Hobby clubs: no under-18s allowed
A new report shows that heavy-handed ‘child protection’ policies mean that some clubs are closing their doors to kids.
Hobby clubs – model flying clubs, fishing clubs, mountaineering clubs, gaming clubs – are valuable spaces for young people to develop independence, and pursue their own interests outside of home and school.
However, in Britain, over-cautious child protection policies are now limiting children’s access to these clubs. A new report published by the Manifesto Club examines the case study of model flying clubs and shows how, over the past two years, the main result of ‘child protection’ policies has been to make adults wary of teaching and helping children. Policies brought through in the name of children’s welfare have actually caused the exclusion of young people.
The report’s findings include:
— Coaches are refusing to coach children, and adult flyers are refusing to help children if they ask for assistance;
— Several model flying clubs have closed their doors to under-18s;
— ‘Anti-child’ attitudes have grown, with some adult flyers saying that they want nothing to do with children;
— Teenagers have been turned away from clubs, because their parents could not accompany them flying.
The New Labour government says it wants more young people to join sports and hobby clubs – to get them off the streets, and to encourage them to channel their energies in more productive ways. Chancellor Gordon Brown has pledged a massive expansion of out-of-school sports clubs by 2010, which will be largely staffed by adult volunteers. Yet the government’s own heavy-handed child protection policies have the precise opposite effect.
All the measures now implemented in model flying clubs – including Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks for coaches, obligatory child welfare officers, and requirements for parental supervision – are following official guidance from the Child Protection in Sport Unit, which advises all sport and hobby clubs. When the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act comes into force in autumn 2008, CRB checks will be obligatory for all hobby club volunteers who work with children.
At the Manifesto Club, we started to research this area after we were contacted by a number of model flyers concerned about the future of their sport. In model flying clubs, as in other hobby clubs, adults – on an entirely voluntary and informal basis – pass on complex technical skills to young people. Their efforts have borne fruit: some of the best flyers in the UK are under 18. Current policies mean that the next generation is unlikely to enjoy the same opportunities.
There is no known case of child abuse in model flying, but there are many cases of young people limited by excessive risk-aversion. The more child protection policies are implemented in hobby clubs, the more adults withdraw from children – and the more young people lose out on opportunities for self-development.
If the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act is rolled out as planned in 2008, it is likely that the main losers will be the young.
Continue reading the Manifesto Club’s report Hobby Clubs: How ‘Child Protection’ Harms Children here.
Josie Appleton is convenor of the Manifesto Club.
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