The Legal Requirements for Youth Groups
The importance of the safety of children in all environments cannot be overstated, and youth groups are no exception. There are many legal provisions to ensure that any vulnerable person is suitably protected, and this article will lay out the requirements for youth groups in particular. It is essential that these requirements are met in order for a youth group to run, as without them, it should be impossible either to receive funding or for parents to entrust their children to the group. There are three main areas in which legal documents are required.
Child ProtectionWhether paid or voluntary, it is legally necessary that any leaders or helpers with a youth group should be thoroughly checked for suitability before they start working. The correct way of doing this is to obtain a Disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau. Any person who is going to be working with children or vulnerable adults has to go through this process by law; it reveals any inappropriate or criminal behaviour in the past that would preclude the person from working with children again.
Employees should also sign a copy of the youth group’s Child Protection Policy. It is good to draw these up after consulting the advice of a legal representative, as he or she will be able to ensure that the policy is sound and up to date with the latest legislation. A Child Protection Officer will also need to be appointed; this is a big responsibility as it may well mean reporting other employees, or even children’s parents, to the authorities.
Liability InsuranceAssuming the youth group meets in the same venue regularly, it is standard legal practice to acquire liability insurance for the building, the individual members of the group, and the staff. This means that everything is covered in the event of a mishap, whether it is an accident with paint or an injury sustained while playing a particularly active game. Hopefully, of course, you will never have to use the policy, but it makes good legal sense to have it there just in case.
Health and SafetyIt is the legal responsibility of the leaders of the youth group to ensure that the entire group is aware of the health and safety regulations within the building. That means fairly regular updates on best practice in case of fire – you can easily do this by organising fire drills.
It is advisable to check frequently with staff that they are aware of their roles in such an event. It is also a good idea from a legal point of view to ensure that everyone is working together to make the environment safe. We live in an increasingly litigious society, so to have trailing wires, unsound furniture or any other dangers is an extremely bad idea. However, this is really a question of common sense on the part of youth group leaders, so do not panic too much!
This may seem like rather a lot of legal requirements to take in, but do remember that when you start a youth group, you will be able to draw on the experiences of other leaders and the expertise of the local council. Assuming they are looking favourably on your group (as most councils do), they will provide you with the advice and often the paperwork you will need to maintain the legal side of things. Do not underestimate the importance of these legal requirements, but do not panic either; after the first flurry of administration, many of these conditions will simply look after themselves, freeing you up to do the really important job: looking after the children!