Protecting children: have we got our priorities straight?

By 11 September 2009

Was anyone else depressed to hear children’s charities supporting the Vetting and Barring scheme on the radio this morning, England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s new compulsory register for everyone who wants to work with children or vulnerable adults?

Set up in response to the Soham murders of 2002, it seems to me to be profoundly misconceived. As NPC’s report on child abuse showed, the threat to children from strangers is modest relative to that from family members. Is this kind of measure really proportionate? It is very hard to argue against initiatives to improve child safety, but at what point do we begin to worry about the wider damage to our society of treating all adults as a potential threat?

Consider a different headline today: the Guardian is reporting that the government is going to miss it goals on reducing child poverty.

At a time when core budgets of children’s services are under threat, how sad that we can find money to pander to our anxieties about child protection, but struggle to address the real structural problems that disfigure the lives of millions of Britain’s children.


Bob Reitemeier of the Children’s Society offers his defence of the Vetting scheme here. But the NSPCC takes a different view.