When it comes to child protection regulations, the powers that be are "damned if they do and damned if they don't". If they fail to put in sufficient checks, and something goes wrong, they are liable to be found negligent. So many authorities now err on the side of caution and put in place more and more bureaucracy in pursuit of a risk-free environment. The Scottish Children's Commissioner's "safe, active and happy" action plan for the next two years is therefore timely. It coincides with the consultation on the Scottish Vetting and Barring Scheme, prompted by the Bichard inquiry into the circumstances that led to the Soham murders by school janitor Ian Huntley.
The Scottish Parent Teacher Council points out that the current system of vetting operates across a broad spectrum - from those who run occasional activities for children to those who work in children's homes - without distinguishing the different risk levels. Its comment that "it is not clear the current system has been at all effective in reducing the levels of child abuse" appears to be borne out by the number of cases which still come to the attention of the authorities.
Yet the other side of the coin is the case cited by the SPTC of the man who had been charged with possessing a knife but whose case was thrown out.
However, only the charge showed up on his disclosure check - not the outcome of the court case. The result was that he was not allowed to help out at his daughter's school. Clearly, we need the balances as well as the checks.