Warning over delays to upgrading 17-year-old criminal records checking scheme

An official criminal records checking scheme is relying on a 17-year-old system after a modernisation drive was hit by delays, according to a Commons report.

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has decided to continue using an “ageing platform” dating back to 2002, MPs said.

Last year the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warned that a project to modernise the DBS was running more than four years late and £229 million over budget.

Publishing an updated assessment, the PAC said the programme was still not fully delivered.

Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said: “The DBS programme continues to be a cause for concern.

“Already over-budget when we last reported in May 2018, it continues to run up costs.

“The Home Office is ultimately responsible for the DBS but it does not seem to have a clear vision for how to secure improvements to a system that is cumbersome for users and integral to providing the public with reassurance.”

Established in 2012, the DBS accesses data held on police databases to help organisations make recruitment decisions.

It is widely used in the public, private and voluntary sector, such as by schools and care homes, to check prospective staff and volunteers.

In 2018/19, the service processed nearly six million disclosure certificates.

The DBS has abandoned plans to modernise its disclosure certificates service, according to the committee’s report.

It said: “Now, it will be forced to use existing infrastructure to issue disclosures certificates, which means relying on a 17-year old system and shouldering all the associated risks of supporting and maintaining ageing infrastructure.”

The PAC noted that the system continues to run reliably.

But it expressed concern that “having made a business case to modernise its systems architecture at great cost and with long delays, the DBS has now decided to stay with an ageing platform with the risks of obsolescence and a provider not being able to support the system much longer”.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The DBS’s safeguarding work is of utmost importance in protecting the public and the Home Office is committed to ensuring the regime operates effectively.

“We recognise that there have been delays in some aspects of the delivery and implementation of the modernisation programme.

“We are continuing to work closely with the DBS throughout this period of transformation.

“We will fully consider the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendations and respond formally shortly.”

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