Monday, 13 June 2011

Background check - by Theo

As has often been observed, Spain is different, and as I have previously observed, nowhere more so than in their attitudes towards Child Protection.

In the UK if you want to work, or even volunteer, in any capacity that will bring you into contact with children or vulnerable adults, you need to pass a Criminal Records Background (CRB) check and in all likelihood have some kind of Child Protection training. Since coming to Spain I've worked in two different schools teaching classes of children and two residential summer camps for children and I've not once received any kind of specialist training nor been asked about my eligibility to work with children. Whenever I've brought up the point, such as at the first summer camp or with my boss at school, I've been told there is no equivalent to the CRB check in Spain.

Except there is. As I'm going to do a PGCE in September I have obviously had to complete a CRB check but of course this is not valid for the time I have been in Spain. Thus I was asked to provide a 'Certificate of Good Conduct', without any kind of instruction as to how to get it or what form it might come in. The CRB themselves were no help (Them: "Have you tried calling the Spanish Embassy?" Me: "I'm in Spain now." Them: "Oh.") and the University couldn't be specific as to what they required. I had a vague notion of a confusing conversation at a police station trying to get a bemused duty officer to sign a letter saying I'd committed no crime. However when I asked my lawyer friend Juan about it he said "Oh, I need one of those to. It's called a Certificado de Antecedentes Penales. You really don't need to speak Spanish to work out what that means. All of which begs the question as to why I'd never been asked for one before (to be fair to my boss he immediately showed an interest once I informed him that they do in fact exist).

So I braced myself for what I imagined would be another battle with Spanish bureaucracy, but actually it turned out to be a hell of a lot easier than in the UK. For starters the form was only one page long, with no endless lists of prior addresses that give serial movers like me writer's cramp. Secondly, there's no pre-ordering of an assigned form (that you have to re-order if you mess up); you can just download it and print it from the internet. Thirdly you can do the form yourself; no need to run it through another organisation and have an approved person counter sign it. Finally, it's a hell of a lot cheaper. As with many forms here in Spain you have to take the form to a bank and pay the taza, or administrative charge, before you hand the form in. After one false start (neither I nor the cashier knew how much I had to pay) this was easily achieved for the measly sum of €3.54; compare that to £44 for an enhanced disclosure in the UK.

Having done this I toddled off to the Ministerio de Justicia in Plaza San Jacinto, just round the corner from Plaza de Sol (meaning I finally got to check out the protest camp - or what's left of it) to file the form. With book and ipod in hand I went through security, grabbed a number and settled down for what I assumed would be a long wait. 15 minutes later I was out the door, somewhat surprised, with a signed and stamped certificate proclaiming my innocence. (Again, compare that to the four week wait in the UK).

So on balance I'd say, like the U21 football, England 1:1 Spain. If only the Spanish efficiency could somehow infiltrate the English thoroughness, and vice versa, we'd be onto a winner.

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