There are not many better bits of news than being offered a job. But for 81,000 people offered jobs working with children and vulnerable people in London, that joy has been lessened as they wait for months for necessary police checks to take place before starting work.
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) handles these checks for criminal records, which have to take place before people can work in jobs classified as 'sensitive'. The results should come back within two months at the latest, but at the last count in February 2016, the Metropolitan police were only responding to 31% of DBS checks within this time limit.
The total number of people waiting has increased from 68,000 at the end of 2015, to 81,000 despite the Metropolitan Police adding more staff to the team that handles enquiries from the service. To me it's unacceptable for this many Londoners to be stuck on this waiting list and potentially not working.
Psychology graduate Lorraine had to wait seven months last year for her DBS check before she could volunteer to work with vulnerable adults that suffered from drug and alcohol abuse.
"I waited so long for the police checks to clear that I became extremely demotivated and thought about looking for another job countless times. I wanted to volunteer my time to help desperately vulnerable adults but the charity could not use my skills to help overworked and under resourced staff for over six months. During that time so many more people could have had the support that they needed."
Ebinehita, a youth worker, experienced similar problems:
"Even calling up was a waste of time as they said the same thing over and over again. Then I found out the delay was caused by someone misspelling my name. This delay really affected me personally as it started to make me feel as if I was being held back."
Local authorities and charities are already stretched due to massive government cuts and these delays to recruiting new staff only add pressure to these front line services. Key workers who are passionate about supporting vulnerable adults and children should not have to wait such a lengthy amount of time before they can start helping the community.
Stories like Lorraine's and Ebinehita's are why I am calling on the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to get the DBS to prioritise these kinds of workers when making requests to the Met. Adding more staff to the Met's enquiry-handling team will clearly not solve the problem without giving priority to London's most needed professions.
This problem is urgent. People cannot work or provide for their families and we are at risk of losing even more key workers who want to take up this work. The Mayor needs to take action to remedy this situation and make sure the DBS starts to prioritise applicants wanting to work in caring professions.