Following significant criticisms, covered by Dylan earlier in the week, Ed Balls and co have admitted there are significant problems with the "Independent Safeguarding Authority" vetting database for people coming into contact with children, and have started making major revisions to it. One can't help but notice that said revisions remove from the vetting requirements the most potent critics of the scheme, such as high-profile authors accustomed to visiting schools, but still – it's a good development.
However, now that the scheme is being revisited, Balls and his coleagues should consider cancelling it per se. There is no pressing need for it. Our national obsession with paedophilia, of which this scheme is a reflection, makes children no safer, whilst – by harming the culture of volunteerism upon which so much of civic society in our country depends – it objectively threatens to make the lives of many children much worse.
Indeed, the Government could make a virtue of having listened to the voices of many people in carrying out such a move. It would also greatly benefit a constituency about which the Labour Party apparently cares a great deal – that is, the poorest in society, whose children depend disproportionately on such volunteerism, as their families are unable to buy into the kind of privately run extra-curricular activities which would be able to afford (and willing to comply with) the accreditation requirements of the vetting scheme. Whilst by no means claiming to be the first to come up with it, I've not seen this point made before in the course of this debate.
By Alex Deane