A recent newspaper headline grabbed my attention. It read:
How did this woman get job at kids’ dance school?
This is a story reported about a woman, married to a British man who has been jailed in Crete for 19 years and seven months for carrying out sickening crimes against children on Crete. The woman who had fled to UK was sentenced to a year in prison, in her absence for child cruelty by a Greek court. Despite this she managed to get a job as a receptionist at a large, internationally renowned dance school in UK.
It is reported that the school did an enhanced disclosure in the vetting process but no convictions and so on showed up as the Greek authorities are slow to report to other countries their outstanding warrant for her arrest.
There is also an article about this matter online giving more of the story.
This example demonstrates my concerns about the checks or vetting that came in here in UK a good number of years ago. I have always been wary about the way these checks are referred to as ‘clearing’ someone to work with children (and vulnerable adults). The term ‘clearing’ has never sat comfortably with me. These checks can only identify information that is already known about someone and entered on the appropriate database/s. Where someone who is a risk to children, for example, has not been caught, then all the checks in the world will not show up that the person is a risk to children. And more than that, a clear vetting outcome for those who are a risk but have not been caught would be like giving these people a licence to keep on doing what they doing.
Is there a danger that because people are ‘cleared’ to work with children that everyone from parents to employers are lulled into a false sense of security? Should we not all continue to do what we always did before these checks came in and that is to look out for the children?
There is no simple answer to these sorts of matters but clearly the vetting and barring system has its weaknesses and we should all be aware of this.
A case from Australia
Another matter brought to my attention recently relates to a dance teacher jailed in Australia after pleading guilty to 47 sex offences against nine students over a period of 12 years. How sad that those working closely with this man did not recognise the red flags relating to his abusive behaviour with students.