Recent changes made by the RCMP to the Vulnerable Sector screening process have community organizations and volunteers alike frustrated. The problem is related to the wait-time in completing a criminal background check. The process can take up to 120 days.
As a seasoned practitioner of 42 years in managing a volunteer program I am aware of two reasons for the wait-time. One reason is the volume being received by police services across the country for criminal background checks. More community organizations are making use of this important service as it relates to screening volunteers and staff. Some police services are reporting a 30 to 40% increase in criminal background requests this year over what they experienced in 2009. This is only part of the picture.
The main reason for the delay-time for completing criminal background checks is a decision made by the RCMP in July of 2010. The decision changed the requirements for fingerprinting people who plan to volunteer with the Vulnerable Sector. While the change has resulted in increase protection for the vulnerable in Canada it has also resulted in a longer wait-time for criminal background checks to be completed.
Clearly people who are wanting to volunteer are frustrated with the wait-time and are turning away from volunteering altogether. I am not saying the requirements for finger printing is not a good practice particularly when it enhances the protection for the vulnerable in Canada. What I am saying we need to take steps now to reduce the wait-time or the CPIC process is going to weaken dramatically the volunteer support received bu vulnerable individuals in Canada. The vulnerable sector depends on volunteers providing support and services in order to increase the quality of life for individuals who because of age, disability or other circumstances rely on the generosity of others.
We need a national forum that will bring together representaives from our police service agencies and community organizations to make the CPIC system a more time efficient process.
I am already aware that some effort is taking place to streamline the process. For example, some police services are looking at purchasing a livescan device for submission of prints which could reduce the wait-time to less than one week. As well, many police services are reallocating existing human resources and hiring new staff to meet the emerging demands for criminal background checks.
Leaning entirely on our police services to make the CPIC process more time efficient is not the total answer to this dilemma. Community organizations need to partner up with police services across this country to develop a national strategy that will make criminal background checks more manageable for volunteers, community organizations and for police service agencies. A national strategy that will focus on public education, re-defining the volunteer screening process and developing a stronger partnership between community organizations and police services at the local level.