Latest Transgender/Sensitive CRB check process

Prior to the election in May 2010, the Home Office had the sensitive applications Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) process on their website. All content was removed after May 5th, and this information was not replaced. I have just had to undergo a CRB check however, so for others the following information may be useful. This is direct from an email exchange with the CRB.

If a Trans person is required to complete a CRB check, CRB offers a confidential checking process in accordance with the Gender Recognition Act 2004. This gives the Trans person the choice as to whether they are content or not for their previous gender to be disclosed on their CRB Certificate.

If an applicant decides they do not wish for their previous identity to be disclosed to their employer and/or on their CRB Certificate, they should call the dedicated team in Customer Services who are experienced in dealing with these types of sensitive cases. A member of this team will advise the applicant about the process and what they will need to do.

If the applicant does not feel comfortable dealing directly with a member of this dedicated Customer Service team, the applicant should contact the team and give details of a nominated person that the CRB can deal with on their behalf. Alternatively, the applicant can contact the team direct by email, post or telephone.

How the process works:
When the applicant calls the team, they are advised that “we do have a confidential checking process in place for applicants who do not wish for their previous name/gender to be disclosed on their CRB Certificate”. They are advised not to enter their previous name(s).in Section 4 where asked have you used any other names tick no part of the CRB application form and then complete the rest of the form as they normally would. Just before or at the same time the application is submitted, the applicant must send, direct to the team, a document that confirms the previous name(s) which they used e.g. Change of Name Deed, Original Birth Certificate. A Gender Recognition Certificate is not required for this process. The applicant should include a short, covering letter that confirms their current name, full address with postcode and a contact telephone number. We have found that some applicants may not have sufficient documentary evidence to support a CRB application. If this is the case, the applicant should contact the team as soon as possible to discuss.

Once this information is received, the application will be monitored everyday until the CRB Certificate is issued. If any queries are raised at any stage of the process, it will be dealt with sensitively by the team. If any further information is required, the applicant (or nominated person) will be contacted by a member of this team.

There’s one final paragraph which I’ll quote separately as it’s quite important: there is no guarantee this process will not out you. Emphasis is mine. I would also add that the CRB have made errors in the past and associated people with the wrong criminal records, so not having a criminal background is no guarantee.

The applicant is always advised when they first call that “if you have a conviction in your previous name/gender, this may show on their CRB Certificate“. If an applicant does have a conviction which may reveal their previous name/gender, it would be useful for the applicant to advise us as soon as possible. An applicant may be able to avoid previous details being disclosed, so advising us sooner rather than later will help speed up the process.

Contact details (Notably also missing from the web site!) are: Sensitive Applications Team, Customer Services, Criminal Records Bureau, PO BOX 165, Liverpool, L69 3JD, phone 0151 676 1452 (Direct line) or email CRBSensitive@crb.gsi.gov.uk.

The CRB were happy to accept a scanned copy of my Deed Poll via EMail rather than needing an original or certified copy via post, but also asked me to confirm my full name, date of birth and current address.

I haven’t had the CRB check back yet (I’m not even sure the form has been sent in by those requesting it) but if they mess this one up, I’ll be sure to let you all know…

LibDem conference accreditation – meeting the FCC

For those not aware, or who are not Liberal Democrat party members, the thorny topic of accreditation (vetting) of LibDem conference attendees has cropped up again. This time round, Federal Conference Committee (FCC) is well aware of the sensitivities and has been asking for views from the wider party on the topic.

I won’t go into the civil liberties issues, as that’s been covered elsewhere. I have however been involved in another aspect of the process, that of accrediting transgender party members and by extension, to some extent also anyone else with an inconsistent or secret previous identity such as victims of domestic violence.

The chair of FCC, Andrew Wiseman, was kind enough to come and visit myself and Sarah Brown in Cambridge in Friday for a chat and to catch up on the current situation as a precursor to us both, along with Adrian Trett (LGBT+LibDems Chair) meeting with full FCC earlier tonight.

Sarah spoke first, and has blogged her take on it after which I filled in a few gaps myself. I mentioned that CRB check rates using the Trans process are half what we would expect, suggesting that Trans folk are put off by CRB-like processes and mentioned that special application processes with organisations like the CRB tend to go wrong. Even for those of us who are out, old names are like knowing the real names of daemons from mythology of old, as they give people emotional power over us we would rather they did not have.

Also, anyone with an inconsistent past faces requests for more information, which is off-putting and creates extra work as well as possibly causing people to run out of time before conference. (I know this happened to at least two non-Trans people)

We had a few questions from FCC members. Two stick in my mind – first discussion on the CRB process. This is not guaranteed to keep anonymity even if they get it right, as unaltered records of any previous offence can be sent to a potential employer, complete with old names on. Secondly, “How to Labour handle this”. The answer is simple – pretty much every Labour supporter I know, even if still a supporter of the party, quit their actual membership after the passage of the Gender Recognition Act 2004. It appears there are very few active and out Trans folk in the Labour party these days. They are also of course the party of ID Cards, so unsympathetic to privacy concerns even among their own members (FCC thought it unlikely the Tories had many Trans members – my experience suggests this may be incorrect, presumably because they haven’t had the chance to annoy the Trans community for most of the the last decade and a half)

Members of the FCC seemed surprised by the strength of what we’d said, based on tweets I’ve seen since. I guess one gets used to pointing out that many of us risk a violent death if we’re outed to the point that is loses its impact to us and just becomes a fact of life. To your average white, straight, cis (i.e. Non-trans) person of a non-military background, a breach of confidentiality means messing around sorting out unauthorised bank transactions, not dodging bricks through the window whilst sorting out new accommodation in another city. In that respect, I’m glad we live in Cambridge and not elsewhere, where life would not be so easy.

Things are heading in the right direction, but FCC do not have the final say given the involvement of the police. After tonight’s meeting they have put conference registration on hold to give them more time to sort things out with the police, so for now we wait…

Trans CRB check news

Following the recent controversy with Liberal Democrat conference accreditation, I have been doing some research into the Criminal Record Bureau’s (CRB) own procedures into dealing with Trans folk. The procedure has been recognised as problematic by the CRB themselves as a recently published equalities impact assessment, dated October 2010, hilighted the issues with the current system. (PDF Link)

From the CRB’s own research in 2010, (PDF Link) there is evidence people are being put off – 91% of people overall would be “willing to to be CRB checked” for either voluntary or paid work, versus 65% for trans folk. It’s noted that the findings are from a “small sample size”, but Intersex folk had a similar response and it is also broadly in line with the general rate of applications revealed in previous FoI requests. Other marginalised groups have similar findings – the Lesbian/Gay (But not Bisexual, oddly) community, Hindus and to a lesser extent those identifying as Asian also reported they were less likely to be willing to be CRB checked.

On the topic of the overall procedures the civil service Trans group, a:gender, responded to the internal EqIA consultation with the two primary concerns with the process:

  • That previous name details should be removed from completed Disclosures, as currently the name of the applicant at the time of each conviction is recorded.
  • That a form of words is added to the front of the new CRB Disclosure Application Form to highlight to customers that there is no requirement for them to enter names from a previous gender on the application

The plan by the Home Office as a result was…

  • To explore options for not revealing previous identities on CRB Disclosures
  • To explore options for amending the CRB application form to include reference to inform applicants of the alternative process

On the first issue, not revealing previous identities, there has been some progress but it is questionable in it’s utility and probably not much use at all given it’s unadvertised. I contacted the CRB for the detail and was told that you can contact the data protection office at your local police force (Once you have a Gender Recognition Certificate) and ask them to update the Police National Computer with your new details, so any CRB printout would show the new details.

If you do not yet have a GRC, I’m told you can contact the CRB who can “look into” producing a manual certificate.

It’s something at least, and they deserve credit for recognising the problem.

They seem not to have made an progress in the year since the EqIA was produced on the second point. The latest CRB application form guidance (PDF Link) is dated February 2011 and makes no mention of the Transgender application process. It seems you need to know it exists to use it, or happen to visit the right part of the CRB web site – not good, given that less than half of Trans people said they knew something about the CRB when asked.

Overall, it’s progress. But this new system, particularly given it appears to be completely unpublicised, does not (yet) fill me with confidence.

CRB Checks and Trans Folk

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.

According to information released under the Freedom of Information Act by the Criminal Records Bureau, there were 298 applications for CRB checks that used the little-known “transgender applications process” last financial year. (April 2010 – March 2011) That sounds like quite a lot, but is it as many as we’d expect?

In the same period, there were just over four million total CRB checks, so the transgender application process accounted for around one in every fifteen thousand applications. We don’t really know how many post-transition trans people there are in the UK, but it’s more than one in fifteen thousand: Estimates vary from one in ten thousand to one in five thousand.

So there’s around half as many CRB applications as we’d expect. Why not? Firstly, some background: If you’re applying for a CRB check for a job, perhaps working in a school, you need to reveal any previous names you’ve had. This isn’t something that Trans folk like doing as even if you’re “out”, your old name is something that you’d rather never saw the light of day.

Via a slightly tortuous process, once you’ve filled in a CRB form you’re supposed to phone them on a special number so they can intercept the request. They can then match up records without outing you to your prospective employer.

True, some people may not use the transgender application process but this seems unlikely: I didn’t bother with it when applying for one as I was “out” to the organisation I was applying via, the Scouts. Someone, somewhere in an office, screwed up badly: The form wasn’t sent by the Scouts to the CRB but was sent to some central office to be copied out via email. Seeing my previous details, they put down the wrong gender, consequently generating incorrect titles on paper mail.

As you can imagine, I was not best pleased when I received the completed check.

I suspect one reason is the fear of being outed, as the process doesn’t work reliably. According to the CRB, they have had three complaints in the last year about their transgender application process: 1%. That’s pretty high, but still seems suspicious as either we have been spectacularly unlucky in our household, or they are only keeping count of actual complaints and not known errors. My partner also applied for a CRB check, this time using their transgender process and also ran foul of the system. They managed to intercept her request when it came into the CRB, but failed to remove her old details before sending the results back both to her and the organisation concarned.

Another dissatisfied CRB user resulted, along with a panicked phone call from the CRB to the organisation that had requested the check asking them to send back any received post unopened.

Even if the system works, if the police find anything under an old name (Doesn’t have to have been the applicant, just someone with a similar name and date of birth) it will be listed by the CRB… under the old name.

When this sort of problem can occur, it’s not surprising that Trans folk might find themselves a little wary of applying for jobs that require a CRB check. The risk of being outed for many is too great. As is often the case, the incessant need by the civil service to document and track everything and every one creates yet another invisible form of oppression against a minority.

Scouting equality fail – why it’s best to be stealth even when you’re out

A while ago, I submitted a CRB form for the Scouts as I occasionally (Well, once so far) go to parent and child camp with my daughter, who is a Scout, and in this day and age that sort of thing is required if you’re going to hang around kids at all. I didn’t follow the “transgender application process” as they certainly already knew my relationship to the kids, so I wasn’t exactly “stealth” and to be honest, it’s a bit of a hassle. Because of this, I needed to put my old name on the form as well as my current one but all my other details had my correct name, title (Miss) and so on.

Today, the CRB form turned up. It says “Gender: Male”.

Ahem, excuse me? I know full well my supporting documentation doesn’t say that, because I’ve not had anything I could use to identify myself as male even if I’d wanted to for years. Offensive, yes, but also perhaps problematic in terms of being able to supervise kids of the appropriate gender in certain environments, should it come to that.

So I ring the CRB, who are extremely helpful and tell me the scouting association (Most likely someone in head office in London, I suspect) copied the paper form I’d filled out into an email and put me down as “Mr”. CRB are going to correct it, send out a new certificate and also let the scouting association know, all of which they offered to do without any prompting on my part whatsoever.

I’ll see if the CRB will be helpful enough to send me a copy of the email they received so I can figure out exactly how wrong they went and whose heads needed banging together, but if I have to do one again I’m certainly using the special process!