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.


  1. The whole process was designed to make spiteful nasty newspaper editors happy. This is just one example of its awfulness.

    As for it’s effects on children – it means an awful lot of good people, especially potential volunteers, will now go nowhere near work with children. It’s done my kids enormous harm.

  2. I used CRB sensitive earlier this year and it worked really well, even though my personal situation is more complex than most and my paperwork trail unusual.

    Guess it’s the luck of the draw?

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