Previous Section Index Home Page

14 Dec 2009 : Column 49WS

The regulation of child performance

As Professor Buckingham's report makes clear, the commercial world offers children many exciting opportunities in terms of entertainment, creativity, communication, learning and cultural experience, but it also carries some risks. Both issues can be seen in the specific context of children's participation in television, film and theatre performances.

Our starting principle is that performing is good for children because of the opportunities it offers them to develop their skills and talents, to have these recognised and praised and to develop more self-confidence as a result. Performing is often highly enjoyable for children, while also giving great pleasure to many people beyond children's families and friends.

As a country, we want to continue celebrating the brilliant performances of children in stage shows like Billy Elliott or programmes like Britain's Got Talent, and it is right that our talented children should continue aspiring to appear on those stages.

We also benefit as a country from the careful and sensitive insight into children's lives given by films like Fish Tank or documentary programmes like My First Year.

But where many parents, educators and Ministers become concerned is when programme makers seem determined to keep pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable, to provide shock value for viewers and push up ratings, rather than to do anything positive or meaningful for our children, our culture or our country.

The relevant legislation is set out in the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 and the 1968 regulations which relate to it. This regulatory regime applies across a huge range of performance activities, from local dramatics and talent shows to popular television programmes and films.

There are a number of difficulties with the 1968 regulations, and also the primary legislation on which they depend. For example, the legislation is highly complex; is interpreted very differently in different places; and is hard to apply to contemporary broadcasting. Concerns have also been raised that the regulations are often misapplied, or sometimes not applied at all. Some have also asserted that the current regulations do not reflect current thinking about the nature of the biggest risks to children, or children's greater maturity today compared to 50 years ago.

Questions have also been raised about whether there is sufficient information and guidance currently available to parents who are considering agreeing to their children taking part in performance activities, or indeed to all of those putting on performances, and of parents.

Increasing technological convergence also means that there is a need to consider these issues in a way that takes fully into account the fact that the boundaries between different forms of communication are blurring-those between television and the internet especially. Unless a modern framework is developed which consciously looks ahead there is a serious risk of it being rapidly overtaken by technological change.

Questions have therefore arisen about the extent to which the current regulatory approach is still fit for purpose today. My Department has lead responsibility for the regulation of child performance. Earlier this
14 Dec 2009 : Column 50WS
year, I asked officials to examine the 1968 regulations with the aim of updating them. The results were discussed informally over the summer with interested parties. These discussions made it clear that simply updating the existing regulations would probably not create the kind of approach that we believe we now need: that is, one that protects children effectively and proportionately from the risk of harm, enables them to make the most of the many exciting performance opportunities now available, and reflects and respects the right to freedom of expression and editorial independence.

I and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport have therefore decided jointly to commission a piece of work to explore these issues in greater detail, with a view to deciding what a modern, effective and proportionate set of arrangements for the regulation of child performance should look like, and we have appointed Sarah Thane, CBE, to lead it. Sarah Thane is a former chair of the Royal Television Society, a former adviser to Ofcom on regulation and content, and a member of the governing board of Teachers TV, and therefore brings considerable, relevant experience and expertise to the task.

Sarah Thane will engage and work with all those with an interest in this area, including organisations representing children and parents; children's charities; broadcasters, programme and film makers; representatives of local arts and drama organisations; theatre organisations and local authorities, among others. Sarah Thane will report her conclusions to us by the end of February 2010.

Vetting and Barring Scheme

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): I am today publishing Sir Roger Singleton's report on the vetting and barring scheme, "Drawing the Line", together with the Government's response. I am placing copies in the Libraries of both Houses.

Parliament legislated for the new scheme in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and it received overwhelming support. We recognised then, as we do now, that it is essential to ensure that children and vulnerable adults are properly safeguarded and that we do everything we reasonably can to protect them from those who seek to do them harm.

Our aim throughout has been to develop an approach which is proportionate, balanced and effective, with the scheme operating in a way which is neither burdensome nor bureaucratic, or off-putting to potential volunteers in children's settings-while still meeting the concerns of parents.

We have found much support for the scheme as we have taken this work forward through a process of extensive consultation with those who run services and activities for children.

It has always been our intention that mutually agreed and responsible arrangements made between parents and friends for the care of their children should be excluded from the vetting and barring scheme. That principle is central to the 2006 Act.

However, some significant concerns have been expressed about the interpretation of one particular aspect of the scheme; the degree of contact with children which
14 Dec 2009 : Column 51WS
should trigger the requirement to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). Striking the right balance on where to draw the line that separates those situations that should be covered from those that should be excluded has undoubtedly been a difficult judgement.

In my letter of 14 September to my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), chair of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, I said that Baroness Morgan and I had asked Sir Roger Singleton to check that the Government have drawn the line in the right place on this issue.

We are very grateful to Sir Roger for his very thorough work on this over the last three months, during which he has consulted a wide range of key individuals and organisations, including relevant unions, inspectorates, voluntary organisations, faith groups and local charities and clubs. His work was also informed by a survey of some 1,800 parents carried out by the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations.

I am therefore pleased to confirm that the Government welcome and accept all 10 of Sir Roger's recommendations to make sure that the vetting and barring scheme draws the line in the right place, protecting children without getting involved in private arrangements between parents and friends.

Taken together, we believe these recommendations strike the right balance between the need to protect the vulnerable on the one hand, and the importance of having a scheme which is proportionate and which is based on some fundamental guiding principles, consistently applied, on the other.

Sir Roger's report is based on two fundamental guiding principles which underpin both his overall approach and all his specific recommendations and which also underpin the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.

The first principle is that where parents exercise their own judgment about who should care for their children that is entirely a private matter in which the scheme should not interfere. But where parents give that choice to an organisation, such as a school, club or group and cease to be able to make a personal decision about which adult provides the care or teaching etc, then registration should be required, subject to how often the contact takes place between the adults and the children.

The second principle is that the statutory requirements laid down should go no further than is necessary for the safety and protection of children, At the same time, it is also necessary, and appropriate, to recognise that some organisations will choose to require registration in situations of exceptional vulnerability, whether or not the frequency test is met; for example, if the person will be expected to provide intimate personal care for a severely disabled child. This allows for a degree of local flexibility and recognises everyone's responsibility for safeguarding.

As Sir Roger notes in his report, public misunderstanding has led to concerns that the scheme risks intruding inappropriately into family life. It is not and it never will be this Government's policy that this should happen. We therefore strongly welcome the recommendations in Sir Roger's report, which make this absolutely and unambiguously clear.

The Government welcomes Sir Roger's recommended adjustments to the scheme's requirements which include:

14 Dec 2009 : Column 52WS

We believe that these adjustments to the scheme are proportionate and that they will be supported by parents, employers and by those who work or volunteer with children and vulnerable adults. The changes they will bring about are faithful to the two fundamental principles of allowing parents to make their own private arrangements without interference, and ensuring that requirements set by the state do the minimum necessary to protect children and the vulnerable.

Sir Roger's report also invites the Government to undertake further work in three areas:

The Government will take forward these three reviews in the New Year.

14 Dec 2009 : Column 53WS

The changes recommended by Sir Roger will impact on the numbers of people who will have to register. Initial estimates by the Home Office indicate that Sir Roger's recommendations will lead to approximately 2 million fewer individuals needing to register with the vetting and barring scheme. This suggests that the new figure of those who will have to register with the scheme lies in the range of 9 million to 9.5 million. The Government will publish a revised impact assessment shortly.

Sir Roger rightly underlines in his report the need for renewed efforts to communicate the details and safeguarding benefits of the scheme. The Government will therefore commission further communications activity to help explain the scheme. We will also act swiftly to dispel any myths and misunderstandings about the scheme with updates to the briefing notes that are on our website and which I have sent to hon. Members. The Government will also reflect all of Sir Roger's recommendations in the full guidance on the scheme that we intend to publish in the New Year.

Communities and Local Government

Connecting Communities

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. John Denham): On 14 October, I informed Parliament about my plan to reinvigorate and connect with those communities that are feeling the
14 Dec 2009 : Column 54WS
pressure from recession most acutely and ensure they are well placed to share fully in future prosperity and emerge stronger and more cohesive.

I can today inform Parliament that I am extending that programme to a further 85 neighbourhoods across 54 local authorities, adding to the 27 neighbourhoods across 21 local authorities that I announced in October.

The expansion of the programme means over 100 communities are now getting targeted help in addressing local issues. The package of support will enable local people to influence, shape and change policies on issues which really matter in their community. It will help to make sure that those people who are feeling the pressure the most are getting a bigger say and a fair deal.

Practical actions delivered on estates and streets will focus on making changes that address local people's concerns, reconnect them with jobs and tackle head on issues-real and perceived-which, left neglected, can prove fertile territory for extremism and those who would divide our communities.

I can also announce that around £2 million of funding is being directed at activity to support community champions, council staff and councillors that will help them develop the skills and confidence to address local issues head on. This funding complements extra support announced recently for around 130 local authority areas to tackle antisocial behaviour with training and support available to front-line staff and community champions.

14 Dec 2009 : Column 55WS

14 Dec 2009 : Column 56WS
Second round areas

North East (7)

Newcastle-Upon-Tyne City Council

1. Elswick

South Tyneside MBC

2. Central Jarrow

Middlesbrough Council

3. Thorntree

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

4. Stockton Town Centre

5. Newtown

Hartlepool Borough Council

6. Dyke House, Stranton, Grange

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

7. Southbank and Grangetown

Durham County Council

8. Spennymoor

North West (5)

Stockport MBC

9. Offerton

Rochdale MBC

10. Kirkholt

Oldham MBC

11. Waterhead

Knowsley MBC

12. Page Moss

Lancaster Council

13. Skerton

Yorkshire and Humber


Barnsley MBC

14. Darton West

15. Dearne

16.. Athersley and New Lodge

(received funding in wave l)

East Riding of Yorkshire Council

17. Goole

North Lincolnshire Council

18. Winterton

North East Lincolnshire Council

19. Fiveways

Leeds City Council

20. Gipton

Rotherham MBC

21.East Maltby

22. Dinnington

23.East Maltby

East (2)

Great Yarmouth Borough Council

24. Nelson

Thurrock Council

25. Tilbury Riverside and St Chad's

East Midlands (7)

South Holland District Council

26. Holbeach

27. Long Sutton

28. Sutton Bridge

Bassetlaw District Council

29. Harworth

Leicester City Council

30. Eyres Monsell

Amber Valley Borough Council

31. Aldercar and Langley Mill

Northampton Borough Council

32. Thorplands

Gedling Borough Council

33. Killisick

N W Leicestershire District Council

34. Measham

West Midlands (6)

Stoke-on-Trent City Council

35. Bentilee

Birmingham City Council

36. Shard End

Herefordshire County Council

37. Newton Farm and Golden Post (Belmont Ward)

Sandwell MBC

38. Friar Park

39. Tibbington Estate, Princes End

Walsall MBC

40. Birchills

Wolverhampton MBC

41.Bilston East

South East (8)

Hastings Borough Council

42. Greater Hollington and Ore Valley

Brighton and Hove City Council

43. Whitehawk,

44. Moulescoomb and Woodingdean

Crawley Borough Council

45. Bewbush and Iffield

Rushmoor Borough Council

46. Prospect Estate

Southampton City Council

47. Bitterne (area around Sullivan Road, Sholing)

48. Weston

49. Millbrook

Wycombe District Council

50. Castlefield

Oxford City Council

51. Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys

Thanet District Council

52. Cliftonville West and Margate Central

South West (2)

Bath and NE Somerset Council

53. London Road, Snowhill

54. Queens Road, Keynesham

Bristol City Council

55. St George East and West, Brislington East

56. Southmead

57. Whitchurch

58. Hillfields


Barking & Dagenham

59. Eastbury

60. Village

61. Valence

62. Parsloes

63. Goresbrook

64. Alibon

Barnet, London Borough of

65. Coppetts

66. High Barnet

Croydon, London Borough of

67. New Addington

68. Fieldway

Enfield, London Borough of

69. Chase

70. Enfield Highway

71. Enfield Lock

72. Ponders End

73. Southbury and Turkey Street

Greenwich, London Borough of

74. Brook, Page and Corelli estates

Havering, London Borough of

75. Mawneys and Elm Park

Hillingdon, London Borough of

76. Yeading

Hounslow, London Borough of

77. Bedfont, Feltham North and West, Hanworth and Hanworth Park

Kensington and Chelsea, Royal Borough of

78. North Kensington

Redbridge, London Borough of

79. Hainault

Richmond upon Thames, London Borough of

80. Ham


82. Hampton North (Nursery Lands)

83. Castelnau

84. Mortlake

Sutton, London Borough of

85. Sutton Northern Wards: St Helier, Wandle Valley and The Wrythe

Next Section Index Home Page