Q: Joe, you have been high profiled this week on national British television, national and local radio talking about child abuse in sport and the flaws relating to DBS Disclosure checks. How is this been received generally speaking?
A: It certainly has raised eyebrows in all areas across the UK. All but one, have been supportive and everyone agrees, I think, that, following the footballer revelations about historic child abuse in football, child protection and DBS procedures need to be tightened up. The Home Office should lead on this issue to ensure that the DBS is fit-for-purpose, because at the moment, it simply isn't. Waiting for 7 months to conduct criminal checks upon applicants is totally unacceptable, no matter how the Home Office tries to avoid the issue.
Q: You say one is not supportive and there are issues with the Home Office. Can you elaborate further?
A: Sure. We had written assurances from Karen Bradly MP when she was the Home Officer Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation in November of 2015 outlining the issues of criminal checks taking time to process and that she is looking very closely and monitoring the issue, but nothing has been improved over the last twelve months. If anything, the delays in criminal checks have been ignored.
On the other issue, I had a lengthy discussion with a respected key national figurehead saying that she has attempted to address the issues that NAKMAS and others have raised, but if the Home Office is not prepared to alter policy there is nothing she or we can do. I disagree completely. I think campaigning and lobbying works well when you know, deep down, that something is terribly wrong, then we have a duty, a moral one, to act, campaign and seek changes. So, because the Home Office won't change policy, we should agree with them, stay silent and move on? I am sorry, but I am not prepared to do nothing and stay silent. After all, we should be protecting children and vulnerable adults, not ignoring them.
Q: What's the main issues with the DBS?
A: Well, apart from what I have already mentioned about delays, it is now for the applicant to pass on a copy of the Enhanced Disclosure Certificate to the Registered Body once issued by the DBS. Before the changes some years ago, the Registered Body, i.e. NAKMAS, would automatically receive a copy and we can quickly check to see if they are suitable to work alongside children or vulnerable adults. Think about it, there could be some serious convictions on an applicant's Disclosure Certificate that would prevent them working with children or vulnerable adults; a great risk to both groups, but it is for the applicant to disclose this to an employer or a national governing body about his or her past; complete and utter bonkers. Don't you agree?
Disclosure Scotland did not change policy some years ago, and continues to automatically send NAKMAS a copy of the applicants Disclosure Certificate. Credit to them. I hope this continues.
Q: Have there been child abuse issues within the martial arts?
A: Yes, many and the worst one was last year when Paul Drury a very experienced martial arts teacher was jailed for 15 years for 'systematic abuse' and rape of a girl over several years. Good riddance to him, I hope he rots in jail.
Q: Did I hear correctly Joe that you mentioned there should be a monthly DBS check?
Well, would that be a terrible thing considering the recent revelations within the Football Association and what we have seen within our own sector?
Let me expand on this one.
Nowadays, you can walk into a shop, airport or practically anywhere else for that matter and use a smartphone to pay for goods and services instantly, small and large, with the money being taken from the payer's bank account instantly. So why can't a simple app be created, whereby an applicant can show a Registered Body or interested third party that the DBS is updated, monthly, by simply showing the screen? Furthermore, the Registered Body could have access to the app and an update can simply be done each month. Everything is electronic nowadays, so why not? But you know why not? Because it's too simple. When something is simple, they are not interested. They seem to keep it complicated, full of red tape, but the children and vulnerable adults are dangerously at risk as a result.
Q: So, what next Joe?
A: I have requested an urgent meeting with Sir Roger Gale MP who intervened for us last year when we raised issues with the Home Office. I am hoping that when I outline the issues to Sir Roger and the pitfalls of the DBS he will agree to work alongside me and NAKMAS to seek changes in the way criminal checks can be vastly improved. Sir Roger is our local MP, a well-respected and decent person, and I have met him before on a local charity fund raising event, and I know he shared some of my concerns last year relating to criminal checks. So, I am hopeful especially if Sir Roger is on-board.
Q: And if he is not on board?
I'll go it alone. Seek national working partners and hound the hell out of the Home Office until improvements come into force. After all, we all want children and vulnerable adults protected, don't we?
Q: For sure, so keep us informed Joe and we'll do another interview with you in a few weeks' time to see what progress you are making.
A: Thanks Libby…will do!