Hundreds of thousands of parents will be banned from ferrying children to sports matches next year unless they have had criminal records checks, under new rules.
The clampdown is part of an escalation in child protection policies which will see 11 million adults vetted before they come into contact with children or vulnerable adults.
Under new regulations, parents who are asked by the organisers of a children’s sports team to take other children to sports fixtures like football or cricket matches will have to be vetted.
However, the rules are open to misinterpretation because checks are not necessary if a parent offers to give a lift to a friend’s children to a match without telling the local club.
The new rules are part of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and are due to come into force from October next year at the same time as a new Independent Safeguarding Authority to vet adults.
The guidance explicitly covers “parents – on behalf of e.g. a sports club – transporting others’ children to training sessions or games such as an after school football match, whether requested by the school directly or arranged separately by a group of parents”.
It says: “We will make clear that it is a private arrangement where e.g. parents X and Y arrange to take it in turns to pick up their own and the other’s children, and so not subject to the scheme’s requirements.
“But if the club or school arrange the transport, and for volunteers to do it, then it is regulated activity and the club or school is the regulated activity provider.”
Professor Frank Furedi, whose “Licensed to hug?” report for thinktank Civitas this week triggered a debate about the use of Criminal Records Bureau checks, said he knew of parents who have been rebuked for taking too many children to matches without being vetted.
He said: “I have talked to people who were reprimanded for taking three to four boys to football training. They were told they should have spoken to the manager.
“People can drive their own children to matches – but to drive four kids to the same match you should get CRB-checked.”
The checks were introduced to tighten procedures to protect children after Ian Huntley, a school caretaker, murdered the 10-year-olds Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells in Soham in 2002.
However there is concern that the measures have gone too far.
Community Service Volunteers, Britain’s biggest charity which represents 230,000 volunteers, said that CRB checks were “already reducing people’s willingness to volunteer through their intrusion and delays”.
Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, the charity’s director, said: “If we are running the risk of increased childhood obesity due to the demise of local football teams, where is the balance in assessing the risk of a parent known to all the other parents abusing a child?”
“Our communities and children need more volunteers to help turn around young lives.”
The Government admitted this month that it was concerned that “potential volunteers can be put off if they were being asked to undergo a CRB check without good riddance”.
Phil Hope, Cabinet Office minister, told The Daily Telegraph he would bring in “training in the correct use of CRB checks” for groups which are unnecessarily requesting them.
Children and Families Minister Kevin Brennan said: “Parents who volunteer to help with schools, or sports clubs, will need to be registered for free with the new scheme, if the activity is frequent or on an intensive basis.
“This is the same, and rightly so, whether the volunteering activity is teaching or training the children or transporting the children on behalf of the club.
“We make no apology for ensuring that those who work with children frequently whether on a paid or voluntary basis must be registered with the scheme.
“The new scheme offers improvements over current checking arrangements because the volunteer parents only have to apply to be registered once thereafter the school or club can do subsequent checks that they are registered quickly, on line and free.”
By Christopher Hope