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Concerns over lack of criminal background checks on Wrexham businesses giving work to disabled people

CONCERNS have been raised over the lack of criminal background checks carried out on employers who provide work placements for disabled people in Wrexham.

It comes after Wrexham Council chose to close a number of dedicated businesses which used to provide job opportunities for vulnerable individuals last year.

A replacement service was launched to find alternative unpaid employment for the 26 people affected by the shutdown of a cafe and portable appliance testing company in Rhosddu, as well as a laundry business in Rhosymedre.

Backbench politicians were recently told that volunteer positions have since been provided by a number of outside businesses, including cafes and shops.

However, members of the local authority’s safeguarding scrutiny committee expressed their surprise after they were told Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks were not carried out on all employers.

Cllr Brian Cameron (Lab) said: “It does concern me that they could go and work in a shop and they don’t necessarily have a DBS check.

“I’m just surprised you’re allowing our most vulnerable people to go into areas where they haven’t had DBS checks.

“I would have thought you’d have gone through and checked who the businesses are and if they’re prepared to have a DBS check then you stamp approval.

“If they weren’t prepared then that for me sends an alarm bell.”

In response, officers said the council was unable to enforce DBS checks on external firms.

However, Kay Board, manager of the Day and Work Opportunities scheme, said she was confident disabled people would be safe in their workplaces.

She said: “There are laws around DBS, so on a human rights basis we can’t request DBS checks of people outside of certain activities.

“There isn’t a legal right for us to ask a café manager to be DBS checked so that people can volunteer in their café.

“We’re working closely with the people we support and the organisation that they’re working with.

“The evidence suggests people are much safer in their communities with many eyes watching over them.”

The changes proved controversial when they were announced in 2018 as part of a set of proposals designed to save the authority £334,000.

It has seen the running of a cafe at Alyn Waters country park in Gwersyllt taken on by the Groundwork charity, which will continue to provide work for 10 disabled people.

Meanwhile, the council is currently reviewing the future of the Cunliffe Enablement Centre and Erlas Walled Garden Project.

Cllr Joan Lowe, lead member for health and adult social care, insisted disabled people are continuing to receive a ‘quality service’.

But the claim was challenged during last week’s meeting by a Labour politician, who said she understood some people were employed for less hours than before.

Cllr Krista Childs, who represents Coedpoeth, said: “Prior to us coming into the committee when we had the session in meeting room two, we had the chance to speak with a few carers.

“They were saying although the video we saw was painting quite a nice picture, they didn’t feel that it was telling us the proper changes that were happening.

“You said before that there had been no changes at all in provision, but one of the carers told me that one person who has the service has gone down from three days to one day.”

Officers said they could not discuss individual cases, but asked for further information to be provided to them afterwards.

At the end of the meeting, committee members voted to keep the service under review so they could assess the impact of the changes.

Published on 23rd April 2019

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