Liberal Democrat councillors have expressed the most severe concerns at the lack of Criminal Record Bureau checks for volunteers for the Lighting Up Brentwood event on 2nd December.
The Lib Dems voted against the event's move to a Thursday evening because of health & safety concerns but this new information, which came to light when Cllr Karen Chilvers questioned the administration at Audit Committee on Tuesday, is a major concern for child protection and cannot be ignored.
Home Office Criminal Record Bureau checks reveal criminal activities or convictions in someone's history and aim to help protect children (and vulnerable adults) when organisations are recruiting people into positions of trust. They should be carried out for anyone who may come into contact with children prior to commencing working or volunteering for the organisation and take some weeks to process.
Following the meeting, Cllr Chilvers said:
"I express my concern over this matter in the strongest of terms, both as an elected councillor representing hundreds of Brentwood families and as the auntie of a three year old boy.
"The answer given was that "most" volunteers have CRBs in place already, but not everyone. Parents should have confidence that, for a council-run event, adequate checks have been put in place and every measure has been taken to prevent an unfortunate incident occurring. Although a Tory councillor who is volunteering tried to allay fears by saying that she would not be in a position on the night to warrant a CRB check, this is not a protocol that you can half-heartedly apply. Everyone must have a valid and current check in place if there is any chance they should come into contact with children and this is a family event.
"Conservative councillors have appealed, both in the local press, radio and on the internet, for volunteers for the event, therefore potentially attracting anyone to such a role. Even if a volunteer is not technically in a position dealing with children, if they are in a yellow jacket and acting as an official then it is more than plausible that a lone child could wander up to them as they are a person in authority who, in their eyes, surely would be seen as a safe person to go to.
"CRB checks are also in place to protect the employee/volunteer too and they could be putting themselves in a vulnerable position of facing an accusation.
"This is a demonstration of very poor planning."
Documents also revealed that there is no one person in overall control of the event and that the council does not have a qualified or trained events organiser.