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BBE Report on Child Performance Licensing and roles and responsibilities for bands and event organisers
For many in the banding world, Child Performance Licensing will probably be unheard of, but it is something that is likely to become more and more important in the very near future. BBE’s Development Manager, Alex Parker explains below.
What is Child Performance Licensing?
Child Licensing is a legislation introduced to regulate when children under 16 perform. Its intention is to protect children who perform/appear on stage or in TV shows from commercial exploitation and from inappropriate working hours at the detriment to their education.
Unfortunately, the way the legislation has been worded has resulted in it being applied to all children and young people taking part in leisure activities such as music; affecting everything from taking part in local Music Education Hub activities, through to their local Brass Band.
The requirements of the legislation are such that a licence needs to be issued by the local authority in which the child lives. There are a few exceptions but they are few and far between and using them can actually create more administrative work than simply applying for a licence! The responsibility for obtaining the licence falls to the event organiser (take note all contest organisers!) but to perform knowing a licence is not in place also then passes responsibility to the performing organisation.
Local authorities, quite rightly, take their role in child protection very seriously, but at a time when local authority funding has been significantly cut back councils are understaffed and struggling to manage requests for Child Performance Licences. This understaffing results in councils passing the administrative burden of the licensing requirements onto the organisations who need them as much as is possible, resulting in a situation where once they were able understand the activities of bands and use their discretionary powers granted to them, they are now becoming increasingly strict in enforcing the regulations. The result of this can be quite a lot of extra work for voluntary groups like brass bands and in cases where last minute changes are needed or legitimate mistakes made our young people are actually denied the musical opportunities we provide them.
There is a section of the legislation that relates to a Body Of Persons Approved (BOPA) which can be used by bands to cover multiple performances within a local authority but this also comes with a certain amount of administrative burden and can be harder to obtain.
What are the problems with the legislation?
The main issue is that brass bands are covered by the legislation. Amature sport is explicitly exempt from the requirements *say more about this. Beyond this the biggest issue is that the means to comply is different for each local authority (over 300 in England alone). This means that for example one local authority might require the band to use Licensed Chaperones but in another they may decide that adults with a DBS check would be sufficient for supervising young people. This makes it difficult if a band has children in multiple local authorities or if the event has many participants from different local authorities.
There are other problems in the legislation that include sometimes ill-thought through policies, such as one council who stated in a recent meeting that a mother could not act as the chaperone for her own daughter (even if she was to be sat playing next to her in the band!), the reason given being that she was not acting ‘solely as a chaperone’ in that situation.
Why you need to act?
Failure to comply with child licensing regulations could result in a fine, imprisonment or both! That said, to date and to our knowledge, no amateur organisation has had either of these actions taken against it, but there have been cases where children have been prevented from taking part in a performance because of failure to comply in time, including at this year's inaugural Brass in Concert Youth Contest no less.
What are BBE doing to help?
BBE can support member bands in becoming compliant with the legislation whether that’s on the 'phone with advice, through to supporting you in meetings with your local authority where it becomes necessary. In the near future we will have a full support document available in the members' area with practical advice and guidance on how to comply with some of the differing situations you might encounter. To access this go to https://www.bbe.org.uk/user/register to create an account and then request to join your band. Your band manager will then approve you to access the website.
Beyond this, we at BBE think this situation is not acceptable for bands and needs to change. For this reason we are working with our partners in the Music Education Council to effect changes needed at a government level. The issue has so far been taken to the Department for Education with the ultimate aim of securing an exemption for amatuer music due to its educational purpose.
We believe that this call has found sympathetic ears but at this point it appears that changes will not come anytime soon due to an under resourced and distracted civil service with most of the time of government taken up with Brexit. We will continue our campaign and there will most likely be future calls to action for the banding world to join voices with the many other musical organisations and ask for change. So watch this space!
What can you do to help?
In the meantime there are some practical things band members can do including young people themselves and that is to write to your MP directly to highlight this issue. You can find your MP online by going to https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/ By contacting them you will begin to raise the issue so that as momentum builds they will be more informed.
In other regards we can only recommend that bands comply with the law and don’t risk a fine or imprisonment by failing to comply. Talk to your local council directly about its requirements for licences. We can point bands in the direction of best practice guidance resources to help you plan what you need to do.
Finally, whilst this legislation is flawed on a practical level the ideas behind it represent something we all want in banding and that is a safe place for children and young people to come to learn what we all enjoy - making music. In addition to free DBS checks for members BBE offer the free self assessment tool 'BandSafe' to help you develop your own relevant safeguarding policy. The BandSafe training course is also being run across the regions. More information on bandsafe can be found at https://www.bbe.org.uk/what-we-do/bandsafe. Both of which are developed with the NSPCC to help bands create that safe space children need to thrive.