Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Saturday, 12 September 2009

ISA and the horns of a dilemma

Thanks to the implementation of new legislation that will be enforced by the ISA (Independent Safeguarding Authority) any adult who makes a formal arrangement to have any contact whatsoever with children will be required to undergo CRB checks, and have their information stored in a database. It will cost each individual £64. There's more information in the Telegraph.

There have been cries in the media and around the blogosphere that this is "unreasonable", that it "goes too far".

Chris Grayling has said
"We all understand the need for proper protection of our children but this new regime has the potential to be a real disaster for activities involving young people in the UK.

“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.”

Chris Huhne has also condemned the legislation
“Children’s safety is paramount but 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 Telegraph points out that
David Green, director of the think-tank Civitas, warned it may even make employers complacent and rely too much on the system instead doing their own “due diligence”.
But, of course, a Home Office spokesman is sure it's a good idea and said
... he rules for parents were "a commonsense approach", adding: "The UK already has one of the most advanced systems in the world for carrying out checks on all those who work in positions of trust with children and vulnerable adults.

"Set up in the wake of the Soham murders, the new Vetting and Barring Scheme will, from October this year, ensure these regulations are even more rigorous."

Mrs R recalls that Huntley was already on a database, but it referred to the wrong area, and he was not working in the school attended by the girls he killed. She wonders if they would have been protected had he been registered with ISA?

On balance she thinks probably not - because a database is only ever as useful as those refer to it; only as accurate as those who input the data and, sadly, there are always those who are willing to amend data for one reason or another - usually to do with malice, humour or money.

So let's see where this new regulation leaves us ordinary mortals who will have to live with the rules.

Mrs Rigby does a bit of voluntary work for a charitable organisation and can sometimes come into contact with children. These children are never at any time separated from their parents. It also only happens if it's been pre-arranged, because it's not normally part of the "job".

She thinks this legislation would apply to her - if she were to continue to offer to do "work" that involved pre-arranged contact with under-16s. She believes it would not apply if she no longer offered to do this sort of work, and left it to somebody else.

Mrs R is, however, concerned that if she doesn't take the initiative to register - an apparently one-of action - she could, to quote the Telegraph, face
a fine of up to £5,000 and a criminal record.
She believes the charity could also face prosecution for failing to ensure Mrs Rigby was registered and cleared as a not being a criminal.

The bleeding-heart brigade would tell Mrs R that if she's nothing to hide she's got nothing to fear, and she should go ahead and register and have her background fully checked.

But, umm, why?

Mrs Rigby knows she's never broken the law; she knows she has never been prosecuted; she knows she has no criminal record and she also knows it would never cross her mind to harm another person, let alone a child. So why, in order to be able to do her little bit of very enjoyable charitable work, should she have to fork out what is effectively a tax of £64 to get somebody else, probably on minimum wage to look through court records prove that what she says is true - especially if they could make a mistake and report that she's a hardened criminal?

Mrs Rigby would willingly, and very happily, swear an affidavit before a lawyer to say she is law-abiding.

Making such a declaration would also keep her name off the database and exempt her from what will no doubt in time be costly annual re-registration and re-checking ... because the unelected ISA will realise very soon that once isn't often enough, because people can change and turn into criminals overnight. That, after all, is one reason why the Police would like our DNA on record - because they're so sure we're all potential criminals.

On balance Mrs R doesn't think she should have to prove to anybody that she isn't a criminal, so she will no longer be offering her services at venues where there may be children. That means the charity will lose out. She wonders if this is what government intended - probably not, but they don't always think everything through to all possible outcomes, unless there's a political motive which brings me to the next point.

Mrs Rigby wonders how the Tories, Liberals or other political groups will be able to repeal, alter, or water down this legislation if and when they come into power and form a government. Simple answer is that they can't.


Because all it would take would be one single instance of a child being hurt by a nasty paedo who slipped through the net, as did Huntley, and they would be condemned forever for allowing kiddy-fiddlers to have access to children.

Mrs R believes that this is precisely why Labour has passed this poison-pill legislation.

They know they are likely to lose the next election, but they want to maintain control and know all too well that their successors will find themselves finely balanced on the horns of a dilemma - they will be damned if they attempt to repeal or alter the rules, and damned by the public for continuing to encourage the Big Brother State if they don't.

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