CSCS Card Fraud

by Z Chesak
Updated: 08-10-2016

A flagship scheme that certifies builders competence has been questioned after it was found that several test centres have been ‘fixing’ health and safety examinations. 

The CSCS card must be held by all those who work in construction in the UK as validation and proof of their skills and to certify that they understand health and safety issues. 

BBC Investigation
CSCS Fraud BBC Investigation

The BBC and Newsnight investigated the claims that exams had ben rigged and what they found was shocking.  They identified organised and widespread cheating the result of which allowed untrained and unskilled workers onto construction sites.  (You can see the Newsnight programme on the BBC iPlayer.)

The CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card was first launched by the industry back in 1995, and they are seen as an industry standard. Of the biggest 10 construction companies in the UK, 9 demand the card and Heathrow and Crossrail also insist potential workers have a CSCS card.

The BBC discovered that many centres were offering workers guaranteed passes if they paid for them, and this has been used as a enabler for workers who lack the English they need to sit the test. In one centre, the director read the exam answers off a big screen, and told the candidates to follow what he was doing on screen.  He said “I will shout the right answer, you go ahead and just click on them.  We will make one or two mistakes but I don't want everyone to make the same error"

Another centre exposed by the BBC investigation issued a supervisor qualification for a sum of £450.

Offers of jobs

A CSCS card that had been obtained using fraudulent qualifications was used to get offers of work on building sites, at a school - and even at a power station.

This is especially frightening when you know that construction is the UK's most dangerous sector of employment. More construction workers have been killed at work than armed forces personnel during the war in Afghanistan.

No fewer than 221 workers have died in the past five years alone in construction.

The high cost of workers who are untrained

Falling bricks killed a 26 year old, working on a building site. It was found that he and the operative he was working along side were not trained for the task they were doing.

The BBC made a Freedom of Information request to the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board), that is responsible for the scheme, showed sharply rising cases of fraud around the CSCS card with 96 reports in 2012, around 264 in 2013 - and last year, 311.

A CITB survey carried out with 419 construction workers who were responsible for checking CSCS cards. One per cent said that they identified a fraudulent card each day a number that rose to one third, in London.

The CITB spend on fraud investigations has been ramped up and five centres shut down - with another eight under investigation.

As confidence in the CSCS card erodes fast, it is imperative that robust action be taken so that people can once again rely on the qualification.

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