The Independent Safeguarding Authority is a ‘Club’ for ‘Decent’ Adults

Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club addresses what I think is a huge issue embedded in the creation of the Independent Safeguarding Authority:

UK Home Office and education officials simply cannot understand why anyone wouldn’t want to be vetted. When I challenged the Home Office official in charge of the scheme about a potential rebellion against vetting, he said that if somebody didn’t want to be vetted ‘there must be suspicious reasons for that’. He described the vetting database as like a ‘club’, which all decent adults should want to be part of. What a corrupted view of decency: being on a state database and submitting ourselves to constant surveillance.

Yet officials are themselves unclear about who will have to be on their vetting database, which means that the whole scheme will also breed mass confusion. In theory, an adult has to be checked if they work or volunteer with children ‘frequently’, defined as ‘once a month’ or ‘three days at a time’. So not, by implication, if they work with children once every five weeks, or for two-and-a-half days. Yet a Home Office spokesperson said yesterday that all adults who had a ‘tiny amount of contact’ with children would have to be vetted.

This is the same way which the Home Office is dealing with the question of identity cards. It has a solution in need of a problem and then uses propaganda to generate a ‘problem’ which they then can trumpet they’ve fixed. It’s an insidious way of conducting government – to ignore the question of need for such an initiative, but instead to suggest that anyone who disagrees with it is by extension a paedophile or potential paedophile, thus validating the existence of the ISA. In another article Appleton writes:

In the report (The Case Against Vetting: How the Child Protection Industry is Poisoning Adult-Child Relations.), Jim Campbell, mayor of Oxford, argues that mass vetting erodes informal bonds: ‘The important informal ways in which people relate are going to disappear – everything will be done under contract. We are in danger of creating a generation of children who are encouraged to look at people who want to help them with suspicion.’

Johnny Ball, TV presenter and mathematician, says that that vetting means that everybody relies on bureaucratic proceedures, and that children grow up without ‘the ability to themselves assess character and motives in the people they meet’. It also undermines the good will on both sides: ‘This awful legislation does nothing to build confidence in young people or indeed in teachers.’

This is one of the most important points to remember – above all it will prevent children and young people from developing the ability to risk assess competently – a skill which we need throughout our lives. But Campbell’s argument is also one worth repeating – relationships between people are being forced into being conducted under contract. It’s insane. It should be anathema to the British character, and it’s perversely heartening to see even the authoritarian Daily Mail joining in the attack on the ISA. But I have to come back again to the initial point in this post – I am not suspicious for refusing to be on a vetting database, any more than for refusing to be on an identity database. The club that I want to be part of is the human race, not a horrible government database, under scrutiny by unqualified and unaccountable bureaucrats, with the freedom to manage my working life in any arbitrary way they choose. I choose instead  to relate to others, both in work and outside of it, in the informal, uncodified ways we naturally adopt as human beings. The Independent Safeguarding Authority is morally wrong and must be abolished.

(via James, with thanks)

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2 responses to “The Independent Safeguarding Authority is a ‘Club’ for ‘Decent’ Adults

  1. I have a 23 years old criminal record for crimes of dishonesty and possession of class B drugs. I was young and a messed up. Still, what I did was wrong and I was punished for it with a fine and a 1 year probation sentence.

    Fast forward to 2009. I am in my late 40s. I was made redundant a few months ago. I am actively looking for employment and I am amazed at the number of roles that require CRB checks for positions that do not even involve regular contact with children or vulnerable adults. In an effort to beat unemployment and improve my long term chances in life, I thought I’d enrol for a course to teach a foreign language to adults, as I am bilingual. To my dismay, when the course guide came through, it stated a requirement for a CRB disclosure:
    “to ensure that you have no criminal record which might affect placing you as a teacher where you might potentially be working with ‘vulnerable adults’ …You will need to arrange this CRB check yourself, and the cost may be between £30 – £50”.
    The title of the course is: *Certificate in Language Teaching to Adults*. But, because the practical element of it will take place in an Adult Education Institute class that *may* or *may not* include vulnerable adults, I would need to provide a CRB disclosure and have all my sorry past dug up for public consumption.

    I categorically do not want to work with children or vulnerable adults *ever*. The hysteria and paranoia surrounding these groups has now reached such a pitch that, even if you enter a profession clean as a whistle, you may end up with a criminal record on the strength of misunderstandings, gossip or disagreements.

    My partner sympathises with me but sees the point of the requirement because: “teachers of adults and children alike, are in a position of power”. Well, if that is the case, I think that CRB disclosures should be mandatory for every adult person in the country. After all, managers have powers over supervisors who have power over junior employees. Parents have power over children. Shop owners have power over the people who visit their shop. Train and bus drivers have power over passengers. The governing board of the local amator dramatic society has power over its members. My allotment committee has power over plot holders.
    Actually, did I write adults? Let’s extend it to minors has well: I’ve never forgotten how my older sister used to bully me when I was little.

    What is this country coming to? And how do you challenge these laws without a) exposing yourself and b) being accused of supporting paedophilia?

  2. GSlad – some interesting points raised there.

    In order for me not to attract the kind of suspicion the Home Office have created by saying that somebody who didn’t want to be vetted must be suspicious – I had a check done (which was actually against the law). I did that reluctantly so that I could argue from the position of having been checked and deemed clean – but vigerously against the whole thing.

    However, set aside the ISA for one moment; that’s being rolled out from later this year. Currently the situation is as follows:-

    The CRB can only issue Disclosures for employment positions which are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. It’s not just at the discretion or judgement of someone at the council or on a PTA or who runs a business who says they’d like us to have one. The law is actually very clear about which occupations require CRB Disclosures, none of which include my occupation as a performer/entertainer for mixed child and adult audiences.

    On my website I say…..

    Entertainers aren’t actually required to have compulsory checks because we’re performers and we’re not left in sole charge of children (similarly, I guess we wouldn’t expect the cast of Mary Poppins to have CRB certificates just because the audience is predominantly children). However, since it seems to be a concern for many parents, for complete peace of mind I’ve been voluntarily checked by the criminal records bureau and a copy of my sparkly-clean certificate can be provided if needs be.

    However, as I say, I shouldn’t be checked – period. Furthermore, those who insist on me being checked are asking so illegally. Quite simply they are not entitled to ask for a Disclosure unless my occupation if one of those exempted from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. However checks are going on all the time for people who should never be checked and there’s very little we seem to be able to do about it.

    I wrote to my union Equity and they agreed but said that public feeling was such that it would be foolish of them to try and argue against something which they say protects children.

    The CRB themselves say I don’t need to be checked. I have a letter from them which quite categorically states my occupation does not allow for it but still they comply with employers illegal requests. The way employers get round is is to simply state on the form that I’m in a different occupation – one which should be checked. So for example if I’m going for a job to a show in a pre-school they will tick the occupation pre-school worker as opposed to entertainer (there isn’t one).

    I hope all that helps you, because getting back to your point. It’s not up to your potential boss to arbitrarily decide if he thinks you should have CRB check – it’s a matter of law.

    There’s something else I’d like to point out which may help you. Often you need not worry about juvenile convictions form many years ago. Local Police forces have the right to wipe your record clean once you become an adult and it’s unlikely juvenile convictions from 23 years ago will show up. The only time they cannot be wiped clean is if the offences attracted a custodial sentence of 6 months or more. There is a way to find out yourself and avoid any potential embarrassment. Disclosure Scotland is the Scottish version of CRB. Unlike the English CRB – the Disclosure Scotland allows you to carry out basic checks yourself. You can do it all on-line and I think it costs about £20. You will receive a basic disclosure in the post. Don’t worry about it being from Scotland. It’s perfectly OK and the Scottish database is the same as the CRB English one.

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