• The NSPCC suggestions for changes to the DBS system will only protect children from abusers who are already known.
  • The shortcomings arising from the DBS being relaxed in 2012, which can permit ‘barred’ people to work with children periodically if they are supervised, was debated in the House of Lords during the passage of the Protection of Freedoms Act  in November 2011 by two peers with distinguished sporting backgrounds. Why only now has the NSPCC alighted on this issue?  Should it not have been raising this point and objecting to the legislation when it was going through Parliament?
  • The NSPCC proposal to extend duty of care to 16 and 17 year olds, which already exists in education,  is a sound principle. It will though have a limited effect in practice because data [Characteristics Children in Need 2014-15 Table A3 – https://goo.gl/TDiFgq ] indicates the proportion of children suffering abuse or neglect (both sexes) in this age group is 14% while in the younger group, which is already included within the scheme,  it is 86%. Furthermore the proposal is still dependant on ‘discretionary reporting’ of known and suspected abuse which data reveals is unreliable leading to under reporting.  An example. England and Wales are out of step with the majority of jurisdictions in the rest of the world in not having some form of mandatory reporting of known and suspected child  abuse. 

  1. The principal challenge faced with child protection is that only between 5% (NSPCC prevalence data 2010) and 12.5% (Children’s Commissioner 2015) of child abuse comes to the attention of the agencies that investigate these concerns. Empirical data indicates that ‘under reporting’ of suspected abuse in institutional settings is rife >60%.   (Impact of Mandatory Reporting Law : A Seven year Longitudinal Analysis –  B.Mathews 2015) NSPCC has known about this from its own data for many years and has never proposed a measure designed to have a substantial effect on this. Instead, in proposing changes to the DBS system, they are tinkering around the edges of the problem.
  2. A major reason for this low detection rate is that no one in England and Wales is legally obliged to report known or suspected abuse on reasonable grounds, to the Local Authority. The lack of legal obligation means staff are currently whistleblowers without the legal protection mandatory reporting law provides reporters.
  3. For instance, a sports coach could witness a child being abused by a colleague, and is under no legal obligation to report anything to anyone.
  4. Witnessed abuse is rare, a member of staff usually holds a suspicion.  This results in many people being unwilling to make a report in case they are wrong.

Two Peers from the sports world have repeatedly raised the challenges faced by sports organisations if DBS rules were relaxed to the current unsatisfactory position by the Coalition Government included :

Extract from Protection of Freedoms Act  Debate – House of Lords, November 2011:

Baroness Heyhoe Flint (deceased)   8.30pm 8 Nov 2011  : http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/111108-0002.htm

“Clause 64 amends the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 by narrowing the definition of regulated activity, as my noble friend Lady Walmsley mentioned. Crucially, this would exclude any role fulfilled while subject to the,

“day to day supervision of another person who is engaging in regulated activity relating to children”. 

The proposed changes mean that an individual who has been barred would not be prevented from working with children in a supervised role-for example, as an assistant coach at a cricket club, provided that another supervising adult such as a head coach was present, because that assistant coach will no longer be liable to a full criminal record check”

“With respect, the new arrangement fails to understand the way in which sports clubs are run. The House needs to note that, for example, many sports coaches, club minibus drivers and match organisers in a sports club could be considered as assistants if the club has a head coach, but unless the head coach were working alongside every volunteer assistant at every session it would be wrong to classify these people as assistants. I ask the Minister to consider how a sports club is to interpret the concept of supervision when on summer or winter evenings successful cricket clubs and junior football clubs may have hundreds of children being coached across a spread of sports fields and pitches. Does the head coach actually spread himself or herself to supervise every one of these sessions and all the volunteer assistants involved? That is an unfair burden to place on the sports club and one that may deter volunteering as well as reduce protection.”

Baroness Grey Thompson  8.50 pm 8 Nov 2011http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/111108-0003.htm

Unsurprisingly, I have decided to keep my main comments at this stage to those parts of the Bill which could have a serious effect on British sport. I refer specifically to Part 5 of the Bill, on safeguarding vulnerable groups. I support the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, in calling for the correct balance for criminal record checks.

I also have some concerns over Clause 64, which narrows the definition of “regulated activity”. It makes an assumption that day-to-day supervision is enough, but I believe that the proposed changes mean that an individual who has been barred would not be prevented from working with children in a supervised role. The issue of “regulated activity” has been raised by many in your Lordships’ House, so I will not talk any more on this point now, but I agree that it places another unfair burden on yet other volunteers. I believe that it might be appropriate for all bodies in this sector to be granted an exemption from Clause 64(5).


Tom Perry said “The NSPCC proposals are one small step for child protection, but not a giant leap for it in sport or any other Regulated Activity. The NGO serially sidesteps the key issue of culture change that can only be delivered with new law via introduction of well-designed Mandatory Reporting in all Regulated Activities including sport.”

About Mandate Now : Mandate Now is the pressure group that leads the call for the introduction of law requiring and supporting staff  who work in ‘Regulated Activities’ to report concerns about the welfare of children [and vulnerable adults] to the Local Authority. Mandatory reporting of suspected or known child abuse is a vital component of a functioning child protection system in institutional settings. Mandatory reporting is in widespread and effective use in the majority of countries on all four continents https://goo.gl/lhwamM

Contact : Tom Perry  office@mandatenow.org.uk