Independent Complaints Mediator Annual Report 2006/07 Contents 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 Foreword 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. 1 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 2 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 activities. • 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 3 ICM Annual Report 2006/07 Statistics 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 4 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. include: • 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 misunderstandings. 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 5 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. Recommendations • 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. 6 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 responded. 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. 7 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. Recommendations • All Disclosure applications that are at police forces for more than 60 days should be expedited. • 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 investigated. • 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. 8 ICM Annual Report 2006/07 Misinformation 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. 9 ICM Annual Report 2006/07 CASE STUDY Misinformation 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. Recommendations • 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 customers. • These scripts should reflect closely the content of any relevant media statements. 10 ICM Annual Report 2006/07 Dissatisfaction with Redress 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. 11 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. Recommendations • The current scoring system for consolatory awards should be reviewed. All relevant staff involved should be updated on the new processes. • 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 correspondence. 12 ICM Annual Report 2006/07 Conclusion 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 improvement. 13 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 resolution. 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 customers. 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 processes. investigated. • 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. 14 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 performance. 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. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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 Executive. 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. 18 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 19 ICM Annual Report 2006/07 Appendix IV Glossary 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 Ombudsman 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 www.crb.gov.uk ISBN: 978-1-84726-322-3 Printed in the UK on paper comprising no less than 75% recycled fibre.