ISA circling the drain
Nurses seek to safeguard members from Safeguarding Authority
The Independent Safeguarding Authority, standard-bearer for the last government’s efforts to protect every child in the country from any harm imaginable, is sailing into choppier waters this week with the announcement that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is now seeking a judicial review to delay its implementation.
The issue, as far as the RCN are concerned, is that any individual deemed by the ISA to be "unsuitable" to work with children or vulnerable adults could be barred from work in their chosen profession for a minimum of 10 years.
The standard of proof required by the ISA is no more than "on the balance of probabilities". As readers will be aware, this test is made even dodgier by the fact that the ISA is being asked to judge not simply whether an individual has committed a particular offence – but also in terms of their suitability and likelihood that they might do something untoward in the future.
This includes hearsay evidence – not permitted in a criminal trial – and scoring algorithms that could take account of factors including individual sexual propensities and what films they watch.
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, said: "The RCN has written to the Home Secretary to give notice of our intention to seek a judicial review of the vetting and barring scheme. This is consistent with the pre-action protocol for judicial review. "Of course, nursing staff recognise that the protection of children and vulnerable people is of the utmost importance.
"However, we are concerned that the new scheme is already failing to provide our members with a fair hearing and can result in them being disproportionately barred for 10 years for less serious disciplinary offences.
"Having had exhaustive discussions with the previous government over the inclusion of appropriate procedural safeguards for our members and having taken extensive legal advice, the RCN firmly believes that the vetting and barring scheme is unfair. We also believe the scheme contravenes articles six and eight of the European Convention on Human Rights which forms part of the basis for our challenge."
A spokesman for the Home Office acknowledged that the Home Secretary, Teresa May, had received a letter from the RCN giving notice of their intentions, and that she will respond in due course.
They added: "The Government has committed to review the criminal records and vetting and barring regime and scale it back to common sense levels."
It is likely that any court action could further delay full implementation of the ISA vetting and barring scheme, which was due to start relieving individuals of their £64 registration fee in July of this year. ®
In recent years, alongside the growth of nanny state regulation, there has been a growing tendency for individuals to find their fitness for work governed by professional "codes of conduct" that focus on how they behave in their private lives. This tide may now be on the turn, as the government yesterday announced the abolition of one such body - the General Teaching Council - on the grounds that it added little to classroom standards and was a general waste of money.
The price of what ISA stands for
Dropping ISA makes sense. After all, the ISA amounts to thought police, ``for the chiiiildrunnnn''. And there's the basic freedoms angle: Freedom to act implies the freedom to fuck up. Perhaps only once; caught and tried us-the-people could easily decide that once is enough to permanently bar you from working with children. But since you can't very well do that to people who haven't fucked up yet....
Justice can be a bitch sometimes. But, not giving people the chance to learn, to repent, and so on, is perhaps a worse fate. If we're not willing to do that, we might as well dress everyone in straitjackets all the time. And not, as the holier-than-thou childhugger brigade would like to imply, just the people we suspect, either. Because justice without equality is not justice, that naturally means: Every Last One Of Us All. Do you like that?
Vetting is and will be a farce. I have no problem with barring individuals convicted of offences from certain work where that is sensible, nor vetting where that is truly needed, but for the majority; the innocent will likely tell the truth and become victims of that truth ( or of insinuations and slurs from others ), while the dangerous will lie and/or quite likely slip under the radar.
It is really the scope of vetting and increasing risk-averse mentality which is the problem.
I do not like the notion that I or anyone else should have to prove their innocence against a de facto presumption of guilt and particularly do not like that I should have to pay for the privilege of proving my innocence.
Above all is the nonsense that having watched pornography, read Lolitta, seen Bugsy Malone, or the neighbours thinking "she's a bit odd", should be be accepted as justification for destroying a career and a person's livelihood. Possibly forever if vetting-lite becomes the norm; "have you ever been refused a job on the grounds of vetting rejection?" on application forms.
This shibboleth regarding protection of children from harm at all costs is so laughable it's....well, laughable. It's an unbalanced attitude perhaps due to saccharine memories of childhoods that never were and the idea that the little darlings are angels made of snowflakes.
Someone really needs to put the cat among the pigeons and work out the monetary value of a child's life cut short prematurely, then compare that (and the number of such lost lives) with the cost of the many insane, unbalanced provisions made for their protection. (Some of which provisions are actually detrimental to the proper development of children.)
And as for the internet: instead of assuming the internet, the web in particular, is by default "safe for children" with only "adult" sites earmarked, how about we do it the other way around? Assume that everything on the web is only suitable for adults, with the exception of specific sites marked as safe for the kiddies.