Who would be a boys’ football coach?

A new survey shows many men are reluctant to work with children in case people think they're secret paedophiles.

Josie Appleton

Topics Politics

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Both the UK government and big volunteering organisations have long denied that Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks and other child protection measures put adults off volunteering. The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, which passed through the Houses of Parliament in London at the end of last year, requires that all those who work with children must submit to a background check first. As one Home Office official responsible for CRB checks recently assured me, it is only those who have something to hide who are put off.

Yet a new survey by the children’s charity NCH – at the start of Volunteering Week – finds that 17 per cent of men wouldn’t volunteer to work with children because they would face a criminal records check. Moreover, 13 per cent wouldn’t volunteer because they fear that they could be perceived as a paedophile.

These results are a marker of twisted contemporary attitudes to adult-child relations. A man who says that he likes teaching children is now apt to draw glances. ‘So, why do you want to teach boys’ football anyway?’ To enjoy teaching and being with children – an enjoyment that is surely essential if we are to pass on experience and knowledge to the next generation out of enthusiasm rather than dry obligation – becomes suspicious.

Only the joyless bureaucrats, who have their child protection handbooks in their back pocket and know the ‘correct manner of comforting a child’, are deemed okay to allow near tender young people. They are beyond suspicion because they have effectively placed themselves under perpetual monitoring. Working with children becomes less a source of enjoyment, because an adult is driven to develop young talent or has passion for a sport or art, and instead becomes a procedure that must be carried out correctly.

NCH is understandably worried by these survey results, and says that male role models are essential for children’s development. How right it is. But NCH’s response – to emphasise the ease of CRB checks, and outline the secure procedures it has in place – may not assuage the doubts of reluctant men. The NCH chief executive, Clare Tickell, gave a description of male volunteers that was not unlike that of prisoners on day release. ‘We work hard to ensure volunteers are checked by the police, trained and monitored, which we hope encourages men to come forward and helps assuage the public’s concern.’

Come forward, football coaches, to be checked by the police, trained and monitored! Some men may be deterred because they don’t want petty past convictions – youthful graffiti or pub fights – to be revealed to their fellow volunteers. Others may be deterred because this just doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.

There is a bizarre assumption here: that if everybody is ‘careful’ about how they behave with children, this does something to combat paedophilia. The withdrawing of ordinary human concern is seen as the solution to dealing with twisted individuals. This is quite the opposite of the truth. It is surely only by affirming good intentions that those with less good intentions are shown up and dealt with. Once we view millions of genuine adult child relationships as poisonous, we blur the distinction between the decent and twisted, the good and the bad.

Child protection procedures mean that children grow up in an increasingly sterile world, devoid of enthusiastic adult role models that could spark their passion for sports or hobbies. And when decent adults withdraw, or place themselves under perpetual checks and monitoring, this cannot leave children any safer either.

Josie Appleton is convenor of the Manifesto Club, a pro-human campaigning network that is running an ongoing campaign against over-cautious child protection measures (see the Campaign Against Vetting). Email her {encode=”” title=”here”}.

Previously on spiked

Tessa Mayes explained how a Hampshire photographer has taken a stand against the new suspicion and restrictions photographers face due to the ‘paedophile panic’. Josie Appleton asked Who killed the school trip? Dan Travis argued that Treating volunteers like criminals will kill community sport. David Clements argued that Every Child Matters – but so does our privacy. And Josie Appleton made The case against vetting.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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