Tears of a clown who will have to pay to entertain children

It's not just authors affected by the new child database. Chris Green meets the entertainers forced to sign up

Clowns, magicians and puppeteers, who have spent their lives entertaining children, will have to pay to register on a new government child protection database, despite already proving they do not pose a threat.

Entertainers who have regular contact with children currently have to undergo Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, costing up to £60, to prove to employers that they do not pose a danger. Under the Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS), which launches in October, they will have to pay another £64 to add their names to a separate database.

Within five years, the details of more than 11 million people will be stored by the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) which manages the scheme. It was created in response to the 2002 murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by Ian Huntley, a school caretaker, and is intended to protect children from paedophiles.

Stephen Spence, assistant general secretary of live performance at the union Equity, which represents 37,000 British performers and artists, accused the Government of "offloading" the costs of the scheme on to its members, many of whom are poorly paid.

He said the union's members already found the existing system of CRB checks "onerous, expensive and overly bureaucratic" and that the new scheme, which carries a compulsory one-off registration fee, was a "great concern".

"Money is always an issue for our members, because they're mostly casually employed and have a low level of income," he said. "Those who work in schools do not believe they should be left alone with children to start with – there should always be other suitably qualified staff there. Their job is not to supervise children, their job is to perform for children.

"Where it is appropriate for our members to be checked, yes of course it should happen, because children's welfare is important. But the £64 fee is just another payment that the Government is offloading on to sections of our membership who are some of the least well paid professionals in the country."

Mr Spence said the union would lobby the Government.

Glyn Edwards, 65, is a professional puppeteer who organises shows for children through his company, Blue Sky Theatre. He said the VBS represented an "erosion of trust" between children and adults.

"Children are being taught that adults are automatically dangerous unless they have a bit of paper that says they're not. I think that's terrifying. These quangocrats are themselves inflicting a form of abuse on children by doing this. The £64 fee is a fundamentally dishonest stealth tax that is raising money by preying on people's fears."

By November next year, it will be mandatory for all individuals who work with children to be registered, including those who have already been CRB-checked. If just half of the people on the database pay the fee, the Government will generate about £362m in revenue.

Rhubarb the Clown, 61 – born Martin Solity – has been performing for 35 years. He described the proposals as "positively dangerous".

He said: "All any form of checking can ever do is say that somebody hasn't actually been caught doing anything inappropriate. When a stranger comes into a school, the responsibility for the safety of the children should be in the hands of the paid staff, not the entertainer. Anything that labels that stranger as being 'safe' is dangerous."

Charlie Valentino, 40, a magician who has been performing at children's birthday parties for 15 years, said: "Nowadays, people don't ask whether we're members of the Magic Circle, they ask if we've been CRB-checked. What bothers me most about the new database is the cost – why do we have to pay for it?"

Public anger over the scheme has grown since The Independent disclosed that a group of respected British children's authors and illustrators intended to stop visiting schools in protest.

Clive Chaney, a member of All Saints' Choir in Wokingham, was concerned that all the adult choristers will have to be vetted because nine of its singers are under the age of 18.

"It's not just a question of vetting the choirmaster – we have to vet some adult members of the choir too, because we often go off to sing in other places at weekends and take the children with us," he said. "When we all get into cars, we already have to be very careful that the adults travelling with the children have been vetted. It's all very complicated."

Fortunately for Mr Chaney and his choir, people who volunteer with children do not have to pay the administrative charge – but they will still have to register with the ISA and add their names to its 11 million-strong database.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser