Fuck the Independent Safeguarding Authority!

We don’t just have the CRB authority in this country to protect vulnerable children anymore. The CRB was formed following Ian Huntley’s child murders in the 2002, whilst employed at the school which Jessica Chapman & Holly Wells attended, but the bureau’s responsibility is merely to provide information on criminal convictions. Whilst it does lead on occasion to undesirable outcomes, its basis is merely to inform people in positions of authority, working with vulnerable young people or children, about what has been proven in law about applicants seeking to work with them. It may be seriously flawed in not detailing where ex-offenders may have since led, but in itself it doesn’t engage in value judgments. Now however we have the Independent Safeguarding Authority, a body designed to make extra-legal decisions about the suitability of people to work with any vulnerable group. Says Mark Johnson of the new authority:

Without the protection of judge or jury, the right to work of an estimated 11.3 million people will be determined by the ISA. But who exactly will make these decisions? What qualifications do staff have to sit in judgment? Just how much time and effort will they put into researching the lives and, yes, achievements of someone who was living on the margins and is now trying to re-enter society as a contributing member?

The ISA staff can take as evidence not just criminal convictions and cautions but also mere allegations – and remember that, in our age of social networking, an allegation can be the touch of a keypad by one dysfunctional kid.

It also places a duty on employers to share their concerns. Even more astonishing, staff will actually listen to gossip in the press. Then they can, through other agencies, gain access to texts, emails and a range of personal data to reach a decision. Been found not guilty by a jury in a court of law? That doesn’t mean that the ISA won’t carry out its own private retrial. You might be innocent “beyond all reasonable doubt”, but the ISA is entitled to satisfy itself, on the “balance of probabilities”, that you really did commit that crime.

This kangaroo court gives you no chance to appear before them. You can make a written representation, which they can overrule, and I can find no evidence of an efficient appeals procedure. If educational difficulties handicap your attempts to articulate your written case, you’ll need to pay a lawyer, but there’s no mention of legal aid.

This. Is. Wrong. It is unfair, it breaches the human rights of numerous people who will be denied their fully lawful right to work, and panders to the lowest form of mob justice. As I’ve said many times before this obsession with finding villains in the woodwork will always mask the really dangerous people in society. To set up an authority to disadvantage people it simply doesn’t like the sound of is monstrous. Philip Pullman’s response at being subjected to its scrutiny:

“It seems to be fuelled by the same combination of prurience, sexual fear and cold political calculation,” the author of the bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy said today. “When you go into a school as an author or an illustrator you talk to a class at a time or else to the whole school. How on earth – how on earth – how in the world is anybody going to rape or assault a child in those circumstances? It’s preposterous.”

Both Pullman and former children’s laureate Anne Fine said the legislation would mean that they would not speak in a school again. “I refuse – having spoken in schools without incident for 32 years, I refuse to undergo such a demeaning process,” said Fine. “It’s all part of a very unhealthy situation that we’ve got ourselves into where all people who are close to children are almost seen as potential paedophiles.”

“If someone says we won’t have you in our school, of course I’m not going to,” agreed Pullman. “It’d be a great shame for me but I’m not going to under these circumstances. I went into a primary school in Oxford earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a very enjoyable thing I can do occasionally – I don’t have to do it very often because fortunately I can earn enough from my writing. But other authors depend on the income it brings in. For them the crowning insult is to have to pay to clear their name from something they haven’t done.” He believes the legislation will also have a longer-term effect. “It damages in a much deeper way the trust and social cohesion we ought to be able to rely on,” he said. “You ought to be able to trust people, so to say to a child that you’re having someone to talk to you but don’t worry, we’ve checked him out and he’s not a paedophile, implies that everybody who isn’t checked is.”

It’s insane. An organisation such as this (which doesn’t represent anyone) will only end up, as Pullman says, in destroying social cohesion. Not only will it (as the government wishes) teach children that they can only be safe at any age by consulting the government first, that they shouldn’t learn how to value judge or risk assess their own relationships for themselves, but that all people they don’t know cannot be trusted. This is not how community until now has operated, nor should it be under any circumstances. Both sides caught up in the ISA’s remit will be damagingly disadvantaged  – everyone loses (other than those who can afford a good lawyer).

In the coming weeks I’m going to start a campaign against the Independent Safeguarding Authority. I don’t believe it has any justification to exist and ask all like-minded people to join me in fighting to get it abolished. Are you with me?

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29 responses to “Fuck the Independent Safeguarding Authority!

  1. Completely with you. The whole system was a ridiculous knee-jerk reaction to the (admittedly tragic) deaths of two children.

    However, far too often our legislators kowtow to the tabloid media’s moral panics about “our children”. We have stupid, immoral overprotection of our children from very rare perceived dangers, when actually it’s people already known to the family who are almost exclusively likely to abuse or otherwise harm children.

    Of course, when social services intervene in a situation, the tabloids crow about how terribly it is that faceless bureaucrats are splitting up families.

    I honestly think the world would be a better place if the Mail and the Express were firebombed off the face of the planet.

  2. Whilst I sympathise with the concerns you have outlined – and I certainly want to see a robust and efficient appeals process with full disclosure from the ISA (bear in mind there is some information – specifically that disclosed by Chief Constables about ongoing investigations – which they will not disclose). I also have concerns about the ‘allegations’ issue, particularly when an allegation is malicious in nature.

    However, until very recently I was regional child protection officer for a very well known national charity. Although our policy insisted on CRB checks for all members, often paperwork went missing and we found evidence that some areas simply didn’t comply with the policy.

    In addition, applicants who had relevant criminal convictions or cautions then had to be referred onto a national child protection officer for a decision. The decisions took time, and extended the already-around-6-weeks time it took to get back the CRB check. Speaking personally, I would not have felt comfortable making some of the decisions which were made (either to allow someone to work with or to refuse the application).

    In addition, at the moment there is very little sharing of concerns about people in respect of contact with vulnerable groups. If someone is being investigated for allegations of abuse in respect of employment with A, we (the child protection specialists) at charity B need to know so that a decision can be made as to whether they should have continued access to our vulnerable groups.

    ISA has been set up in response to the Soham inquiry because there was a complete lack of information sharing between one employer and another, despite the concerns being highly relevant to his job application. This was because the first employer didn’t want to give a negative reference. In addition, people who have been dismissed as a result of child abuse allegations often fail to declare prior employment in order to avoid the information being passed on.

    The role of the ISA is to establish, based on the broadest possible information, whether or not a person is suitable to work with children and/or vulnerable adults. To do this, it reviews criminal convictions and decides if they are relevant. It can also review information from past and current employers which may not show up on a CRB check.

    It also removes the responsibility from the employing organisation to decide whether a conviction at the age of 15 (and bear in mind, 1:4 men get a conviction before they are 25) is relevant to working with vulnerable groups now, perhaps 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 years later.

    Your comment that children should be able to risk assess relationships themselves is valid, and I have worked hard on this aspect, for example as a CEOP-accredited trainer. However, children are often too young to make those assessments themselves – and vulnerable adults are often unable to take action even if they are capable of recognising the risk – and parents/carers often don’t have sufficient information to make it on their behalf.

    Therefore, schools, extracurricular activity organisers, youth groups, care-providers, care homes hospitals, religious organisations etc… have a duty of care to ensure the safety and welfare of vulnerable people in their care. There is literally no way in which we can look at longitudinal information and make a decision about whether or not the individual poses a risk, and we certainly can’t do it in a way which is consistent.

    Finally, don’t be fooled into thinking that this will be the only tool used to safeguard vulnerable groups. This is a tool which will facilitate the sharing of intelligence relating to child and adult abuse and exploitation, but it doesn’t replace effective awareness training of both children and adults and rigourous child protection policies.

    I do think it’s a shame that such an organisation is necessary, but I also think its a shame that people exploit information black holes and the relative ignorance of some vulnerable groups in order to gain access to abuse them.

  3. It has just been pointed out to me that I am referring ONLY to jobs/volunteering opportunities in which there is regular contact with individuals with an opportunity to build a relationship of trust.

    As such, this type of vetting is NOT, in my opinion, appropriate for people who come into contact with vulnerable people only occasionally, or who come into contact with large numbers transiently. In my opinion, that is an inappropriate use of a valuable tool that the ISA provides to safeguarding professionals which will undermine its value.

  4. As such, this type of vetting is NOT, in my opinion, appropriate for people who come into contact with vulnerable people only occasionally, or who come into contact with large numbers transiently. In my opinion, that is an inappropriate use of a valuable tool that the ISA provides to safeguarding professionals which will undermine its value.

    But that’s the problem; that is precisely how these systems are used.

    And, frankly, the CRB was set up to deal precisely with this kind of issue. If it’s not working, the solution is to fix it, not to create yet another agency that will further discourage people from working with children.

    And all that on top of the fact that the overwhelming majority of cases of child abuse are committed by people already known to the child. Requiring every single adult the child may come into contact with (apart from family members and family friends) to pay money to get some agency to prove that noone has ever accused them of something bad (without there being a way to contest such hearsay) is not only a ridiculous abuse of our justice system, but will almost certainly protect very few children from actual risk.

    It’s an offensive, antidemocratic, unjust waste of money.

  5. @ David – Your initial concerns are understandable but they don’t in themselves justify the existence of the ISA. So agencies don’t talk to one another, and never have – why should this then lead to another tier of bureaucracy, and an arbitrary one at that? The ISA’s very basis is founded in unfairness and in a freedom to use ‘misgivings’, ‘concerns’ and ‘worries’, none of which are provable, none of which can effectively challenged, when the so-called ‘safeguarding’ authority has all the power from the outset.

    It can also review information from past and current employers which may not show up on a CRB check.

    And then make a…guess what? An arbitrary decision based on whether they ‘like the sound’ of anyone they choose, to work with any so-called ‘vulnerable’ group they choose to ‘safeguard’. Does that really sound right to you? We are setting up a system which doesn’t do anything to rectify the lack of inter-agency cooperation. We should be providing better communication systems between existing professionals, rather than creating a new generation of petty bureaucrats who will inevitably miss the point, disadvantage young people, and ruin many adults’ lives.

    It must not be allowed to take hold.

  6. We have been racing for some years now down the road of ‘protection’ and the avoidance of ‘risk’ and it’s alienating us all from one another. I don’t like the kind of society that this sort of organisation is designed to create and will fight by any means necessary to get it reversed.

    @ Owen – you’re right – it will have minimal effect in protecting children from ‘risk’, and will continue the trend of preventing them from properly (as I mentioned) risk assessing the world around them, as we used to in the past. I suppose it fits the government’s determination to be the mediator between all human transactions in the future. It’s time to put our heads above the parapet and say ‘enough’.

  7. That is not how the ISA should be used and it seems to be a misapplication of the legislation as well.

    There are three categories of people: those who have no contact with vulnerable groups and therefore do not need to be registered, those who have occasional/transient contact and need to have a low level registration, and those who have substantial contact. Substantial contact is poorly defined in the legislation in my opinion, and should in fact refer to whether or not the individual has the opportunity to build a relationship of trust with members of vulnerable groups – thus creating an opportunity to abuse. It is this latter group who are either approved or otherwise to work with vulnerable groups; the middle group can have conditions placed on their employment.

    CRB has helped to some extent, however it is plagued by data errors which will blatantly not be fixed by ISA as ISA will consume the CRB database. I know of both false positive and false negative cases (specifically, I know of a case in which an individual had a clean CRB check but we were later told by police who were investigating the individual again that the individual had convictions for child sexual abuse). This clearly needs to be improved for any system to work effectively.

    In addition, a standard CRB check looks ONLY at convictions and formal cautions, with an enhanced CRB check also including information on police intelligence and operations which is revealed ONLY to the prospective employer. It also reveals ALL convictions and formal cautions, regardless of relevance to role, severity of the case or when the offence occurred.

    ISA on the other hand will effectively say Yes or No to the individual’s suitability to work with vulnerable groups. This means they will take into account the circumstances, when the offence was committed and the offenders subsequent behaviour. Convictions for shoplifting at 15 are embarrassing and their revelation uncessary to decide if the individual should work in a youth group, for example. As another example, I am aware of a young man who was formally cautioned for having sex with an under-16 female when he was 15; however, knowing the circumstances both of the alleged offence and the subsequent complaint it was clear this did not affect his suitability. The ISA will mean that such offences aren’t disclosed to the (potential) employer and in my opinion should, as a result, reduce the so-called CRB barrier to volunteering and employment. In addition, ISA registration is a once-only affair (free for volunteers) and is valid across all employers (paid or unpaid) and doesn’t need periodic renewal, thus further lowering the CRB barrier.

    “People already known to the child” is a dangerously broad category and tend to imply family and family friends. Certainly, these groups have the greatest opportunity to abuse not only children, but are also the greatest risk to vulnerable adults including those with learning disabilities or who are infirm or elderly. However, ISA does not apply to these groups.

    ISA applies to individuals who are seeking the opportunity to work with (paid or unpaid) vulnerable groups. There is research which demonstrates that child sex offenders, for example, were frequently aware of their sexual interest in children when applying for jobs. Further research has shown that individuals don’t disclose information they fear will prevent them working with these groups; by pooling this information safeguarding professionals are better able to monitor patterns of behaviour.

    I don’t believe that one malicious allegation would result in a person from being barred, not least because I have dealt with numerous malicious allegations. Allegations must be taken seriously, and an investigation by the appropriate authorities (normally the police) carried out. In the meantime, it is not appropriate that the person works with vulnerable groups and this is for the protection of the individual as well as the temporary removal of opportunity. In my case, when such suspensions have been necessary I have handled them discretely to prevent prejudicial assumptions, but I would also expect that individual not to be working with vulnerable groups during the period of investigation.

    In addition, ISA registrants will have the opportunity to appeal against barring decisions, although as I’ve said, some information (specifically that which relies on current police investigations which may be prejudicial to the outcome) may not be revealed. In the event a person who is the subject of a relevant active investigation applying for a job involving contact with a vulnerable groups, I would anticipate that initiating rapid case closure and arrests.

    Ultimately, though, as I’ve said, CRB/ISA forms a very small slice of the total safeguarding process. Whilst I have some concerns about ISA (as previously outlined) if the scheme works as envisioned it will improve the quality of pre-employment and during-employment vetting processes and will undoubtedly protect vulnerable groups from risk.

    (Coincidentally, I dealt with 10 allegations last year, of which 2 were shown to be without cause, 2 of which resulted in no further action, the rest of which resulted in cautions or trial. I also spent 2 nights a week training adults and children in safeguarding practice in various contexts, including Internet safety and youth work contexts. I carried out >100 audits of groups providing services to vulnerable groups, and had to deal with ‘special circumstances’ of 5 people in relation to applications to join the organisation. Finally, I provided direct support to 5 vulnerable people and referred a further 10 cases to social services and liaised on multiple other cases involving vulnerable people in to whom we owed a duty of care.)

  8. ISA on the other hand will effectively say Yes or No to the individual’s suitability to work with vulnerable groups. This means they will take into account the circumstances, when the offence was committed and the offenders subsequent behaviour.

    Effectively eh? I risk retreading the argument, but their effectiveness is based on criteria over which the applicant (or ex-offender, what about them eh?) has no control, say or meaningful means of appeal. By any fair criteria that is wrong. Existing inter-agency cooperation is incompetent – the solution is to create a mega agency, staffed by people who have no understanding or involvement in the cases/history they judge on (who elected them?) to make things better? If that sounds extremely dangerous, what about the reality?

    Vulnerability cuts both ways. The ISA exists to give the impression of one-size fits all in the management of risk; sad thing is risk doesn’t work like that. People are already getting hurt, and all backgrounds which aren’t completely ‘safe’, ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ are getting lumped together equally as dangerous. It’s ridiculous.

  9. As someone who has recently been the victim of a malicious allegation that was investigated by the police… I am now in the process of being dragged through the beaurocracy that is the ISA. I would like to take this chance to put a more personal view forward on the points discussed above. Please be clear from the outset that I think child protection is extremely important. I have not, and would not harm any child. Like the majority, I went into my profession to help young people, NOT abuse them.

    By profession, I am a teacher and I also used be an adult volunteer in a well known youth organisation. In 2007, another adult member of this organisation made an allegation against me. Following my arrest, I was suspended from work and subjected to an intense police investigation. This in itself was horrific and had a massively detrimental impact upon me and my family. The outcome of the police investigation (after 3 minths)…. NO CRIME HAS BEEN COMMITTED; THE ACCUSER HAS MISINTERPRETED INFORMATION AT THEIR DISPOSAL.

    So… I was immediately reinstated at work, and I began to try and patch-up my life. The youth organisation in question were extremely unsupportive, and I have written evidence that they have lied in the process of this investigation; needless to say, I am no longer part of this organisation.

    Twelve months later (Sept 2008), I received a letter from the ISA stating that they are now investigating the original complaint from 2007.

    There is a massive presumption by the ISA that I am guilty of the accusations made against me – even through I have a piece of paper from the police (that they have also sent to the ISA) saying that after investigation, NO CRIME HAD BEEN COMMITTED. It would seem, however, that clearance by the police is not enough.

    For a second, I digress. As a scientist, throughout my doctorate, my supervisor continually reminded me of two important points: –

    1. You can NEVER prove a negative – merely infer it.

    2. If you look hard enough for something, with too much of a mind-set; you will invariably find it.

    Now back to the point. Couple those words of wisdom above with the fact that the ISA uses the “balance of probability” as a basis to the reliability of ‘evidence’ that is has collated, rather than the more stringent “beyond rasonable doubt” standard accepted in our courts… what hope is there for a fair, just, robust system that protects anyone, not just children and vulnerable adults?

    So… where are we now? Until the ISA make a decision as to whether to bar me, they will not contact my employer. If they do not bar me, they will never contact my employer. Worryingly, this means that abusers could potentially go-on abusing until the ISA have acted.
    In my case, because I have nothing to hide, I have told my employer everything about this investigation and they have been extreemely supportive. However, on the advice of the ISA, they have again suspended me from work, not because my employer is concerned that I have harmed a child or placed one at risk of harm – they KNOW I haven’t; but because that’s what the ISA say they should do.

    Where does this leave me: Well… I am on a collection of tablets. Family relationships are breaking down fast because of my depression and I have had a stay in hospital following a failed suicide attempt. I have no idea when the ISA will conclude their investigations. The ISA decision making framework prioritises cases based on risk. Professional advice I have taken suggests that my cases is about as ‘low risk’ as you can get and will therefore take longer to resolve because of the lower priority – there are examples of it taking over 12 minths to conclude what the ISA regard as ‘low risk’ cases.

    What are my future career prospects in my chosen vocation? – I would venture practically none. I currently have a job that I am suspended from, but how long will my employer continue to pay me, when I’m not there doing my job?

    Do I have ANY respect for the child protection system – absolutely none. In my case, the system is so terrified of making the wrong decision, it has done precisely that. From my unique position, the ISA ONLY protects those who HAVE abused children. I do however, maintain respect for the police, they (quite rightly) investigated the allegation and concluded that it was unfounded – CASE CLOSED.

    Coupled with recent statistics suggesting that only 1.8% of allegations against teachers and youth workers are true, how many more people will have to endure this inhumane, unjust and illegal process?

  10. Oh I so wish I had more time for this blog post but I’m absolutely bombarded with paperwork and really behind on blogs right now so I’m really annoyed I can’t give this my best attention, but I’ll try.

    I’m one of the anti-ISA mouthpieces within my union (Equity) so I’m certainly with you 100%. The whole thing is an absolute nightmare and I’ve seen how the CRB was was abused and misused enough to know the same thing will happen here.

    Fundamentally I’ve always been totally opposed to the CRB, not least for the fact that it’s managed by Capita – one of the most disgraced outsourcing companies that ever existed. However, I’ve also lost work because of the CRB and the way they operate.

    The new ISA has already been postponed several times and people are still in a muddle about it. Indeed, even my union hasn’t come to a conclusion if freelance entertainers like myself will need to be registered and I’ve spent days mulling over the official documents and am none the wiser.

    I’d certainly support any campaign you set up. Indeed, I’m already a member of the Manifesto Club campaign.

    http://www.manifestoclub.com/

  11. Rock_bottom – your story has left me aghast and angry! And of course the very nature of all this government orchestrated pervert paranoia is that nobody really cares about you (except people like us) because this government have also made sure that in these situations, the no-smoke-without-fire thing comes into play as well.

    I’m really gob-smacked by what you’ve had to say and my thoughts are with you.

  12. DavidW said “Whilst I have some concerns about ISA (as previously outlined) if the scheme works as envisioned it will improve the quality of pre-employment and during-employment vetting processes and will undoubtedly protect vulnerable groups from risk”

    Personally, I don’t agree. I think there’s a bigger picture to all of this and it pales any successes this new scheme may have into insignificance.

    I think that this filthy rotten government have orchestrated all this paranoia over child protection and it has done more longer term damage by poisoning the relationships we all have with children in our wider communities. The only way I’d describe it is a vile disservice to our children – not a system for protecting them. The best the ISA can do for us is to relocate from their Darlington head office as far east as possible – preferably the North Sea – for all our sakes.

  13. @ James – thank you! Also, I agree whole-heartedly with everything that you have said.

    One thing that has come out of this is that I have really learnt who my friends are. Without exception, ALL my friends are supporting me through this nightmare, but you’re absolutely right about the “no smoke without fire” paranoia that the government and their quangos whip up (and rely on for support) in cases like mine.

    In my case, this is demonstrated by the fact that only one person (in the organisation I used to volunteer for) says that I’m a danger to children. This person has neither met me in person, nor even spoken to me on the phone. The ‘evidence’ he submitted to the ISA that led to their investigation of me has been contradicted by four other people within that same voluntary organisation, and also the information that the Police have submitted to the ISA. Not only that, to support my representation against being barred from working with children, no less than 28 statements from people who are supporting me have been sent to the ISA under separate cover. Those 28 people are professionals who know me and have worked with me (ranging from JP’s, doctors, pharmacists, architects etc.) The point I’m making is that ALL the evidence available suggests that the accusation made against me at best is based on misinterpretation and at worst (and increasingly likely) is malicious. Yet, the ISA are still listening to the one person that says I’ve put a child at risk of harm, the one person who is arguably the least qualified to make that statement. But don’t worry… it’s OK, this one person has done some child-protection training – so he MUST know what he’s talking about – yeah, right! What I have learnt the hard way is that EVERYONE involved in child protection puts their own ‘spin’ on the ‘story’ to justify their job and their involvement in the case. This is sad, but true.

    From my position, I think that there are two main problems with child protection systems.

    1. The system is a disparate hotch-potch of legislation, introduced piece-meal as a knee-jerk reaction to events and the social climate. It needs to be scrapped and started again. Currently, the system doesn’t allow the facts to get in the way of people doing their job.

    2. There are too many people involved in the system. Not only the CRB and the ISA, but also child protection co-ordinators in businesses and organisations. It is this latter group of lay-people that worry me the most. These people have done a tiny amount of child protection training and *think* that they understand the system (I can guarantee they don’t, but I digress!) furthermore, with child protection (as with most other things in the UK these days) people are only interested in covering their back and passing the buck when the proverbial hits the fan, so James, you’re also spot on when you say that people don’t care about those in my position.

    The point here is that the police and social services are duty-bound to investigate claims made by people in these ‘safegaurding co-ordinator’ roles; this ruins innocent people’s lives, not only in terms of career (although, thankfully, people who are accused legally remain anonymous until formally charged with an offence). Career aside, I have lost other benefits of ‘free’ people – my DNA and fingerprints are on the PNC (and will remain there until I’m deemed to reach 100 years of age – only 72 years to go!) , I cannot travel visa free to many countries (a shame – I (used to) love to travel). On an enhanced CRB (required by law for my profession) it will be released that I was arrested in connection with a child-protection offence. There is quite a list of lasting ‘ripples’ of this. And for what? – well, showing that I hadn’t harmed a child, when someone mistakenly thought that I had.

    That brings me to my next point. Once the ISA have (hopefully) decided that I pose no risk to children, they will not bar me from working with them and I will once again return to work. If I choose to apply for a job somewhere else, this would be released on my CRB – now, how is that fair and just? I’ve been through the mill with the police and come out clean, the ISA (supposed experts) decide that there’s no reason why I should not work with children and then hey-presto, someone who knows nothing about this makes a snap decision based on “non-conviction” information released on an enhanced CRB – employment terminated. The simple truth is: guilty until proven innocent… wait, you can’t prove you didn’t do it? (remember, you can’t prove a negative) ah well, guilty anyway…. life ruined.

    I read an article somewhere (forgive me, I can’t remember where) that about 1/3 of people falsely accused of abuse (successfully) commit suicide – this would rack up to about 350 people a year. This is entirely reprehensible and the system should be held to account, although, from what I have described above, I’m sure you can see why.

    And now I’ll tout the line that everyone else does in relation to this… Ian Huntley. Scarily, none of this bureaucracy would have done anything to prevent him carrying out that terrible crime – yet that is the benchmark that people use to assess the effectiveness of the CRB and the ISA – that should tell politicians something right there!

    It pains me to say it (because I know it’s an unpopular view, but in my opinion very true) but I think that the recent cases of the nursery workers in Devon and Nottinghamshire illustrate quite well that no matter how much bureaucracy is in place, people will continue to abuse children.

    The one positive thing that I cling to (and it might seem quite perverse) is that now I’ve been through the mill with the police (and am currently going through hell with the ISA) I KNOW that I am in no way a danger to children (although, I already knew this!), more importantly – so do the police; they have investigated my life to the n-th degree and found nothing – in my opinion, this should mean that I can be trusted with children more so than anyone that’s ‘only’ had a CRB – the CRB only looks at existing criminal records. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for a minute that anyone should go through a police investigation to in order to work with kids/vulnerable people – although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Government suggested it)

    Undoubtedly, we’re now in a position where the ‘protection’ systems like the CRB and the ISA are severely infringing on peoples liberties. I think that in the near future, the tide will change. The more often the system get’s it wrong, the less faith people will have in that system and the less effective it will become.

    I would counter that in the investigation of false accusation cases, children are actually harmed by the investigative process. The young people (I say ‘young people’ – at the time of this kicking off in 2007 they were only a few weeks off being 18) involved in my case feel so guilty that this has happened to me. They have no idea why or how it has gone this far. They have said to several people (on my behalf) that I have done nothing wrong, yet this seemingly counts for nothing as well.

    Back to tedium, waiting for the ISA to make a decision on me… might be a long wait though!

  14. Cllr Jeremy Zeid (Con. L.B.Harrow)

    This is NOT a “kneejerk reaction”, it is part of a considered and sustained campaign to fundamentally change the UK. Hitler, Stalin and Mao politicised children against their parents. We have an increasingly dangerous informer society that is going down exactly the same route as other despotic regimes.

    I wrote in 1997 that this was the whole point of “New” Labour, the surveillence, CCTV, informers, fines, databases and was dismissed as a “crank”.

    The same people are now saying what I was saying then. WE care at the endgame of the “Stealth Revolution” and now that phony Tony has gone the old Marxists and Trots such as Mandelson, Harman, Straw, Primarolo, Hodge and Balls are the New Order.

    I will only believe that we will be having an Election when it is called and I am watching the votes being counted. Brown will go as late vas possible and I wouldn’t put it past him to conjure up some “emergency” under the Civil Contingencies Act (do read it)

  15. Undoubtedly, we’re now in a position where the ‘protection’ systems like the CRB and the ISA are severely infringing on peoples liberties. I think that in the near future, the tide will change. The more often the system get’s it wrong, the less faith people will have in that system and the less effective it will become.

    And in the meantime people’s lives will be needlessly damaged, whilst the people actually committing the abuse will get away with it. It should even sicken the moral majority wingnuts – if the ISA fails to uncover this whole tier of paedophiles then why should it exist? But of course it’s set up to determine people are potential paedophiles, and don’t have to rely on the law or evidence to do it. It’s a clever scheme, but unimaginably wrong.

  16. “People already known to the child” is a dangerously broad category and tend to imply family and family friends. Certainly, these groups have the greatest opportunity to abuse not only children, but are also the greatest risk to vulnerable adults including those with learning disabilities or who are infirm or elderly. However, ISA does not apply to these groups.

    I think you’ll find the ISA applies equally to vulnerable children and vulnerable adults. It doesn’t even follow common sense.

  17. I wrote in 1997 that this was the whole point of “New” Labour, the surveillence, CCTV, informers, fines, databases and was dismissed as a “crank”.

    Unfortunately you’re dead on right. It’s a Stasi-isation process, particularly with the Home Office’s assertion that it intends all interaction between people to be mediated by it in the future. Big Brother? It would be one step further on from even that. We have to put a stop to it.

  18. I agree with everything that has been said since my last post.
    I think that the ISA will become universally loathed by all except certain policy-makers and bureaucrats. Not only that, but the ISA is a dangerous organisation that is toxic to the ethos of community spirit and all the other bumph that were are constantly being drilled with by all parties – yet it appears that nothing is being done about it.

    I think that even in the wake of events such as the expenses scandal, the majority of people have too much faith in the system and see it solely as a basis for justice rather than a medium for apportioning blame and dodging responsibility; couple that with our informer society, drop in a few lines like “no smoke without fire”, replace “witch-hunt” with “safeguarding”, add “jobs-worth” and hey-presto! The majority of the population are on-side with the Government.

    I am all in favour of safeguarding the vulnerable. The reality is that it’s not just children and ‘vulnerable adults’ that need to be protected. The rest of the population are extremely vulnerable to the current system.

    Furthermore, this topic isn’t going to win an election. A statement from Westminster along the lines of “We’re going to scrap the unjust (and probably illegal) safeguarding system and start again from the beginning with some common sense” isn’t going to drum up much support from a society that’s as indoctrinated as is postulated here.

    I accept that I’m spouting here from a position of pure bitterness and loathing for the system that I’m being hauled through. Posts here by others show that there’s obviously some justification for the bitterness I’m feeling.

    As Cosmodaddy says, we need to put a stop to it. I think that in some respects, it’s already too late. What we must do as a matter of urgency is stop it getting any worse and try to heal the wounds already inflicted on society.

    Unfortunately, it’s a massive, rather polemic undertaking that someone (or a group of us) is going to have to embark upon to change things.
    I have my own views on where the challenge should be, and what the resulting ‘streamlined’ system should be like. However, the eternal problem is always… who will listen to me?

    I think the basis of the challenge should initially be the legality of the ISA… what say you, oh wise community!!!

    Note to self: must try and limit the ranting in each post… these are long posts!!

  19. You’re welcome to post whatever you like on this blog. I’m curious what you think the ‘streamlined system’ should be, but also agree that the legality of the ISA itself should be challenged. Who should do that and how? The legality of its own behaviour has been made tremendously difficult to challenge, so should its very basis be challenged?

    Who will listen to you? Well I think it should start right here and start snowballing. And I’d encourage anyone and everyone who’s been involved with or stung by the ISA to post their experiences here too. We have to stop them by public education and working together.

  20. Cllr Jeremy Zeid (Con. L.B.Harrow)

    Completely with you to discredit and destroy this disgusting piece of “New” fascist Labour garbage. We are all criminals and paedophiles now, unless the state says otherwise. What happened to the unrepealable Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights 1689?

  21. Maybe as a start, we could prepare a document which we can all send to our MPs demanding a reply.

  22. @James – I think that’s a good idea. You’re also more than welcome to join the campaign (& website) which I’m about to start.

  23. This sounds like a great start – count me in for anything that gets off the ground. There are one or two well-publicised MP’s that also think the ISA is a crock of shit – I’ll try to find out more and post anything relevant here. I’m also in touch with an charity called FACT (Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers) – I can contact them and see if they have anything to offer, if it would help.

    @cosmodaddy – can you put a link to your campaign website on here so that we can come and join, I suspect there might be a lot of interest (and support) from FACT members. If you need any help sorting stuff out, drop me a line. I’m useless with computers, but I can write letters or call people or whatever. I’ve got plenty of time until all is sorted with me!

    Positive steps forward!

  24. Pingback: The ISA Fails Before It Starts | Cosmodaddy

  25. Cosmodaddy wrote “It doesn’t even follow common sense.”

    I see this as a major problem of ISA which people appear to be missing.

    At my company we attempted to improve quality by bringing in a rigid set of procedures and checklists to ensure that products were fit for purpose before they were shipped. The result was that instead of using common sense to decide whether a product was fit to go to a customer people switched off their brains, and ticked off the boxes. If there was a problem that didn’t show up in a box to be ticked it was ignored, by ticking all the boxes they had gained permission to ship, and covered their backs. Nothing more needed to be done because they had followed procedures.

    What relevance does this have to the ISA?

    I fear that once a nameless faceless bureaucrat at ISA says a person is safe then people will switch off their brains and feel no need to make any assessment for themselves. Look I have a form that says this person is OK, therefore they are. Never mind if I know them, never mind what I see of their actions, I have been told by someone in authority that they are safe, so they must be.

    I know that there are dangerous people out there, but we may be less likely to catch them if we rely on a distant stranger to evaluate someone’s character than if we do it ourselves.

    Yes, I am horrified at the change in mindset to “guilty until proven innocent”. Yes I am horrified that the ISA guidance says things like “It would certainly be a rare and highly exceptional case where public confidence is the main reason for a barring decision in the absence of other significant factors.” (could you justify trial in the court of public opinion as the ONLY reason to bar somebody from regular contact with children and vulnerable adults with no other evidence against them?), Yes I am ourtaged about all the crazy things people have written about on these pages.

    But the thing that worries me the most is the way I saw people relying on procedures, and abandoning common sense at my company. That is just one example of too tight procedures causing people to stop thinking. I have seen it happen many times in many sitiations, and I greatly fear that ISA will be another example.

    If the ISA legislation goes ahead then I predict that in a few years time we will see the media saturated with tales of abuse committed by somebody the ISA said was OK. Supposedly responsible adults will be interviewed and asked how they could have let this happen. They will sadly acknowledge that all the warning signs were there, but they didn’t see them because they relied on the ISA vetting too much.

    I devoutly hope we can squash this insane scheme before it comes to that.

  26. The more I hear about this scheme the more insane it seems.

    This morning on radio 4 I hear someone defending the ISA legislation saying that it was there to give people a sense of confidence in the people who were dealing with their children (I can’t recall the exact words).

    Seems to me, that this is saying exactly what my last post was concerned about. “Don’t think for yourselves folks. Just switch off your brains and rely on ISA to do the thinking for you!” I accept that the ISA has access to information I do not, but I still think that calling to people to suspend their personal judgement in favour of a distant bureucrat’s judgement is not sensible.

    A second cause for concern is the contradictory information coming out. Sir Roger Singleton who will run the ISA is quoted at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8253789.stm as saying:
    “”And it is about bringing an end to the need for repeated CRB checks which so many people have found irritating. ISA registration is a one-off process for a single fee.”

    However if you go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8156124.stm it says
    “Does it replace CRB checks?

    No. What ISA registration shows is that there is no known reason why the applicant should not work with children or vulnerable adults.

    It does not check for malpractice or all criminal convictions if they are not relevant. Employers concerned about wider issues will still need to obtain an Enhanced CRB check. ”

    So apparently it’s not about bringing an end to repeated CRB checks as Sir Roger said.

    A third cause for concern is the all enveloping nature of the legislation. At http://www.crb.gov.uk/faqs/vetting_and_barring_scheme.aspx there are some excerpts from the legislation including:

    “[1] Definition of regulated activity: Any activity of a specified nature that involves contact with children or vulnerable adults frequently, intensively and/or overnight. (Such activities include teaching, training, care, supervision, advice, treatment and transportation.)

    • Any activity allowing contact with children or vulnerable adults that is in a specified place frequently or intensively. (Such places include schools and care homes.)
    …..
    ‘Regulated activity’ is when the activity is frequent (once a month or more), ‘intensive’ (takes place on three or more days in a 30-day period) or overnight.”

    I drop my four year old daughter off in school each morning. We have access to the playground, but there is a sign that makes it clear that parents are responsible for the children, and there are no school staff in site. So we stand around whilst the children play. There is one man who the children adore, they treat him like a climbing frame, and he swings them around, turns them upside down, and generally plays fun games with them.school day.

    So this activity is in a specified place (school playground), and is frequent and intensive (takes place every school day).

    Seems to me that every parent dropping a child off at my local school is covered by the legislation.

    You can’t say this is an informal arrangement amongst parents: we have a legal duty to get our children to school. What happens if someone is on the barred list? Do they have to employ someone else to drop off their child? Is it sufficient to throw their child through the school gates at the last second and run in order to avoid illegal contact with other children?

    Talking about this at home our first reaction was that the school would have to shut the playground to parents and make us wait in the street, but that doesn’t solve it as the street then becomes the “specified place”. We are still all in contact with an entire school full of children in the same place on every day that school is open.

    Perhaps the act should have had an exemption for schools so that parents can fulfill their legal duty of getting children there. But no, that wouldn’t work because the whole point of the act was to stop the Huntley case recurring where somebody built up trust with children through an association formed around a school.

    At every turn it seems this act is more about creating problems than about providing solutions.

  27. Jennifer.

    It’s really scary, but you’re right – the effect of the nanny and database state is that we are at real risk of turning into a nation of automatons.

    It’s great to hear another voice of reason – the ISA MUST be abolished!

  28. I’m with you as well. Have you startd your campaign (apart from this blog of course)?

  29. The ISA is an abomination that threatens to destroy many thousands of careers and lives based on hearsay. Anyone who wishes to campaign against this organsiation please contact me. There must be legal grounds via the European Courts and International Human Rights. The ISA is manifestly immoral – it contravenes the right to a fair trial.

    My email is craig_pkooper@yahoo.com

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