parents with attitude

Licensed to Hug

Civitas, (2010)

An updated edition of Licensed to Hug (Civitas) by Professor Frank Furedi and Jennie Bristow is calling for the government to shut down a controversial scheme intended to regulate contact between adults and children.

Introduced in 2009, the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) replaced several previous barring lists and schemes and was rolled out to a wide range of employees, volunteers, employers and service providers. However, in the 2008 edition of their report, the authors exposed the many absurdities and dangers of such schemes. They also correctly predicted that barring schemes would subject a quarter of the population to intensive scrutiny of their personal lives, interfere with sensible arrangements made between parents, institutionalise mistrust between the generations and discourage volunteering.

With the updated edition, the authors now outline recent developments and provide case studies that demonstrate how the VBS has been at best a costly distraction and, at worst, has created an atmosphere of suspicion that actually increases the risks to children and damages relations between the generations. It also reinforces the authors’ previous observation that perhaps one of the worst aspects of the scheme is that it doesn’t guarantee that a child will be safe with a particular adult – instead, it merely provides information confirming that the adult in question has not been convicted of an offence in the past.

The updated edition also calls on the government to adopt a radically new approach which recognises that the healthy interaction between generations enriches children’s lives. It states that rather than create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, society should be encouraged to operate from the assumption that the majority of adults have no predatory attitudes towards children, thereby fostering greater openness and more frequent contact between the generations.

Professor Furedi, who recently gave evidence at a House of Commons Education Committee review into child protection issues, said: ‘In June this year, the Home Secretary Theresa May announced that the government was to conduct a major review of the VBS and that all current registrations to the scheme have been put on hold. But given the damage the scheme has done to individuals, organisations and society in general, we are calling for the VBS to be shut down.’

Jennie Bristow, author of Standing up to Supernanny, added: ‘The vetting scheme creates unpleasant and unnecessary barriers between parents and other adults in their communities. Parents and voluntary groups need the freedom to make their own decisions about who they can trust.’

Buy this second edition from Amazon (UK)

Read the media coverage of Licensed to Hug here and here.