An annual jamboree of scouts from around the world may have to be cancelled after controversial new vetting rules for people working with children come into force today, the Scout Association has warned.
The 90-year-old tradition, which involves up to 10,000 scouts and 2,000 volunteers, is a highlight on the Scout ing calendar. But the association said the new legislation, which requires registration and detailed background checks aimed at stopping paedophiles from coming into contact with children or vulnerable adults, would be "impossible" to apply to thousands of adults who assist with the event.
Anyone who wants to work with children or vulnerable adults must pay a mandatory, one-off registration fee of £64. Simon Carter, the association's spokesman, said: "When we hold big international jamborees we rely on adults from other parts of the world to staff these events. The rules for checking people out suggest that if they were to come along and do intensive activity they would have to be checked. Clearly that's just not possible."
The Scout Association has written to the Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, asking him to consider more flexibility for volunteer groups. He said adults who were continuously supervised by staff who had undergone vetting could be temporarily excluded from the rules.
The Enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check, which would be free to the Scouts, is designed to pick up previous convictions and other information held on a person including "soft intelligence" gathered from employers and regulators who are legally obliged to pass on concerns about anyone they suspect might be a danger to children.
The vetting database will cost the British public at least £170m. Almost all of the NHS's 1.3 million employees will have to join, leaving the organisation facing a total bill of about £83m.
It is estimated that one in four adults will be affected. Others who will have to register include employees of the Prison Service, councils' social workers and children's services teams, police officers working in child protection units and volunteers for football teams. This newspaper revealed that British children's authors and illustrators intended to stop visiting schools in protest, claiming that it further poisoned the relationship between children and adults. Failing to register could mean a criminal prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000. Scout leaders in Britain, like teachers, are already subject to enhanced CRB checks because their position involves a greater degree of contact and supervision of children.
A spokesperson for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "We recognise the importance of children attending and participating in jamborees [and] we are working in collaboration with the Scout Association and others to ensure that the practical operation of the scheme does not impede the operation of these events."