DBS Checks - MPS Vacancies

MQT on 2015-09-16
Session date: 
September 16, 2015
Question By: 
Valerie Shawcross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Why have the 20 MPS vacancies for the Disclosure and Barring Service checks not been filled?


Answer for DBS Checks - MPS Vacancies

Answer for DBS Checks - MPS Vacancies

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  This is an issue where our friends who are no longer with us in the audience might well have had grounds to object again.  In this case they would have very considerable reason for complaint.  There is no question that there has been a backlog in the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in the MPS.  There are vacancies of 20 members of staff.  That is unacceptable.  I have had conversations with the Deputy Commissioner, Craig Mackey, about this just in the last couple of days.  He has agreed to move officers to help clear the backlog and get this thing really sorted out.

One of the factors, obviously, is that there has been a massive increase in the number of DBS applications coming forward, notably from private hire vehicles.  You will understand the circumstances of the huge increase in people seeking private hire licences and all the rest of it.  Still, it is no good if you have 20 vacancies in the department.  It should be getting on and sorting it out.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  I am very glad to hear you say that.  We have had some appalling casework of existing drivers who have applied for their renewals in time.  Two of them - that I know of - have been kept out of work for three months.  We have people absolutely at their wits’ end.  It does not just affect taxi drivers and private hire drivers.  I have actually had a reverend vicar whom I know personally in Southwark who has been waiting for 18 weeks and has been unable to serve her community because of this.  I am told there is a backlog of something like 37,000 applications in London.  I am glad you have recognised the seriousness of it.  It would be good if you could give it number-one priority for sorting this out.  People are being impoverished by this. 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Absolutely.  I want you to know I was absolutely shocked when the extent of this was made clear to me.  It is totally unacceptable.  I have asked the MPS to get on.  Personally, I sometimes wonder whether all these DBS checks - with the detail they now have to go through because it has been ramped up - are as necessary as all that.  We live in an age where there is a great deal of apprehension about sex offenders and all the rest of it.  They have to be done and that is the problem.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Mr Mayor, I am not pleading for deregulation.  We are talking about people who have been operational in their professional roles, some of them for a very long time. 

The taxi drivers who were here - and they were not here at our behest; they organised this - had an international day of protest by taxi drivers going on.  One of the things they issued in their press release this morning - which I had this morning - is that they would like to see a resumption of the issuing of temporary licences to existing taxi drivers who are waiting for their DBS check to come through, through no fault of their own.  That used to be the practice within TfL.  They find it, understandably, incredibly unsympathetic of TfL to have taken away that temporary cover facility in a way that causes them problems.  There may be technical issues but it could be something under the current legislation that you could do to ease the situation for people who are literally running into problems.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Frankly, that sounds like an extremely positive idea.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  It was one of their proposals.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I will immediately ask the MPS to see if it can issue temporary DBS licences.  It may be one of those things where TfL needs the MPS to give the go-ahead.  I will have to get onto that straightaway.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  As a temporary measure.  Thank you, Chairman.  Thank you.