Since the establishment of the Criminal Records Bureau in 2002 millions of adults have had to vetted to say they are safe to be near children. When Licensed to Hug was first published in June 2008, this system of police vetting was hardly a public policy issue. The predominant response to the licensing of adults was a pragmatic acceptance that this was an attempt, however imperfect, to protect children from abuse, and as such it was better than nothing. How that has changed. The scheme has faced a severe backlash and police vetting is now firmly on the political agenda. In this fully updated and extended edition of Licensed to Hug, Frank Furedi and Jennie Bristow identify recent developments in child protection policies, and they provide examples of absurdities caused by the police vetting scheme to demonstrate why these issues must continue to be debated in the public domain. Frank Furedi and Jennie Bristow argue that the growth of police vetting has created a sense of mistrust. Communities are forged through the join commitment of adults to the socialisation of children. Now, adults are afraid to interact with any child not their own.
The generations are becoming distant, as adults suspect each other and children are taught to suspect adults. The vetting culture encourages risk aversion; there is a feeling that it is better to ignore young people, even if they are behaving in an anti-social manner, and even if they are in trouble and need help, rather than risk accusations if improper conduct. Vetting also gives a false sense of security as it can only identify those who have offended in the past and been caught - not what people will do after they are passed as fit to be near children. Licensed to Hug argues for a more common-sense approach to adult/child relations, based on the assumption that the vast majority of adults can be relied on to help and support children, and that the healthy interaction between generations enriches children's lives.
Frank Furedi is Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. During the past decade his research has been concerned with the culture of fear in relation to issues such as health, children, education, food, terrorism and new technology. Since the publication of his study Paranoid Parenting (2001 & 2008), Furedi has explored problems associated with inter-generational relations, education and childhood. His recently published Wasted: Why Education is not Educating (Continuum 2009)-that questions the way society educates children and young people and offers an alternative approach. Jennie Bristow is a journalist and mother of two. She writes the 'Guide to Subversive Parenting' column for the online publication spiked (www.spikedonline.com) and is author of Standing Up To Supernanny (Imprint Academic 2009). Bristow edits the website Parents With Attitude (www.parentswithattitude.com) and is currently studying for a PhD.