Volunteer cathedral flower arrangers threaten strike action over CRB checks

June 25, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

Volunteer flower arrangers at a 900-year-old cathedral have threatened to quit after they were forced to undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks.

Twenty-three members of Gloucester Cathedral Flower Guild are refusing to have the authorities pry into their past criminal convictions.

The refusal to undergo the checks could mean that a third of the 60-strong team of volunteers could be barred from helping out in the future.

Their stand follows demands from cathedral authorities that every volunteer should undergo checks.

Those covered include ‘welcomers’, who greet tourists at the south door, and guides, who are no longer allowed to accompany visitors into the crypt except in pairs.

Annabel Hayter, chairwoman of the guild, said: ”The first time the dean asked for checks was five years ago, and I agreed because we had only three months before a flower festival.

”This time I am not going to do it. I have asked time and again why people arranging flowers have to go through criminal record checks and I have never had a sensible answer.

”My main objection is the lack of trust in us and the fact that our data would not be secure once it was handed over to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

”I am 64 years old and I have worked at the Cathedral for 14 years with the flowers, and there has never been an incident of note to worry about.

”I am a mother and a grandmother, to harm a child is simply not in my nature.

”I have known the Dean for long enough, he really should have trust in me by now.”

The flower arrangers’ revolt comes as it emerged that charities and voluntary groups have spent #350million on criminal records checks.

The cash has gone on fees, form-filling and staff time as organisations, according to a study compiled by the Manifesto Club, which campaigns against ‘the hyper-regulation of everyday life’.

Mrs Hayter, former head of an interior design company, added: ”We have been told that if we aren’t checked, we will have paedophiles infiltrating through the Flower Guild.

”Another reason given was that it is because we use the same loo as the choir boys – even though the choir boys are never in the cathedral when we are.

”My guess is that there is an official who is covering his back. But the effects are ridiculous and damaging.”

Officials at Gloucester Cathedral have now agreed to review their CRB vetting policy in light of the threatened strike action.

The Very Rev Nicholas Bury, Dean Of Gloucester, said: ”Gloucester Cathedral has carried out CRB checks on its volunteers for a number of years.

”Our view has been that it is better to err on the side of caution, especially when we have so many visitors in a very public place where children and others may easily approach anyone in an official-looking position.

”However, we are currently reviewing our policy on CRB checks.”

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