At the 2013 APPG AGM in June, John McVay from PACT, and representatives from the major broadcasters and children’s charities discussed the inadequacies of child performance licensing regulations, as set out in the Children and Young Persons Act 1963. Things looked pretty grim. Along with childcare professionals, Ofcom and others, the broadcasters and charities had worked hard to draw up recommendations to improve the regulations, only to have their hopes dashed, as the Government decided not to legislate on the issue. The reason given was a lack of consensus in the response to the Government’s formal consultation.
The APPG event proved that there was consensus in the fundamental areas, and the Group’s Chair Baroness Floella Benjamin has been highlighting these since then:
-The need for equal opportunities and equal safeguarding for children in all types of performance on all types of platform.
-Effectively rationalising the differences between screen, stage, ‘theatrical’ performance (acting, singing, dancing), and performing as oneself (documentary, interview, reality).
-Removing the ‘postcode lottery’ of different Local Education Authorities having their own regulations.
The Department of Education may have abandoned the idea of new legislation but that didn’t mean it wasn’t still needed.
But what to do? The parliamentary calendar offered few options, but the Children and Families Bill was coursing through the legislative process and the changes to performance regulations were essentially concerned with child welfare.But you can’t just slip in an extra sentence or two to a parliamentary bill… can you?Baroness Benjamin started digging around and unearthed procedures and people with whom she could firmly plant the idea of an amendment to the Children and Families Bill. After passing through the Report Stage, the Bill has emerged with significant changes to child performance regulations.
Tabled by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash, in brief, these amendments will:
-Replace the complex restrictions on the hours children can perform at different ages, which were different for theatre and broadcast, with a simpler, single set of limits subject to age group (0-4, 5-10, 11-16).
-Repeal the limit on the nature of the daily performances that a child can be licensed to take part in.
-Remove the requirement for medical certificates. These could still be requested by the local authority if, for example, there was cause for concern about a child’s health, but would not be a requirement.
These changes, although seemingly small, will bring clarity and consistency to all Local Education Authorities: allowing them to monitor children performing abroad as well as at home, give children better protection and opportunity based on their individual needs and ensure that their welfare is paramount.The government amendments were discussed in the Lords on 29th January and the Bill’s third and final reading is today (Feb 5th). Six months of carefully nurturing something the Department of Education threw out, and we’re seeing the Bill – and the all-important amendments – heading for Royal Assent. The result should be safe, happy and healthy child performances in the future.For more information on The Children and Families Bill go to: http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/childrenandfamilies.html.