Volunteers will be able to apply for a free certificate to prove they do not have criminal convictions under plans to be announced by ministers to simplify criminal records checks.

People will only have to apply once to the Disclosure and Barring Service for a certificate. Organisations, such as HomeCareDirect will then be able to run an instant check online to find out whether the document is still valid.

The system will avoid the need for people to repeatedly make and pay for criminal records checks, with the bureaucracy blamed for deterring some volunteers.  The service will be free for volunteers but workers will pay a small fee.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Home Office minister, said it was unacceptable to ask volunteers to “jump through hoops” with online slots “hours of unnecessary form filling”.  He said “For too long the motivation to make a difference has been undermined by a cumbersome system for criminal record checks”.  “Those who give freely and generously of their time should be encouraged, not be put off by inefficient processes.”

Currently, people who require a criminal records check, which can take up to 28 days, have to reapply for a certificate every time they volunteer, change jobs or move workplace.

These checks are important when working with vulnerable people and HomeCareDirect fully comply with all regulations surrounding CRB checks to ensure everyone we work with is protected, however we welcome changes that will make the system easier for everyone.  HomeCareDirect pay for the CRB checks for all our staff and the do not have to be a barrier to employment with HomeCareDirect.

Nick Pickles, the director of Big Brother Watch, the civil liberties campaign group, said the need for reform went “far beyond” making services available online.  “Until there are legal protections against the overzealous use of CRB checks and proper reform so cautions and information not tested in court does not ruin people”s careers, the CRB system will continue to undermine civil liberties,” he said.