General articles

Child Protection – update prior to Vetting and Barring Scheme start

Prepared by Chris Mew on behalf of the Central Council Tower Stewardship Committee

The article published in The Ringing World issue of 11th September 2009 gave a fairly full overview of the operation of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and it is not proposed to repeat the detail here. This update is by way of bringing to ringers attention those developments and minor alterations to the scheme which have occurred in recent months and to merely reiterate the key points and actions required.

Government Review
As a result of representations from many quarters, a review of the operation of the Vetting and Barring Scheme was carried out by Sir Roger Singleton, Chief Adviser on the Safety of Children. His report was published on 14th December, 2009 but, despite those who anticipated that the review was a major “U-turn” on the part of Government, the recommended alterations to the scheme were minimal. One key alteration was that the frequency of contact with children triggering a “regulated” activity was changed to 4 days or more a month, an easily understood comparison with weekly activities. A further alteration exempted one-off visits to schools by such persons as authors. There were no other significant changes affecting ringing activities.

Church “Roadshows”
Early in 2010 the Church of England launched its own series of “Roadshows” aimed at informing incumbents and, in particular, church workers involved with children about the Vetting and Barring Scheme. The first presentation was given in Radyr and has been followed by similar sessions at other centres and cascading of information to Dioceses.
An important aspect of the presentations was the publication by the Church of their own recommendations regarding which activities or roles should be expected to be CRB checked and ISA registered. The list shows for bellringers “All Tower Captains, Ringing Masters and Adult Ringers who train/teach children under 18 where the roles fall within the definition of a regulated activity”. This confirmed the understanding of how bellringing would be treated and the notes to the list also warned that “If the parish/Diocese (the countersignatory) obtains ISA registration or CRB disclosure where they are not legally allowed or required to do so they will be acting illegally and could be prosecuted”. These were important statements on behalf of the church but there is a caveat which will be discussed later.

Home Office Guidelines
In late March, 2010 the Home Office issued a set of Guidelines which had originally been expected in June 2009 but had been delayed by the Review. These Guidelines presented an overview of the operation of the Vetting and Barring Scheme and usefully confirmed previously intimated intent. However, there is to be a further set of papers specific to the Faith Sector by mid year which it is anticipated will merely flesh out with examples the day to day working of the scheme. A key item confirmed is the “peer exemption” where adults are assisting indirectly with those carrying out regulated activities for which the leaders are themselves checked and registered. Organisations whether employers or organisers of volunteers, such as the church, or indeed in some circumstances a ringing society, are now named as Regulated Activity Providers or RAPs.

Ringing Activities and Legal Requirements
Whilst not wishing to go over in great detail what was said last year, the following points and associated table sets out what ringers need to watch out for and take appropriate action.

Ringing activities NOT legally requiring any CRB checks or ISA registration:

General ringing at practices, meetings and on outings;
Visitors to towers
Helping with young people by ringing another bell or standing behind;
One-off teaching or deputising not recurring 4 times in 30 days.
Transporting juniors as a one-off domestic arrangement.

Ringing activities legally REQUIRING CRB check and ISA registration where carried out weekly or more than 4 days in 30 or involving overnight stay (for example weekend courses)

Activity Supervision by Registration
checking by
New registrations
Arranged by
Face to face teaching
Home tower
Tower Captain PCC PCC
Face to face teaching
as regular visitor
Tower Captain Tower Captain/PCC PCC of visitor’s
Home tower
Face to face teaching
BY 16/17 year olds
Tower Captain PCC PCC
Transporting juniors as
formal arrangement
Irrespective
of frequency
Church or Guild
as organiser
PCC PCC
Face to face teaching
organised by Guild
Tower Captain of
Host Tower or
Guild Officer
Guild Officers Guild/Diocese by
arrangement

It has been clarified that helping teaching at different towers as an individual would not be aggregated but if, for example, a Guild organised a series of weekly training events, albeit at different towers, then that would be classed as a regulated activity because of the common provider.
It should be noted that “peer exemption” only applies to helpers and not if they are actually teaching, even if under supervision.

Unresolved issues
The two biggest issues regarding the requirements for CRB checks and associated ISA registration rest with local interpretation by Church authorities and the acceptance of ISA registration from other sources. Firstly, regarding CRB checks, despite the “list of roles” issued in February this was described as “indicative and not prescriptive” leaving things open to local interpretation. There have been a number of representations to the Tower Stewardship Committee regarding continued attempts to blanket check all adults in mixed age groups including ringing bands. Clarification is still being sought from the Church Head of Safeguarding but where such problems exist it is suggested that attention be drawn to the Church’s recommendation of Tower Captains/Ringing Masters/deputies only and warnings of possibly acting illegally in requiring other adults to be checked. The whole point of the definition of a “regulated activity” for which registration is required is that it is the nature of the activity which is the key and not the mere presence of children.
The second issue is portability of ISA registration between activities which, as far as the registration itself is concerned, is a legal certainty. Registration gained as a school teacher, sports coach or nurse is automatically transferable to other regulated activities. So what is the issue – it is that the church is currently unwilling to accept ISA registration alone, however gained, as the sole criteria of suitability for working with children. The ISA registration effectively says that the individual is not unsuitable for regulated work but the church still wants in addition a further CRB check even though the latter process has been gone through to achieve registration. In as much as ISA registration means that an individual’s records are continuously updated there is no new information that a CRB check will reveal. Again this issue is being pursued and interestingly Government has just initiated a consultation on whether ISA registration alone should be accepted for a range of regulated activities, it being their clear intention to reduce the need for new and repeat CRB checks.
Finally, there is the emotive question of dealing with known offenders even after convictions are deemed to be “spent”. The church is quite clear on this and their policies could well be adopted by ringers as a reasonable approach.
Basically any offender will not be allowed to engage in any church activity until a clear written agreement has been reached jointly with the parish and Diocese as to what they may do and under what restrictions. Legally there is nothing to prevent an offender from engaging in any activity which is not classed as “regulated”. A recent court case upheld the view that it was against human rights not to review restrictions placed on an offender and the Home Office itself has a tariff of times after which review can take place.
The conclusion of this section is that whatever the law lays down as a requirement, Church authorities, whilst meeting that requirement, may ask for more and retain ultimate sanction over those that enter their doors.

Timescales
Those being processed through new CRB checks and ISA registration will be subject to new forms from 28th June 2010 and old style forms will not be valid from 26th July.
With effect from 1st November 2010, new entrants to regulated work must be ISA registered and RAPs must ensure that no barred persons are used on regulated work.
Starting in April 2011, those already in regulated work (i.e. those continuing to work with children and having had CRB checks prior to July 2010) may be invited to register with the ISA. All such existing workers must be registered by 25th July 2015.

Way forward
Some ringing societies have already appointed Child Protection Officers, others have decided not to, this is a matter of local choice and may depend on the level of junior training with which the society is involved. Whilst it is true that the main responsibility for meeting the law rests with PCCs and Dioceses there are good reasons for territorial societies both to ensure that organised events do not contravene the law but also to offer independent advice to local tower captains if required.

Legislation in Scotland
Preparations for the introduction of a similar scheme in Scotland are progressing. Draft guidance was issued for consultation in November 2009 with completion in February, 2010 to which the Committee contributed.
The scheme is expected to commence towards the end of 2010 although no dates have yet been announced. Facilities for on-line availability of information will not appear until some time in 2011. Exchange of barring information will exist between the Scottish Scheme and that authorised by the English Act. Further information will be made known as it is received.

9th May 2010

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers