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    Julian Hobson

    As far as the new Desk top RATS are concerned has anyone formed a view on the “Memorandum of Understanding between DWP and Local Authorities” ?

    As usual the document is full of must do’s in order for the LA to sign upto the new RATs. Some of the must do’s are quite scary and for some authorities probably very scary! I would imagine that very few authorities are going to go the suggested lengths for building security if they don’t already do it, but therre are some areas of this document that cause real concern.

    Staff are required to do two things.

    Firstly there is a confidentiality agreement which simply alerts them to the offences they would be committing if they used the RAT or its information for non HB purposes.

    The second is a Character Declaration Form that asks for convictions that are unspent and whether they are an undischarged bankrupt. It is then for the LA to form a view as to whether the member of staff is of good enough character to have RAT access. I can see that this presents all sorts of difficulties:

    1. What do we do if a member of staff is considered of deficient character ?
    2. What do we do if members of staff refuse to declare. What powers of compulsion do we have.
    3. What do we do if a member of staff is convicted of an offence tomorrow that might have been declared if they had had it today.
    4. How long do we hold it for ? What do we do when that period expires, do they have to sign a new one?
    5. What do we do if we already gather or hold this information at recruitment stage.

    and anything else you can think of.

    Any thought or ideas welcome. What happened in the pilots ?


    I had similiar concerns when faced with signing the MOU. I contacted one of the pilots that was a near neighbour. They had been advised that if already asked about convictions on thier job application form, then no need to do it again. This would seem to suggest that once asked no need to review?

    Unfortunatley, our application form does not ask these questions, so I contacted our own HR dept…..no real interest and no intention of changing the form for future applicants.

    I ended up writing to all appropriate staff, and then explaining the reasons for the questions in person. Luckily no one has objected, and nothing apart from your normal speeding ticket has been declared.

    But I agree, if it had, I would now be struggling as to what to do next with the vauge guidance that came with the MOU, the authors of which do still seem to be paranoid about letting go of information.

    Andy Simpson

    Hi Julian, I guess you’ve landed the job of introducing CIS in Kirklees then?

    The blunt truth about the MOU is that you don’t have a choice – it has to be signed or you lose access to the RAT/CIS. I agree that the security arrangements are tight, but not really that disimilar to the hoops you had to pass when you first got the RAT’s.

    The Character Declaration form has got us scratching our heads too (we go live 05/06/06). Presently we don’t do a criminal record check (apart from our fraud staff) so we’ll have to get most people to sign (I’m handing them out tomorrow). I suspect that most people will sign up to it but there are always a few people who will make an issue of it. My thoughts on your questions :-

    1) No idea but (and I guess this is your point) how can you have somebody administering HB who isn’t a fit person to access CIS? I have no idea about employment law – could you dismiss somebody who declared a less than perfect past? What would the union’s say?

    2) I’m not considering compelling anybody. If they don’t sign then no CIS but I wouldn’t take it further. I’m going to assume it’s because they’re bloody minded and not that they are hiding something. They will have to complete a CIS enquiry request and get another member of their team to check it. Not ideal but what else can you do?

    3) What you don’t know about you can’t worry about. If you know of the conviction then make a decision on whether it would affect use of CIS (and I suppose HB. Never occurred here to the best of my knowledge but if a serving member of staff is convicted of fraud or embezzlement would you want to keep them?).

    4) Good question and hadn’t considered it. I think I’m going to treat it as open ended and will keep them on file for as long as they work for us, but I won’t ask for a new one to be filled in after a specific time period.

    5) I think you’re ok. If you do a criminal record check or a similar statement at R&S then you don’t need to get them to sign a declaration (unless you haven’t kept a record/copy of it I suppose).

    Have spoken to Calderdale (one of the pilot’s) although not directly on these issues but they don’t seem to have had a problem with it.

    Julian Hobson

    Glad I’m not the only one to anticipate potential problems.

    Just to add to the debate. The wording of the MOU demonstrates that the section on Criminal record self declarations has been lifted from some recruitment document because it talks about “applicants” and “the nature of the post offered”, it doesn’t give any thought to the very sensitive nature of the request for current employees. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t do it, I just think the MOU is naive and doesn’t go far enough.

    I’ve done a bit of digging around to find out what our LA do at recruitment stage to ensure that we don’t over egg it for current employees.

    If we were recruiting a youth worker we would do a CRB check and have to comply with the Police Act 1997 and the CRB code of practice. That code of practice sets out how the declarations have to be stored and controlled, and the method and timing of destruction. The details must be destroyed after 6 months, but the fact that a check was done and the date of it can be retained for as long as is required.

    It worries me that the very strict code of practice for CRB checks is potentially less burdonsome than this check for CIS access. The MOU should perhaps give LA’s some pointers as to the admin required or demanded by the law.

    I’m still concerned that disclosures by individuals already employed opens them up to all sorts of discrimination which might put LA’s in contravention of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. It is reasonable to refuse employment to offenders in certain circumstances and it’s the potential employers choice. That position changes for current employees where to deny an individual access to the system immediately opens them up to scrutiny from colleagues and might end up with a constructive dismissal case.

    Am I overdoing this or do I have a point !!!!

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