Campaigners say millions of pounds is being wasted vetting staff in the health and social care sectors, after figures showed £70m was spent on Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks last year.
A new report entitled Carers or Suspects? said the money spent annually on CRB checks for carers working with vulnerable adults and children could be put to better use delivering improved public services.
The government launched a review of the system last week, saying the current procedures are "not a proportionate response", and Home Secretary Theresa May has called for a return to a more "common sense" approach.
Report co-author Ken McLaughlin said: "Official policy vastly overstates the vulnerability of adults receiving health or social care. This is just a licence for the state to interfere in caring relationships."
Josie Appleton, Director of the Manifesto Club, which campaigns against the hyper-regulation of everyday life, added: "As well as wasting public money, over-cautious rules mean that carers cannot do their jobs in the way they want to. Such rules do more harm than good and should be scrapped."
A total of £164.7m has been spent on CRB checks for those working with vulnerable adults since 2004, including £69 million in 2009/10 alone, the report found.