16/12/2011 06:06 GMT

Welsh Schools Cancel Christmas Over CRB Checks

Children have been left devastated after authorities barred Father Christmas visiting their schools, because he had not had criminal record checks.

Pembrokeshire County Council sent a letter to every headteacher in the county insisting every volunteer, even parents and grandparents, must be checked by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), before visiting schools. But the orders were not dispatched until 7 December - meaning it was too late to apply for CRB checks.

The letter, which was shown to the Western Telegraph, has sparked a public outcry of "red tape gone mad". The instructions were issued on advice by the Ministerial Advisory Board. The group, established in August this year, is tasked with the arrangements for safeguarding and protecting children in education services in the county.

The council told The Huffington Post they understood there was "no legal requirement" for the Father Christmas volunteers to be CRB checked.

"The view strongly expressed to the council by officials of the Welsh Government is that such one-off volunteers should be fully vetted.

"As a consequence, we have written to all schools advising them of the Welsh Government's ruling.

"Unfortunately this matter may therefore require schools and other organisations to make alternative arrangements in respect of

their Christmas activities."

But the government insisted the board's recommendation was just "advice" and the final decision rested with the council.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "It is for Pembrokeshire County Council to ensure that appropriate checks are made on staff and volunteers who come into contact with children. The Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board's role is to provide support."

Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb criticised the decision, saying it was "impractical and heavy-handed".

“This is red tape gone mad. Criminal record checks were never supposed to be used for family volunteers that sustain and support so much of school life on an infrequent basis."