23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Council leaders gave a guarded welcome to the Scottish Office proposal for a + national registration system for adults working with young children but warned + that volunteers could be put off by an "over-prescriptive" system. The + education forum of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities agreed to seek + a meeting with the Scottish Office before any scheme is finalised. Councillors + were concerned about who is to pay for tighter supervisio n of up to 100,000 + adults who help to run an estimated 11,000 clubs and youth organisations. "It + is imperative we get this system right otherwise we could put an end to the + volunteer effort in Scotland," Elizabeth Maginnis, Cosla's education + spokesperson, said.But Val MacIver, Highland's education chairman, said: "If + volunteers walk away, that is their loss and we shouldn't worry about it. + Anybody genuinely interested would not object to vetting. "Alec Thomson, + Cosla's education convener, said the key demand was for a mandatory national + system properly funded by central government.The recommendations for a vetting + process, made by Lord Cullen following the Dunblane tragedy, suggest that the + body to which all groups would have to be accredited should be self financing + by imposing charges with any shortfall met by Government funding.The Government+ has accepted this but community education interests remain sceptical that an + agency could survive by charging voluntary groups. Youth organisations also + want more detail on whether 15-year-old and 16-year-old youth leaders and + occasional parent helpers would be vetted.It was the difficulty of defining + clubs in a way that would not exclude informal or occasional activities, down + to private tuition, that led Lord Cullen to rule out compulsory registration. + The Church of Scotland meanwhile became the latest organisation to set out + advice on "inappropriate physical or verbal contact" with young people.The + Kirk's list of do's and don'ts is modelled on guidance issued to HMIs earlier + this year. This week's General Assembly stopped short of endorsing a ban on + hugging after a heated debate, but Sunday school teachers and other church + workers will be warned never to be left alone with children. The procedures, + which will appear in a laminated postcard size format, are an attempt to give + reassurance to parents that church is a safe place, the Rev David Hamilton, + assistant director of the Church's board of parish education, said. They are + also intended to protect workers against false allegations."This is not + firefighting," Mr Hamilton said. "There is not a crisis but there could be a + problem of irresponsibility if we are seen to be doing nothing."There will now + be a training programme for ministers who will then lead training sessions + with their congregations by September.The Church hopes to use the national + vetting scheme to run checks on criminal records or misconduct related to + children.