
spoken widely at conferences in Europe.                  Investigation Officer
As a writer for a number of professional and
business publications, Ros continues to make                                        Pamela has over
her message known – ‘Investment in                                                  11 years’
Customer Care Excellence will positively                                            experience in
impact the balance sheet of any business’.                                          complaint handling.
                                                                                    She successfully
Ros is a past President of the Society of                                           worked at the
Consumer Affairs Professionals and a member                                         United Kingdom
of the National Speakers Association (USA). She                                     Passport Service
is also a Founder Director of The Professional                                       for 12 years
Speakers Association in the UK, and a member             before joining the CRB in March 2001. Pamela
of the National Federation of Consumer Groups.           currently investigates complaints that have
She is also a member of the School Teachers              been escalated to the ICM or the PHSO. Pamela
Review Body, Human Genetic Commission and                represents the CRB at the British and Irish
the Nursing and Midwifery Council.                       Ombudsmen’s Association.

Independent Complaints Mediator
PO Box 5454
Newton Longville
Milton Keynes
MK17 0XN

                                        ICM Annual Report 2006/07

                         Appendix IV

ACPO       Association of Chief Police Officers

CIU        Combined Investigations Unit

CRB        Criminal Records Bureau

e-services Electronic Services

ICM        Independent Complaints Mediator

MCU        Management Checking Unit

PHSO       Parliamentary and Health Service

PLM        Police Liaison Manager

PNC        Police National Computer

QAF        Quality Assurance Framework

RB         Registered Body

SLA        Service Level Agreement

VBS        Vetting and Barring Scheme
Further copies of this publication can be obtained from:
Internal Communications Team
Criminal Records Bureau
PO Box 110
Liverpool L69 3EF
Telephone: 0870 90 90 811
ISBN: 978-1-84726-322-3
Printed in the UK on paper comprising no less than 75% recycled fibre.

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