Government backs down on vetting rules

The Government has backed down over its controversial Vetting and Barring scheme.

Designed to protect children, many were concerned it would have the opposite effect. It widened the net on which adults needed to be vetted, extending in some cases to authors visiting schools and adults giving kids a lift to clubs and activities.

Might this have resulted in more harm to children through lost opportunities as perfectly safe adults became unable or unwilling to help children?

I think it may have. A friend of mine was asked to help at our local Scouts. She was happy to, and duly completed her CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check. Unfortunately, delays in the system meant her authorization didn’t come through for several months, by which time she’d committed herself to other activities – an opportunity lost.

The Government is still keeping the checks, but is allowing more people to avoid them when they only have occasional contact with children.

As the Telegraph explains:

It will now be a much more common-sense regime.

Under the new scheme, the definitions for whether or not an adult must register have been loosened.

Any activity that brings an adult into contact with children for four or more days a month, or involves any overnight contact, will be branded “intensive” rather than at least three days under the original plan.

Similarly the test for “frequency” will now mean an activity taking place at least once every week. Previously, the category included adults in contact with children only once a month. Both “frequent” and “intensive” categories require registration.

Assuming the report is correct, it does feel like the Government has struck a better balance.

It doesn’t resolve all the questions though. As a society, we surely need to ask ourselves how far we want to go in putting up these barriers between adults and children.

No-one would deny that children need to be protected. The level of child abuse in past decades – though largely hidden, unreported and often tacitely accepted – is almost certainly higher than today – witness the reports into abuse in the Catholic Church.

But that needs to be balanced against the sort of society we all want to to live in.

Do we want to live in a society where children see every adult as a potential paedophile and adults see every child as a hoodie-wearing thug? Where the two groups rarely interact?

It’s a difficult line to walk for any government. Perhaps the most we can hope from our leaders isn’t that they get it right first time, but that they listen, learn and encourage the debate.

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9 Comments

  • Terry Gilbert 13th Dec '09 - 10:22am

    Why should children see ‘every adult as a potential paedophile’? Surely that is a responsibility adults should shoulder?
    As a former probation officer who supervised some child sex offenders both after prison or in the community, I would suggest that the Government’s precautions are eminently sensible. If CRB checks took too long, then CRB checks need to be completed more quickly. The idea that a school would allow a convicted paedophile contact with a child without even checking the Police National Computer is surely wrongheaded!

  • Andrew Suffield 13th Dec '09 - 11:06am

    They changed three days to four? I don’t see this as anything more than a token “shut up” gesture.

    What we need is for people to accept the reality: child abuse happens – rarely. When it does happen, it is usually committed by one of the parents, and after that, by a relative or friend of the family. All of these blind gestures by the government are little more than an attempt to let people avoid thinking about these unpleasant facts. (If you make a big enough fuss over “strangers” and “predators” then people can believe that they are the real problem, and feel safe)

  • Nonconformistradical 13th Dec '09 - 11:08am

    “The idea that a school would allow a convicted paedophile contact with a child without even checking the Police National Computer is surely wrongheaded!”

    I didn’t think that was the issue. The issue is with millions of unconvicted – innocent – people being caught up in an expensive bureaucratic nightmare.

    What bothers me is that according to what I have heard on the news this morning there will still be around 9 MILLION people caught up in the revised scheme – instead of 11 million. Having to vet around 20% of the UK popoulation under this scheme is utterly ridiculous. Society has lost the plot.

  • Anglo-saxon society has a truly disturbing obsession with paedophilia that can only be more harmful to children than it helps. The Brasseye “Paedogeddon” episode sums it up perfectly.

  • This ploy by the Goverment could well be part of its assault on elective home education. Home schoolers depend on other parents instructing their children in subjects where they have expert knowledge. The Government proposals would make this more difficult (almost impossible, perhaps), and that could well be the purpose. Child abuse does indeed go on, and it is a fact that agencies of the state have a very poor record in dealing with it. No, not because of the absence of blanket vetting, but because lazy GPs and incompetent social workers fail to follow-up obvious signs of abuse.

  • Britain ( the DfES) quite deliberately employed paedophiles teachers – only when the FBI object to paedophiles ‘owned’ or discovered by that agency, did it make its way into the UK media (2006). Key people prominently behind the current anti-vetting campaign are extreme libertarians who for years been sympathetic to paedophiles. Thousands of teachers were referred to List 99 in the very same year ( 2005) the FBI began to smell a rat. Britain basically has child protection problems. Special interests groups block every measure to bring the UK into line with UNCRC requirements.

  • “The idea that a school would allow a convicted paedophile contact with a child without even checking the Police National Computer is surely wrongheaded!”

    It was government policy until January 2006 – at least fifty known paedophiles were cleared to work in schools.

  • Andrew Suffield 14th Dec '09 - 12:35am

    Britain ( the DfES) quite deliberately employed paedophiles teachers – only when the FBI object to paedophiles ‘owned’ or discovered by that agency, did it make its way into the UK media (2006). Key people prominently behind the current anti-vetting campaign are extreme libertarians who for years been sympathetic to paedophiles

    Citation needed. I should warn you that you’re dangerously close to libel territory here. I have no specific knowledge about whether this is true or not, but you can’t make accusations against specific individuals or organisations without compelling evidence. Note that it’s trivial and unsurprising to show that such people have been employed in schools, but much harder to show that this was done with the knowledge and approval of the DfES.

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