Vetting and Barring
As a parent of two children aged under ten, I would strongly support any reasonable measure which makes it less likely that they or other children could be attacked by paedophiles.
That includes longer sentences for people convicted of actually harming children, and making the systems which check up on potentially dangerous people more effective.
Unfortunately it does not necessarily mean bringing vastly more people into the net of government checks, which are already drawn so widely that the systems involved are creaking at the seams. There comes a point when the more people you try to watch, the less effectively you watch those who really need watching. And the government's new "Vetting and Barring" scheme appears to go way past that point.
The Daily Telegraph reports here how the government is proposing a vast extension of the range of people who need checks before they are allowed within a mile of children. The new scheme covers any formal agreement to ferry youngsters to and from the likes of Scouts, dance classes or local football matches, parents who help children read in class or those who host foreign pupils as part of school exchange trips, school governors, dentists, pharmacists, prison officers and even dinner ladies. All these people will have to register with the new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and undergo criminal record checks. Anyone who fails to register and have their background checked faces a fine of up to £5,000 and a criminal record.
Ultimately this new system is expected to bring a fifth of the total population of Britain into the net - 11.3 million people.
Anyone familiar with the management of schools is likely to have heard stories of the hassle already involved in making sure everyone who needs one has a CRB check. I strongly suspect that the new scheme will make matters worse. It will also deter people from volunteering to do things.
Whoever wins the coming General Election is going to have to make savings in government spending in order to stop this country reaching intolerable levels of debt - and any Labour politician who claims that a Labour government would not make cuts after the election is a fool or a liar.
If David Cameron wins I hope one of the first savings he makes will be to scrap the Vetting and Barring scheme, not because protecting children isn't important, but because I am convinced that such a disproportionate, bureaucratic scheme covering far too many people will be actively counterproductive.