If you tell enough stories, perhaps the moral will show up.


Not Idle; Moral!

In a month or so, every adult who works as an employee or volunteeer with children or other vulnerable groups has to be registered with the Independent Safeguarding Authority. This is an extension to the current criminal record check, because the assessment is continuous. What that means is that if a rumour or suggestion falls into the hands of a police force, government agency or local authority at some future time, the registration can be withdrawn at that point, and the employer/organiser warned off, unattributably, under pain of a £5,000 fine.

The Home Office are saying that there will be more than ten million names on the list, dispensing information from hundreds of sources to hundreds of thousands of users, and the records will be up-to-date and truthful. Since the aim is so laudable, and the consequences of screw-ups so dire to innocent and guilty alike, we must wish them "good luck with that".

I'm not against this sort of thing overall. The test is always to move away from the emotive area of child protection and see how we feel then. If you apply for a bank job, is it good that your proposed employers is able to learn about your convictions for swindling or your creditors arrangement before they give you the safe keys? Yes, it is. Society is mobile and people do use that to hide. But this scheme fails for me, on top of its basic impracticality, because its boundaries are just too wide -- essentially, if the criteria for inclusion are fair and worthwhile there's no good reason why it shouldn't be applied to parents or at least step-parents, and that takes it into political and moral absurdity.

But I do have a slight problem. You see, the papers are full of warnings that volunteers -- the sports organisers and the reading assistants and millions of other helpful people -- will be deterred by the unpleasant thought of being on a list where they are graded and assessed for the risk they present to children. And this is a colourable view: the rules of the Standards Board certainly reduced the number of upright citizens willing to serve as parish councillors, and certainly I reckon I would much rather be judged on whether I had declared all my financial affairs than have some civil servant noting that my late marriage was a marker of sexual irregularity and a risk factor for proneness to abuse children.

On principle (like I say, it's a bad scheme, see?) I won't be registering, and that means I won't be volunteering, and will have to decline requests that I do so. But I am also aware of a slight hint of relief as I make that choice. Essentially, because of my strict moral standards, I can't do PTFA stuff; I can't do carpools, I can't mentor, I can't help with reading. All these things which I didn't do before, because I was a bad person, I'm now not doing because it's important to make a stand against idiot completists in the civil service. Result!

I'm not doing anything this evening: Fancy a swift half in the Angel? See you there.

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