Disclosure and Barring Service names new chief

Troubled background-checking agency appoints local authority boss to top job

Eric Robinson Credit: DBS

By Jim.Dunton

03 Jun 2019

The Home Office’s under-fire Disclosure and Barring Service has named its next chief executive, following the retirement of Adele Downey.

Eric Robinson, who is currently chief executive of Wirral Council, will join the criminal-record-checks agency in “late summer”, the organisation said. Chief finance officer Paul Whiting has been serving as interim chief since the beginning of May.

In recent months the DBS’s over-budget and overdue digitisation programme has come under repeated scrutiny. Last year, members of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee said the Home Office had presided over a “masterclass in incompetence” in relation to the project. At the time it was running four years late, £229m over budget, and had no end in sight.


In December, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins told parliament the DBS was “undertaking a major change in its IT services” and effectively starting again after concluding that its current platform was "not suitable for further roll-out”.

DBS chair Dr Gillian Fairfield said that new chief exec Robinson had dedicated much of his career to implementing significant business change and working to protect vulnerable people.

“His proven track record, and specific experience in safeguarding gives me great confidence that he will be a real asset to the organisation,” she said.

“Eric has been CEO of Wirral Borough Council since 2015 where he has implemented significant business change. He has helped transform the organisation and introduce strategies to better manage performance, delivery and finances.

“Eric also has experience working in the safeguarding environment. He has held posts both as corporate director for social care and health, and director of social services for Cambridgeshire County Council.”

His appointment was approved by Atkins.

Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill was perm sec at the Home Office – with then home secretary Theresa May – when the 2014 decision to proceed with resetting the now-scrapped programme was taken.

A letter published by the PAC last week showed he stood by the department’s handling of the programme. It followed an appearance the cabinet secretary made before the committee in early April in which he denied that the DBS programme “failed”.

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