UK – Now Big Brother targets helpful parents as one in four Britons are to be vetted for giant child protection database


By James Slack, Home Affairs Editor
Last updated at 7:41 AM on 11th September 2009

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Parents could face a £5,000 fine for driving their children’s friends to a sports event or Cub Scout meeting.

They face punishment and a criminal record if they have not been vetted first by a massive new government agency.

An astonishing 11.3million people  –  one adult in four  –  are likely to come under the watchful eye of the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

Launched next month, it will be the biggest vetting and clearing system in the world.

Every person who comes into regular contact with children or the elderly, through work or volunteering, must be approved by ISA officials checking for criminal convictions, disciplinary action and even unproven allegations.

It goes way beyond the current Criminal Records Bureau system, which covers only 6million people.

For the first time, 300,000 school governors, dinner ladies and parents who visit schools or nurseries to read to children will be involved.

It will even apply to parents who, at the request of organisations like junior football teams or the Guides, give their children’s friends lifts to or from events.

If they do so without first being vetted by the ISA’s 200 staff, they could be fined up to £5,000 and given a criminal record.

The clubs themselves will face a £5,000 fine – potentially enough to ruin them. Parents who host foreign pupils on school exchange trips will also have to be vetted.

MPs and academics fear the change will have disastrous consequences.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘We are going to drive away volunteers, we’ll see clubs and activities close down and we’ll end up with more bored young people on our streets.’

Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: ‘We are in danger of creating a world in which we think every adult who approaches children means to do them harm.

‘The creation of the world’s biggest checking system is a disproportionate response to the problem it is trying to solve.’

The Office of the Information Commissioner said there were ‘inevitable’ security risks in collecting large amounts of personal data.

Philip Pullman, best-selling author of His Dark Materials, has already pledged to stop giving readings in schools in protest at the scheme.

He has called it ‘corrosive to healthy social interaction’ because it will encourage children to see everyone as a potential rapist or killer.

The scheme was recommended by the Bichard report into the Soham murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman by school caretaker Ian Huntley.

Huntley was given the job because allegations of sex with underage girls were not passed on.

The Home Office said: ‘The Vetting and Barring Scheme does not cover personal or family relationships, so parents making informal arrangements to give lifts to children will not have to be vetted.

‘However, anyone working or volunteering on behalf of a third party organisation – for example, a sports club or a charity – who has frequent or intensive access to children or vulnerable adults will have to be registered.

‘We believe this is a commonsense approach and what parents would rightly expect.’

Registering with the ISA will cost £64 in England and Wales, although unpaid volunteers will be exempt.

Registration will be needed for activities which involve contact with children or vulnerable adults three times in a month, every month, or once overnight, as well as jobs in places such as schools, prisons and children’s homes.

In a ‘belt and braces’ approach, everyone currently working with children and old people will have to be vetted, even if they have already been cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau.

Those whose jobs involve mandatory enhanced CRB checks will continue to undergo them.

An enhanced CRB check costs £36, which means that, on top of the £64 ISA fee, being cleared to work with children could cost £100.



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