‘Fit and proper person certificates’ for volunteers

A Tory MP has tabled a private members’ bill to try to get around volunteers being put off by CRB checks.

Rather than ask for CRBs, proposes Chris Chope, people should be asked to sign a ‘fit and proper person’ certificate declaring that they have no criminal record and no convictions.

The aim is admirable – to cut bureaucracy and enable people to vouch for themselves and their own trustworthiness.

A few holes in the plan, though. First, obviously, is that lots of people have some kind of criminal record which in no way makes them a risk to children – for example cautions or convictions for petty theft, etc. Surely ex-offenders would not be prevented from volunteering?

Secondly – the fact that trustworthiness takes the form of a ‘certificate’. It seems that there is an inability now to conceive of trust in any way other than through formal bureaucracy. Of course, somebody signs the form on their own say-so – yet because it is a formal proceedure (they have filled in a form and have a ‘certificate’) it is seen as making them safer.

The very real ways in which people establish relationships of trust – being reliable, building relationships, getting references through friends or colleagues – are overriden by the paper form of the ‘certificate’.

No matter – Chris Chope’s plan was given short shrift by ‘civil society minister’ Nick Hurd, who opposed the bill on the basis that civil society’s word could not be trusted: ‘we think a basic level of protection and independent verification of claims is necessary.’

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