life design music photography home us film art fashion global notes archive links
 design fashion film music art photography global notes life
09:independent safeguarding authority  |  by jamie thunder 
Independent Safeguarding Authority
By Jamie Thunder
October 2009
vhcle-09:global notes
Jamie Thunder is an English language undergraduate at Cardiff University, Wales. He writes for and sub-edits his student newspaper, His interests include current affairs and bad puns, and he hopes this will equip him for a career in journalism.
Read other articles by Jamie Thunder:
Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.
1984’s most chilling, disturbing, enduring line has inspired many people to resist fascism and authoritarianism in all its forms. It has also inspired many people to mindlessly shriek ‘STALINIST’ at any notion of a government database or list.
The latest to draw their ire here in the UK is the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). This has been in the pipeline for several years now, and will soon be (rather slowly) rolled out across the country.
What the creation of this body means is that anyone who has regular, organised contact (once a month for a year, three times in any one month, or any time overnight) with children or vulnerable adults will need to be checked. The check will cost £ 64, but will be free for volunteers.
But what exactly will the checks look for? Maybe that explains the opposition. Well, the ISA will ask the Criminal Records Bureau – part of the Home Office – whether the individual has any convictions that could make them unsuitable to work with children or vulnerable adults. It will also collect information from other areas like previous employers about any concerns.
One of the more reasonable objections to the scheme is this ‘any concerns’ bit – will it just rely on hearsay? Could someone be prevented from working with children because of an unsubstantiated allegation years ago?
Almost certainly not. That’s not quite as unequivocal as it would be ideally, but as the test for deciding whether to ban someone is the balance of probabilities, there will be some people who are wrongly caught up. It’s also possible that someone could be acquitted of an offence in court but still be banned because of the alleged offence – that’s because the standard of proof in a court is higher.
I really wonder how many panel members will be comfortable with banning someone for an offence when they have not been convicted of it, but in some cases (e.g. if they were acquitted on a technicality) it could be appropriate. And as for fears that someone could be banned because of their predilection for S&M, well they’re just wrong.
There certainly are problems with the proposals. They were made after a review of the Soham murders, when two young girls were killed by a school caretaker. But the caretaker was not at the girls’ school, so although the proposals would have stopped him getting his job as a caretaker they wouldn’t have stopped him killing the girls.
Unfortunately, the ISA has widely been reported – not least by the government – as a direct response to the Soham murders, so it’s been very easy for people to attack them. Really, the proposals are unlikely to catch many paedophiles; it’s more about plugging the gaps and making sure that people who’ve already been convicted can’t work with kids or vulnerable adults.
And that’s basically what these proposals are – measures to protect the most vulnerable. You can argue about whether they’re necessary, or will be effective, but when you start screaming that they’re the brainchild of an authoritarian regime then you lose a lot of credibility.