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back to article Government swiftly backpedals on vetting scheme

The Vetting Database is in trouble: that’s official. Or rather, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), it most definitely is not. That is why Ed Balls, Secretary of State at the DCSF, is absolutely NOT calling for "a review". Rather, in a letter to Barry Sheerman, Chair of the …

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MnM

Perverted algebra

The case worker will examine predisposing factors, cognitive factors and behavioural factors.

By what rhyme or reason has this categorisation been made? The factors are obscure, vague, and not mutually exclusive. Hardly the type of test that the ISA's 'trained bureaucrats' (presumably experienced Trisha-watchers) can be expected to apply consistently or with a reasonable degree of accuracy. The check was of course going to be highly subjective. Covering it in a layer of pseudo-science, to be practised by laymen, hardly helps. (Side issue, but it smacks of consultants.)

@John

As for the value of a child. I had wondered earlier what price freedom. I mean, if we lived in some state of perfect freedom, with the downside that children were acutely unsafe, what degree of freedom should be given up to improve their plight. Which begs the question, how safe should they be made? Perfectly? and what would the cost to freedom then be?

There is no answer, of course. There's no explicit dynamic between personal freedom and child safety. Huntley, as the article said, is a case in point. Weighing up the cost as a budgeting exercise - I couldn't begin to guess, sorry. But any system can be gamed by the determined, and that has to be taken into account. This factor acts to reduce the amount it's worth spending on a safety net, without speaking to the value of a child.

Question ducked, so putting myself in the FAIL bucket along with the 11 million porn fiends who once watched Barberella.

@TeeCee - can't help you either! FAIL pour moi on that note too. A word for readers who don't really read is a big ask. Lookers?

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Nothing to hide?

I don't live in the UK any more, so this is largely moot to me; but the bottom line is that I would not submit to these checks because I don't trust the process. Even with a fairly unusual name, I have had mistakes in my credit records, tax records, etc. etc.

If I were to undergo this check, there's a significant (to me) chance that I would be mistakenly identified as a problem. At that point the failure of vetting becomes a *much* larger data point than anything before it (even if that were hearsay or mistakenly attributed).

It seems to me that the end result of this will be a much reduced pool of any kind of volunteers, chaperones, etc and that ultimately kids will suffer. For the vast majority of kids who never were in any danger this is the ultimate harm and result. A secondary effect is social change that comes around when people are treated with suspicion and distrust rather than lauded as volunteers.

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WTF?

Next thing....

You'll be vetted to avoid having your own children taken away.....whether or not you've done anything wrong.

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"Independent" Safeguarding Authority?

I've found out what "Independent" means in the name "Independent" Safeguarding Authority: http://www.isa-gov.org.uk/default.aspx?page=9#board

"The Board

The Board members will support the Chair and Chief Executive in leading the ISA. This role includes:

* ensuring all decisions are steered by guidance from the relevant minister or sponsoring department;

..."

"Independent" means "doing what the government tells them". Or, to put it another way, "ensuring all decisions are steered by guidance from the relevant minister or sponsoring department".

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Unhappy

Some possible prices per child

John

Well the US lawyers for the victims and relatives at Lockerbie negotiated $10m each. I mentioned this on the cost of the IMP scheme.

However for childre lets work the NHS idea. They'll fund a treatment if it gives 1 extra year of life and is less than c£30k.

Average life expectancy around 74? Adults outside the family starting to get (potentially) involved from about 5 onward? So 69 x 30k = £2 070 000.

So you pays your money and takes your pick. I note, like other posters. It would not have stopped Huntley at Soham (and ther have not been any further case exactly like Huntly in the 7 years since).

Perfect safety in *any* walk of life is nonsense. The baby P case still fascinates me. 60 visits in 3 months and *still* they were fobbed off and fooled.

But maybe all they had were social works without common sense or experience. Just a qualification. A dangerous combination at the best of times.

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Anonymous Coward

Stop me if you've heard this one before but...

Presumably every sixth-former who turns 18 before they've taken their a-levels instantly becomes an adult who will. until the a-levels have finished, have regular contact with children, and thus should be barred from school until their check result comes thorugh?

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Big Brother

Look Who's Protecting Our Rights

Look who's protecting our rights: http://www.isa-gov.org.uk/default.aspx?page=9#chief

"The Chief Executive, Adrian McAllister

...

His other responsibilities include: ... ensuring the ISA balances the need to protect vulnerable people with the rights of the individual.

Adrian comes with twenty two years' experience working in the West Midlands, Merseyside and Lancashire police force - including several years as a senior detective. He was ACPO spokesperson on Disclosure and Criminal records, a role that involved close liaison with the CRB. He is a Graduate of Loughborough and Manchester Universities and holds a diploma in Applied Criminology from Cambridge University."

Police state.

Also, it often seems that the government, et al, like to talk about "balancing" protection and rights as if the two are somehow mutually exclusive. But you don't protect people by taking away their rights; that's just an absurd contradiction along the lines of "WAR IS PEACE", "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY", "IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH". You protect people not by taking their rights away, but by respecting and protecting their rights. That's fundamental.

This talk of "balance" also seems to be a ploy to paint objectors as unreasonable, extremist, and the like. "Balance" sounds "reasonable", in a bit of a woolly, wishy-washy kind of way, while insisting that there's no balancing to be done, that it should all be one way, sounds unreasonable, extreme, and so on. But the kinds of rights we're talking about - especially the rights of innocent people to be treated as such, rather than prejudged "just to be on the safe side" - aren't rights to be balanced in this kind of way in the first place. Either innocent people have the right to be treated as innocent, or not. There's no balancing to be done.

What's often called "balance" is actually the abolition - perhaps by a process of on-going salami slicing - of the rights being "balanced" with so-called "protection". "Balance" is a disgusting euphemism. </rant>

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FAIL

Three formal contacts within a three month period

So if you work in the corner shop just opposite a school, will you have to have a CRB check as you will almost certainly have to deal with children on a daily basis? And if you spot the little darlings shop-lifting, do you confront them and risk losing your job or any other employment prospects when they falsely accuse you of doing something inappropriate?

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Big Brother

And nobody's mentioned

Common Purpose.

Imagine their zealots running this system (hell, from the look of it they *designed* the system) with their usual enthusiasm for going beyond the call of duty in the cause of the destruction of society.

Dear God, and I say that as an atheist.

Like AC 15:35 GMT, I don't trust it one tiny bit. As someone said in a Guardian letter today, can it be long before you need a CRB check to live on a street where there is a family with children?

BB. Not *just* watching. Listening out for malicious gossip too.

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Paedofile checking MUST go ahead

I can’t see the problem with vetting all people that have contact with children who are not their own - in a professional or semi-professional job. National statistics tell us that one in every four of us have paedophilic tendencies. So these excuses for denying children their statutory human right of protection in these areas are verging on outrageous. What is becoming of our society and what do we expect in the future from all the victims who, in the majority, move on in to completely socially dysfunctional lives? The restraining techniques used by children in care officers should also be made public. They are horrific and cause children as young as 12 to take their own lives. Google ‘Adam Rickwood & The Medomsley Heroes’ and ‘Sun Sea & Satan’ by pienmashfilms.com

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@The unasked question

"Do they genuinely believe that ANY cost is justifiable to save one child's life?"

Others have already mentioned the False Dichotomy and other fallacies, but there's also the "Appeal to Pity" underpinning this whole business, ie "how can you *possibly* argue against anything that might save a child's life?" with, of course, the implication that if you do object, you are a callous and dangerous individual...

The fact is that, as you point out in your article, after all this time wasted and money spent, this legislation would *still* fail to prevent another Soham and will only massively inconvenience (or implicitly criminalise) the vast majority of people who would in no way harm a child.

Pace the "Reminds me of Niemöller......" comment, it reminds me of the "vetting programme" used by the US Military in Doctor Strangelove:

President Merkin Muffley: "General Turgidson! When you instituted the human reliability tests, you *assured* me there was *no* possibility of such a thing *ever* occurring!"

General "Buck" Turgidson: "Well, I, uh, don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, Sir. "

So the *real* unasked question is if (or gods forbid, when) another "slip up" happens even *after* all this vetting and barring, what will the Government and the Childrens' Charities and so on do then...?

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In the news today...

... I've just noticed two stories:

One is of the Rocking Horse Nursery in Plumtree having its licence suspended after allegations of sexual assault, the other is of three pre-teen boys who have been arrested after claims of sexual by two younger children.

So, going back to the unanswered questions: 1) would the vetting scheme have prevented either of these? 2) Will the record of the second one (whether true or false) follow these three boys for the rest of their lives?

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Polly Toynbee at the Graun thinks different

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/14/vetting-child-protection-baby-p

"It's more fun to have a good populist rant about the death of childhood, the evils of the nanny state and the infringement of civil liberties. Commentators bask in a glowing light as protectors of eternal freedom from officialdom for parents and children. Frankly, it's a bit boring to say this is a matter of good administration. Registering will be a minor nuisance to many people, but it's not a milestone on the road to dictatorship."

Hurr Durr! So be good citizens and register. Welcome to City 17. It is safe here.

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Focus on the costs, but not just the money

John (Ozimek)

You're pushing in the right direction by pointing out that it's delusional thinking to believe that implementing the vetting and barring scheme will only have positive benefits.

The V+B scheme will be yet another pressure which stigmatises men who want to work (or volunteer) with children.

It's possible to draw a straight line between press hysteria on paedophiles and the minimal number of men now going into primary school teaching. V+B is an extension of that hysteria. As the father, I can see the effect that the lack of male role models at school has on my son. This isn't some theoretical problem - it's happening, and it affects nearly every male child of primary school age in the UK. Right here and right now.

To say (as some have done) that 'if V+B prevents the abuse of one child it will have been worth it' is shortsighted nonsense. This scheme is not going to make a significant difference to the levels of child abuse which take place in this country because the vast majority of abuse takes place in a context which will not be regulated by the kind of controls which the V+B scheme introduces. Any money spent on V+B is money which could be better spent on other child protection activities. The minimal protection which will be afforded to a tiny minority of children will be at the cost of yet further erosion of the education and development of the vast majority of other children. Inter alia, there will be a direct and measurable effect on the discipline of primary school age children (and hence the whole of the rest of the school system) as a result of an even lower number of male teachers going into primary teaching.

It's undoubtedly too much to hope that some politician will have the balls to stand up and say the truth, so I will do it for them - occasionally we have to risk harm to the few in order for the many to benefit.

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Thought police, competent bodies, witchhunts

The ISA "Guidance Notes for the Barring Decision Making Process" is well worth trying to read (with a glass of whiskey, revolver or passport to hand), notably the "thought police" at paragraph 6.4.1, and the list of "Competent Bodies" who deem whether or not an "event" took place (and whose opinion cannot be challenged in the decision-making process) at Appendix C.

Incidentally, para 4.6.10 seems to be having a fight with 6.3.1 over paraphilia.

Who on earth peer-reviewed this document? Oliver Cromwell? And it seems to be cribbed from the Malleus Maleficarum.

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Big Brother

And in the future...

"Dear child, why are you crying?"

"I can't find my mummy"

"Oh, well, never mind, I'm sure we can find her. What does she look like?"

"Have you been vetted for child contact by the ISA?"

"Er..."

"HELP!!!! POLICE! POLICE!"

"Er..."

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@Paedofile checking MUST go ahead

pienmashfilms wrote : "I can’t see the problem with vetting all people that have contact with children who are not their own - in a professional or semi-professional job."

and

"So these excuses for denying children their statutory human right of protection in these areas are verging on outrageous"

___________

. . . . and most people would agree with you that **some** system of vetting is reasonable and appropriate and (ideally) provides **some** measure of assurance and protection.

The main criticisms aren't to do with the principle of such a scheme - but the cack-handed and inept implementation of the bizarre system they're putting in place.

Don't confuse the objections to THIS scheme with objections to ALL schemes.

No-one has said that children shouldn't be protected - what is under serious question here is whether the method they've chosen actually does what it says on the tin. In fact cogent arguments have been put forward to suggest that this particular scheme may be more harmful to children in the long run.

Ditch this scheme - come up with a better vetting solution that might actually benefit our kids - that's the general idea of the arguments here.

The cost argument has been interesting - there are obvious upfront financial implications of this scheme - but what has been persuasively argued on here is that there are a plethora of hidden costs that have been ignored (either deliberately or otherwise).

As one poster wrote - look up the "broken window" fallacy to see the problems with ignoring the overall cost/benefit picture.

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Anonymous Coward

re@Paedofile checking MUST go ahead

Or we could stick with the one we've already got - it works well enough (when was the last child death as a result of a peadophile working with the child?) I can't actually remember any myself.

All you can really vet for is have they commited a crime before? And are they smart enough to get past a psychometric test.

As already pointed out the scheme wouldn't stop another "huntley" and I love the idea that people are trying to stop such things, it's impossible every few years someone shall do something more horrible then normal, it's inevitable. No matter what you do, someone can pick some kids up off the street taking them somewhere and do terrible things. No amount of checks, paranoia or fear will stop it.

And the money wasted on this can be better spent fixing the social services and getting rid of buzztalk and focusing on the real job of detecting crime, but that would be too sensible, best to make a few new quangos, get a few new headlines, and waste a few billion pounds on something that wont help.

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Anonymous Coward

Better use of the money

Give the £700,000,000 to the scout/guide movement to increase the quality of life for our kids.

Anyone know how to do a freedom of information enquiry? Remuneration packages of the ISA (and CRB) senior staff, I bet they're being paid well enough to be very determined in defence of this hare-brained scheme.

I do know of a kids charity currently discussing whether the need for ISA is the final straw (they provide an enrichment activity for physically handicapped kids so "touching" is inevitable).

Although I have an ECRB showing absolutely nothing on record anywhere I will use ISA as a pretext to end my volunteer youth work although the real reason is the rest of the infrastructure which prevents us doing any remotely adventurous outdoor activities.

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Malleus, 1692, McCarthy, CPC, ISA

The latest draft of the ISA guidelines[1] is essentially the 1692 Salem protocol but re-phrased in NewSpeak and ported to Windows. I suspect that the e-Reports of ISA barring hearings will be much the same as reports of CPCs and will read much the same as those in 1692, but with more stringent threats of penalties for disclosure. The issues will be the same: mis-interpretation of malicious, deranged or standard gossip, normal childhood scatalogical behaviour and language as being evidence of adult malfeasance, and with the each meeting resulting in progressively more widespread and lurid phantasy. (One can create a first draft of the new reports by taking the witness transcripts and contemporaneous newspaper coverage then replacing all occurrences of Satanism with paedophilia and all occurrences of indigenous population with terrorists. What you get is a climate of fear building up and manifesting itself with suspicion that one's neighbour, rather than the clan over the hills, is an immediate serious threat.)

One of the most alarming prospects is paragraph 5.6.1: "...A barring decision can, therefore, be

made, having regard to all the circumstances, if the ISA is satisfied that the

events concerned happened, on the balance of probabilities, notwithstanding

an acquittal at court...." So if you are genuinely innocent, and have had that assertion upheld in a criminal court (or family court or civil court or "other competent body", apparently), the verdict (or finding of fact) can be overturned by three bloke(tte)s in Darlington, leaving you with something like an ISA appeal (£10000???) or judicial review (£100000??) as your only recourse.

[1] http://www.isa-gov.org.uk/pdf/GuidanceNotesforBarringDecisionMakingProcessweb.pdf

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