Vetting and Barring: Is Hypothetical Woman a Pedophile?

So from October 2009 – next month, for Uncle Doctor and the rest of you clam-examiners – the British government will implement, through an Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) something it calls the Vetting and Barring Scheme. According to the Telegraph, the new law  requires everyone who has regular contact with children, as a result of an association with some form of organisation other than their family, to be approved by the Government after registering on a state-run database. This will cost the person being approved £64 – a one-off fee that is waived for volunteers – and the fine for not getting checked is £5000.

A lot of people are citing the Soham murders – they do this every time children at risk are mentioned, since it’s a high-profile case like Baby P and Madeleine McCann. But the Vetting and Barring scheme likely wouldn’t have done a damn thing in the Soham case – Ian Huntley slipped through the net because his criminal records were destroyed by the police. No scheme is perfect.

But people already have to be checked.  The subject was brought up and discussed extensively this week on BBC4’s Any Questions, and the armed forces minister, Bill Rammell MP, when asked whether we would now need a government check to take a neighbour’s kids to football, had this to say:

Bill Rammell MP: “My clear understanding is that if it is a personal arrangement with friends, with neighbours (…) if it is an agreement with those two families, then that will not, er, the Barring and Vetting scheme (sic) will not apply. If it is a voluntary activity, with a voluntary organization, I think parents would expect that organization to have carried out some checks, and that’s what this is all about.”

Jonathan Dimbleby: “Can’t they – forgive me – we’ve got the Criminal Records Bureau checks already there that they can utilize if they wish to, and most do?”

Well, Mr. Dimbleby has a point – he usually has rather a lot, come to that. And the Vetting and Barring scheme doesn’t make the CRB checks obsolete. Any Questions is usually better for a laugh than anything else, but in the session relating to this particular programme, one of the callers was a piano teacher who said that she had three seperate CRB checks and had friends with six, even thirteen, since a different check is needed for every school or group. They cost £36 each, which the schools pay – money which could, on the whole, be used for things like computer labs and playing fields. Don’t people communicate anymore? Can’t this just be put on a record that they could take with them? Are these checks nailed to the school walls?

I personally do not have children and do not intend to have children – this kind of thing is one of the many, many reasons why not*. The only kid I regularly come into contact with is the daughter of one of my mother’s friends, who I am giving sewing lessons to once a week because she wants to learn and comes up to my standards of ‘people I can stand to be in my space’. I’m given to understand from Bill Rammell’s statement above that I don’t need to be vetted to continue giving free sewing lessons to Kid Stitchy, as she will henceforth be known, but if I’m wrong? I’m on benefits, where the hell am I gonna get £5000?

But this is not my major beef with this. Let’s say hello to Hypothetical Woman (hi, Hypothetical Woman!). Hypothetical Woman not only has a sidekick – her daughter, Concept Girl – she teaches at the Abstract School for Potential Superheroes, as a volunteer. She has her CRB check, and when the Vetting and Barring scheme comes in she’ll be checked by them too – all good superheroines abide by the law, after all.

But Concept Girl is wary of her. She’s wary, in fact, of every adult in the world, and refuses to allow Hypothetical Woman to hug her goodbye when she goes to class – Hypothetical Woman’s co-worker, Random Guy, glares at her when he sees her trying and demands she gets her CRB check renewed. All parents are checked, all contact with children is viewed as bad and everyone is seen as a potential pedophile.

Finally, Dr. X. Ample takes over the country and passes a new law, demanding that all children be brought up by the state unless the parents can pass a vigorous test that proves they are fit to raise their children in the sterile, unfeeling way the government demands.

Yes, this is an extreme image. But instead of being innocent until proven guilty, this law assumes that everyone is a pedophile and so must prove that they are not. SERIOUSLY, the problem is NOT as widespread as the papers would have us believe. I got through childhood without being molested, so did my five siblings and all my friends. If I were to believe the media, statistically speaking at least me or one of my siblings should have been abused in childhood. Not every corner has a pedophile on it, and – especially this – not all men are kiddyfiddlers. Seriously, is anybody surprised at the decline in Scout leaders when every Scout leader is painted as abusing the boys in their charge? It’s become almost as bad a stereotype as the Catholic priesthood, with not nearly as much justification.

But I’m ranting. I started college this morning, I’m quite tired and this issue makes me quite angry.

* – Childfree post likely coming eventually.

REFERENCES: (programme may become unavailable)


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