Speak out against the national vetting scheme
3 August 2009
How would you feel if Philip Pullman or Anne Fine came to your child’s school to read from their books? Honoured that they had given up their time for children whom they don’t know - or worried whether they’d had the appropriate criminal record checks? I can do paranoia as well as the next person, but the idea that it might be a problem that children’s authors like children and want to talk to them seems quite simply bizarre. So three cheers for Pullman and some other famous authors for speaking out against the “insulting” requirement to be vetted by the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), and three cheers too for the Manifesto Club, for continuing to point out just how insulting and ineffective the national vetting scheme is, and launching a new petition against it.
In a briefing document published today, the Manifesto Club attempts to untangle the “convoluted and irrational” rules that will govern who will need to be on the vetting database. There’s no space on AM to give examples of the strange contortions of civil servants’ minds in deciding who may or may not be deemed a potential threat to children - so far as I can tell, it seems that anybody who ever wants to have contact with children will sooner or later end up having to register with the ISA. In other words, as Frank Furedi and I argued last year in our report Licensed to Hug, grown-ups will all be seen as suspicious characters unless they have “a piece of paper showing that they are not likely to be a malign and dangerous influence”. Only it’s worse than a piece of paper - as the Manifesto Club points out, this new vetting database works like Facebook or Twitter, sending electronic updates to interested parties about other individuals’ vetting “status”. And we all know how good the government is at running databases full of sensitive information. As a parent, I feel this insult cuts both ways. Why is any adult who likes children now presumed to be a pervert - and why are our children assumed to be so unlikeable that anybody who wants to engage with them is supected to have a dirty mind and an ulterior motive?
First published on the Times’s blog Alpha Mummy.>> updates archive