CHARITIES: Police Bill may ruin youth groups

Small youth charities could be forced to close down if the Government refuses to pay for criminal records of volunteers to be checked, the Voluntary Youth Sector warned yesterday.

The Police Bill, which would establish the Criminal Records Agency, is due to be discussed in committee this week. The Government is seeking to overturn Lord Weatherill's amendments which would exempt volunteers from paying fees for criminal record checks.

The VYS, which represents over two million young people, says it would cost charities who work with young people and voluntary adults around pounds 40m in the first year and about pounds 8m annually thereafter. A spokesman for the Scout Movement said: "This would be a major financial burden on large charities but totally intolerable for many of the smaller ones."

"What is being proposed at the present time amounts to no more than a tax on volunteering," he added. "We want to see free criminal record checks for volunteers included in a wider package of vetting and sharing information as recommended by Lord Cullen in his report. Police checks alone would not have identified Thomas Hamilton as a danger."