Government considers charging volunteers for criminal records checks

The government is considering charging volunteers to use the portable criminal records checking system, due to come into force in 2013.

Under the system, laid out in the Protection of Freedoms Bill, which is currently before parliament, there would be two types of criminal records check, a one-off check and a portable one based on a continuously updated criminal records database, allowing an individual to work or volunteer for a number of organisations.

The one-off check would remain free for volunteers, however, the government is considering whether volunteers would have to pay a yearly subscription fee to have the portable check. Charities and companies will have to continue to pay for all checks on paid staff under the new system.

The government will decide whether to charge volunteers in about six months' time, when the Bill is expected to become law. If the bill is passed in its current form, each person subject to a criminal records check would be issued with a unique number. Charities and employers that wanted to recruit that person could enter the number on a website, which would then provide any new information placed on the person's record since the original check was carried out.

They would need to ask for a new criminal records check only if the website showed that new information was available. No details of the new information would be available on the website.