New legislation affecting ringing - May '09

Prepared by Chris Mew on behalf of the Tower Stewardship Committee


The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 affects both employers and voluntary groups engaged in activities with children and with services to vulnerable adults. An initial review of the likely effect on ringing was given in an article in The Ringing World, issue of 2nd May, p.493 and a further update given in issue of 12th September, p.962. The purpose of this article is to summarise those areas of ringing that will fall within the Act and the extent to which ringers aged 16 and over may have to be registered with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). The provisions of the Act are due to come into force in a phased way starting from 12th October 2009 but with important further steps to take effect from July and November 2010.

The 2006 Act initially extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Parallel legislation has been passed for Scotland, the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007. These powers are not expected to be activated until later in 2010 and since they differ from those in England will be subject to a separate update.

Relationship with existing guidelines

The following paragraphs set out new legal requirements which will parallel existing sensible practices. The Central Council guidelines "Protecting Young Ringers" issued in 2004 following the House of Bishops initiatives remain valid advice for all those dealing with young people. In this respect the 2006 Act is not onerous and with its limited effect and benefit of life time validity of CRB check and total portability between other activities in many ways simplifies long term ringing activity.

Provisions of the 2006 Act

The Act extends the scope of work, both paid and voluntary, which will be "regulated" and thus require those engaged in it to be Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checked. In addition those workers will also eventually need to be registered with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). This body has been set up to vet all persons applying to work in regulated activities and will make decisions on individuals considered unsuitable for work. Persons considered unsuitable by reason of conviction or other cause will be listed as "barred" from regulated activities, these lists already exist for teaching, NHS and other professions.

For regulated activities whether carried out by paid or voluntary workers it will be illegal to use barred persons, illegal not to check on prospective workers and illegal not to refer to the ISA anyone suspended due to any behaviour or incident which poses a risk to vulnerable groups. Although the Act covers vulnerable adults this is in the context of social services provided and is not anticipated to affect ringing, all further reference therefore relates to children.

Implications for bellringers

The criteria for "regulated" activities identifies face to face teaching on a regular basis, three or more days in 30, of those under 18 together with organised transport to and from such teaching. Any adults engaged in these activities will trigger the need for CRB check and registration.

As a special case youths aged 16 or 17 who undertake such teaching (not being taught) will be dealt with in the same manner and must register. All other ringing activities, even in the presence of juniors, do not invoke legal requirements.

Face to face teaching is confined to those actually physically teaching and does not include helpers on other ropes, "standers behind" or informal advice whilst sitting out. The concept here is peer exemption where those assisting leaders are deemed not to be engaged in a regulated activity, acting as they do on behalf of and under direction of the group leader. Teaching one’s own children is exempted as a "domestic rrangement" as is giving informal lifts. Transport for juniors organised to a training session by a church or ringing society would be deemed to require drivers to be checked but general ringing outings would not.

Responsibility for ensuring that legal requirements are complied with will generally fall upon Parochial Church Councils working with tower captains.

Where special teaching sessions are arranged by ringing societies, they may become liable for ensuring that checks take place and that suitably registered persons are in charge. This would apply where training extends over several consecutive days or includes overnight residence. Notwithstanding the strict definition, because of the intensive nature of training days, checks are strongly recommended for all such training sessions.

Contrary to some PCC requests, it is, and will remain illegal to require someone to be CRB checked who is not carrying out a defined regulated activity.

Portability of checks and registration

A person who has been checked and registered for one regulated activity may use that registration for any other such activity. A person who, for example, has been checked in their profession as a teacher or governor, will be able to use their registration for ringing, scouts and choir. The provider of the activity has, however, still a legal duty to check the individual. The ISA will issue a unique ID number for the individual which, notwithstanding changes in jobs or activities and unless revoked through "barring", will remain for life.

What registration will involve

All existing workers or volunteers engaged in "regulated" activities with vulnerable groups will eventually require to be registered with the ISA (see timescale). With effect from 12th October 2009 all new entrant workers or volunteers will have to be registered. Application for CRB check and registration with the ISA may be made by the individuals involved in the activities or, in most cases, by the church as provider of the activity. The cost of registration is legally the responsibility of the individual although in most instances the cost will be paid by the provider. A one-off fee of £64 will be payable for each paid worker registered but volunteers will be registered free of charge. In the normal situation, therefore, a Parochial Church Council may, for example, register the tower captain and deputy, relying on these persons to supervise other helpers in training. The number of persons to be registered will depend on the numbers actually doing face to face training, the number of juniors dictating the level or resources and a desirable mix of male and female registered adults.

Applications for registration go through the same machinery as applications for CRB enhanced disclosures, so will need proof of identity of the prospective volunteer to avoid fraud or spurious identity. Details of name, date of birth and documents such as Driving Licence or Passport will need to be given and if registration is by the provider it must be with the consent of the individual for whom registration is sought. The CRB will search records, including the ISA’s barred lists. The individual will be registered if they are not barred and any relevant information will be sent to the ISA to consider. As part of the registration process an enhanced disclosure will automatically be provided by the CRB to the prospective provider.

Under the new arrangements the CRB will institute continuous monitoring, updating the relevant information from all available sources. This will ensure that in the event of new relevant information coming to light on an individual, that information is sent to the ISA to consider. When the provider makes the CRB check and associated registration status, it can opt to subscribe to be notified of changes in the individual’s registration status. If the ISA does decide to bar an individual, then their registration will be rescinded and the provider advised, if they have subscribed to be notified of changes to the individual’s status. Again, this service is free.

There is a legal duty upon providers to make referrals to the ISA in certain circumstances. Any event or behaviour which leads the provider withdrawing the person from regulated activity and which is associated with harm to vulnerable groups, must be referred to the ISA. The referral system will also consider concerns from outside bodies or persons (the latter acting through Social Services or Police) that an individual may harm or put at risk of harm vulnerable persons.

Persons who the ISA are proposing to bar will have the right to receive details of the information on which the ISA intends to base that decision, and will be invited to make representations before a final decision. This would guard against errors in records and malicious referrals and there will also be an appeal process.

Legal penalties

An offence occurs if an individual seeks to engage in a regulated activity from which they are barred. It will be an offence for a provider to knowingly use a barred person. It will be an offence not to check on the status of a person engaging in a regulated activity and not making referrals to the scheme where there is a duty to do so. Offences may carry fines and / or imprisonment, up to five years in the case of a person working with vulnerable persons whilst barred.

Timescales and phasing of legal requirements

12th October 2009

From this date, it will be illegal to use barred persons on regulated work (initially existing CRB checked persons fulfil need to check). Persons newly taking up regulated work must be checked.
Duty to refer to the ISA persons perceived as a risk to vulnerable groups.

July 2010

Phased applications for ISA registration will start.
On-line electronic checks of registration status become available to prospective volunteer organisers.

November 2010

All new workers on regulated activities must be ISA registered.

2010 - 2015

Existing workers and volunteers registration with ISA phased in over this period, oldest CRB checks likely to be phased in first.

Those church workers relying on existing CRB checks may expect to be re-checked during the transitional period before registration is gained. The CRB will be working with the CRB registered body network to manage this process.

What should ringers do?

The potential effect which the new legislation will have on bellringing and other voluntary activities is widespread. However, as shown in the table below, the anticipated activities which will trigger a registration requirement for ringing are relatively limited. Where towers have existing persons CRB checked this will almost certainly fulfil immediate legal requirements. The table shows the requirement by activity, where this exists, together with the responsibility for complying with the law.

In the case of teaching organised by Associations/Guilds then a choice can be made whether the host tower provides the registered persons or the Guild.

The whole question of society responsibility raises a series of questions which still need to be clarified, the issues are as follows (‘Guild’ is used for simplicity):
If using locally checked persons how will the Guild carry out its own check?
The individual could show their own copy but the local PCC could rightly refuse.
If using a Guild officer they would have several options- (1) use the individual officer’s own check; (2) if not already checked seek to obtain this through the officer’s local PCC; (3) ask the officer to self-register.

In all cases a Guild could use one of a number of "umbrella" organisations that carry out CRB checks on behalf of third parties, one such being the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service. This would, however, attract a fee for each individual so checked. Note that a Guild could only request checks direct from the CRB if it were a registered body. Not only is this unlikely to be acceptable to the CRB but would be undesirable to the Guild which would have to provide special secure arrangements for disclosure documents and receive special training.

In the longer term, from July 2010, it will be possible to make an on-line check of individual’s ISA registration status.This could only be done under three conditions (a) with the individual’s permission; (b) with the individual’s ISA registration ID number and (c) a clear statement from the society that the request is in connection with a regulated (teaching ) activity. The check will only confirm that the person is ISA registered and, therefore, not barred from the activity but for most purposes would fulfil legal checking requirements.

The way forward

Final definitions and guidance materials are expected from Government by June and these notes have been prepared after close consultation with departments involved. The Central Council through its Tower Stewardship Committee will seek to ensure a workable and consistent system adopted for ringers.

In the meantime individual towers, their parent Parochial Church Councils and local Guilds and associations need to be prepared, as far as is possible, to comply with the legal requirements starting from October, 2009. To this end a first step may be to compile their own register of ringers currently CRB checked.

All Guilds and Associations would be strongly advised to create a post dealing with protection issues – "Child Protection Officer" perhaps.

Chris Mew

Child Protection - Responsibilities for Activities and Registrations

 ActivityISA RegistrationLocationSupervision responsibilityRegistration Checking byNew registration ONLY* - by
1Bell ringing teachingYesHome towerTower CaptainTower Captain / PCCPCC
2Bell ringing teaching as regular visitorYesNearby tower on regular basisTower CaptainTower CaptainPCC of visitor's Home tower
3Bell ringing teaching as Guild activityYesTowers arranged by Guild (not home tower)Tower Captain of host tower or Guild Officers Guild OfficersPCC of teacher's home tower
Itinerant teaching by Guild OfficersYesTowers arrenged by GuildGuild OfficersGuild OfficersGuild by special arrangement
Helper (non face to face - see note 4)Not requiredAny tower home or otherwiseTower Captain or Guild OfficersNot requiredNot required
General ringing with no teaching involvedNot requiredHome tower or ringing meeting venueTower Captain or Guild OfficersNot requiredNot required
Bell ringing teaching by 16 / 17 year oldsYes for any of activities 1-4As above 1-4As above 1-4As above 1-4As above 1-4
Transporting juniors as "one-off" domestic arrangementsNot required    
Transporting juniors as formal arrangement through church or local GuildYesBetween any locations to/from a regulated activityChurch or Guild as organiserTower Captain or Guild OfficersPCC of driver's home church or Guild by special arrangement

1. ISA registration required for all activities "regulated" under Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
2. Local practices and Guild organised meetings not involving teaching of juniors do not legally require the presence of ISA registered persons. However, in view of the likely attendance of juniors it is still desirable.
3. Checking of ISA registration status can be carried out by the appointed responsible Child Protection person within the Parish involved or by the Guild. In all cases the permission of the person whose status is being checked must be obtained.
4. The term "helper" includes those taking a rope, standing behind and giving informal advice, all under the supervision of an accredited person.
5. *Body responsible for NEW registration of an individual who is not already registered for another activity (e.g. as a school teacher). Remember registration is portable between activities.

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers