Brentwood Council slams child safety concerns at Christmas event

VOLUNTEERS at a festive event attracting hundreds of youngsters have not had police checks, sparking a war of words between Brentwood councillors.

The Lighting Up event kicks off in Brentwood Town Centre this Friday, with hundreds of children expected to turn up for the Christmas lights switch-on and family-friendly activities.

But the festive fun has been marred by concerns over youngster’s safety after it was revealed not all volunteers have had Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks.

The council has hit back that checks on volunteers working in public places are unnecessary and called such concerns “scaremongering.”

After questioning the Administration at the Audit Committee meeting, Lib Dem Cllr Karen Chilvers said: “The answer given was that ‘most’ volunteers have CRBs in place already, but not everyone. Parents should have confidence that for a council-run event adequate checks have been put in place and every measure has been taken to prevent an unfortunate incident occurring.

“Everyone must have a valid and current check in place if there is any chance they should come into contact with children and this is a family event.

“Conservative councillors have appealed, both in the local press, radio and on the internet, for volunteers for the event, therefore potentially attracting anyone to such a role. Even if a volunteer is not technically in a position dealing with children, if they are in a yellow jacket and acting as an official then it is more than plausible that a lone child could wander up to them as they are a person in authority who, in their eyes, surely would be seen as a safe person to go to.”

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But the council hit back that Cllr Chilvers was “scaremongering,” with deputy leader of the council, Cllr Roger Hirst, saying: “Clearly she does not understand the law and wants to tie us up in ridiculous red tape. We fully understand that when young people and vulnerable adults are in the care of a worker, that worker should be CRB checked, but when our stewards are working in an open public space the check is just not necessary.”

“If this were the case then every shop worker, and even street cleaners, would need a CRB check. Responsibility for lost children at the event lies with Essex Police so vulnerable children will be well cared for and to suggest anything else is pretty low.”