Between the Devil and the DBS

Today I am breaking with routine and doing two blogs; this will not be the norm but I didn’t want to do just a ranty blog post and equally, I didn’t want to just let my annoyance slip away.  This week we have seen the end of week 20 of the wait for the, now almost fabled, DBS.  For those that have put up with these rants without really knowing what I was on about, the DBS is the Disclosure and Barring Service check, it replaced the Criminal Records Bureau check in 2012, and is basically a check of a person’s criminal records to make sure they are not unsuitable for the job for which they have applied (applying to jobs working directly with vulnerable groups such as children).

J’s DBS application went in on 4 July 2016.  Still we have heard nothing.  He has escalated this as much as you are able and now we are expected to just wait.  For how long?  We don’t know.

The issue with J’s DBS is he has previously lived in London and so his check is being dealt with by the Metropolitan Police.  He lived in London in his early 20’s, he’s now in his late 30’s.  Since he has lived in London we have adopted two children, during the adoption process we had at least 3 CRB / DBS checks.  He has retrained as a primary school teacher, to do this he had a DBS check in the autumn of 2015.  So over the last five years he has had AT LEAST 4 DBS / CRB checks, one within 12 months of the date his last DBS application went in.  And yet, it takes them (so far) 4.5 months to process this application.  Despite the official website claiming a DBS should take no more than 60 days.

Complain then, you say.  Oh I wish we could, I say.  J complained last week to the Met Police, who sent an automated response saying “We cannot discuss individual cases”….what, even if it’s the individual contacting you???  So NO ONE can tell him where the application is at, if it has even been looked at, if it’s accidentally been shredded and so will never be processed?  What kind of messed up system is this?  Contact the DBS, the Met say, J has contacted the DBS regularly to try and get some information, all they can say is:

“It’s with the Met and they say they’ll deal within 18 weeks”

“But it’s over 18 weeks?”

“We know, sometimes it does take them a bit longer…”

“How much longer?”

“….”

So we’ve contacted our MP.  Nothing as yet.

Gov.UK provides some statistics on DBS performance: in August 2016, 42.79% of work in progress for the Met was over 61 days old, this is actually a reduction from 44.57% in April 2016, in January it was 53.21%.  In fact it hasn’t been below 25% since April 2015.  The target for work this old is 0%.  What is clear when looking at the stats, is also that the Met are by far and away the worst offenders (pun very much intended), surely there should be some way the workload being put on them could be diverted to some of the less stretched forces?

We’re obviously not the only people in this situation, so we’ve done a bit of Googling (answer to everything) and it’s not good news, some people have waited 8 months for their applications to be processed, some people have lost jobs because the checks have taken so long.  I think what is more shocking is that this has been going on for so long, the issue is still not being resolved, and there is a distinct unwillingness to tell people what is happening with their applications.

What makes this more of a joke is, in October this year, the BBC published an article about how more male primary school teachers are needed, and the Department of Education spokesperson responded by saying “Our priority is getting the brightest and the best teachers into our classrooms, including males staff at all levels.  That is why we are spending millions of pounds on recruiting high-quality teachers.” (Classrooms need more male teachers, charity says By Katherine Sellgreen http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37552056). Maybe as well as “spending millions” the Department of Education needs to look at the people who are already qualified but can’t work because of these ridiculous delays.

It has now got to the point where, if the check is not through for the New Year (there is an almost unspoken acceptance of the fact J is unlikely to be able to work before Christmas) then J will have to look for other work and give up on the idea of teaching.  This makes my blood boil.  J gave up a well paid full time job to retrain as a teacher because he felt it was something he could make a difference doing, something he would be good at doing, and be able to have a positive influence on young lives, AND we were constantly hearing about how there was a dire need for male teachers from media outlets.  He paid thousands to do the course, taking on further student debt.  We struggled for a year on my part time wage for him to follow his dream.  We gave everything up and moved to Cumbria, sure he would easily get work as a supply teacher before finding something permanent.  We are now having to use the equity for our previous house, money we had hoped to keep for a deposit for our next house, as a means to live on.  We have been totally and utterly hamstrung by a piece of paper that no one can (or should I say, will) tell us anything about.

The DBS process as it stands is making a mockery of itself through its own ineptitude and utter inefficiency.  The fact that no one can tell us anything about the process is a disgrace.  And the fact that a talented and passionate teacher cannot get work because of that process is a total and utter scandal.

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