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Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) Vetting and Barring Scheme

Any person working with children or vulnerable adults in the UK may be required to undergo a 'CRB check', if their work will involve frequent, intensive, and/or overnight contact with children (under the age of 18) and vulnerable adults (i.e. over 18). This may apply to experiments, fieldwork, or survey research.

The Cambridge student administration office provides information for graduate students whose research will require them to get a CRB check:

The Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) Vetting and Barring Scheme is described on the following page:

Relevant excerpts from (an earlier, more helpful version of) that page are as follows:

Definition of regulated activity: Any activity of a specified nature that involves contact with children or vulnerable adults frequently, intensively and/or overnight. (Such activities include teaching, training, care, supervision, advice, treatment and transportation.)

  • Any activity allowing contact with children or vulnerable adults that is in a specified place frequently or intensively. (Such places include schools and care homes.)
  • Fostering and childcare.
  • Any activity that involves people in certain defined positions of responsibility. (Such positions include school governor, director of children's services and director of adult social services, and trustee of certain charities.)

'Regulated activity' is when the activity is frequent (once a week or more), 'intensive' (takes place on four or more days in a 30-day period) or overnight.

Note also that, over and above legal requirements imposed under this scheme, research with children raises a number of additional issues, as discussed in the Advice Sheet published by the Cambridge Psychology Research Ethics Committee.

If young people are participating in an experiment in the context of work-related learning organised by their school, then the guidance offered by he Department of Children, Schools and Families in the Work Related Learning Guide may be appropriate:

Page 24 of that guide states:

There is no requirement to CRB check all staff who may come into contact with a student on placement. Only a member of staff with day-to-day responsibility for the student or as part of their job description – this could be the manager, a supervisor or a mentoring employee – should be required to have a CRB check.In the vast majority of placements – as the employer/employees involved will not have regular unsupervised access to young people at work – there is no need for CRB checks to take place. Around 550,000 work experience placements take place each year, and we estimate that CRB checks take place for just one per cent of these.

However, CRB checks must be considered in all of the following cases:

1) students identified by the school as vulnerable for educational, medical, behavioural or home circumstance reasons, including those who have special educational needs or are young (aged under 16)

2) students on placements lasting more than 15 days over an extended period, especially where these involve:

  • regular lone working with an employer over long periods (rule of thumb would suggest anything over half a day at a time)
  • placements located in particularly isolated environments with 1:1 working
  • placements involving a high degree of travelling on a 1:1 basis

3) placements which include a residential element.

The fact that a particular placement falls into one of the above categories does not necessarily mean that a CRB check will be required. Such a decision will depend on an assessment of the overall potential risks posed to a young person and will take into account any systems in place to minimise these risks.