SoA sees 'chink of light' in vetting scheme

<p>The Society of Authors has said that a &quot;chink of light&quot; has appeared in the ongoing row over the controversial new legislation which will require authors who regularly visit schools to be registered on a national database. Following a meeting with the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) it has emerged that &quot;old hand&quot; authors could put off registering until 2015.</p><p>A delegation from the Society of Authors including bestselling children&#39;s writer Celia Rees went into the DCSF last week to discuss the issue. A number of authors have objected to the legislation, which requires professional and voluntary staff working regularly with children to be registered on the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) database from next year.</p><p>According to the SoA the DCSF conceded that those authors who visit schools frequently could be regarded like staff and would therefore not have to register in the first wave. SoA general secretary Mark Le Fanu said: &quot;They didn&rsquo;t change their position but they did say that those who have been giving talks in schools frequently would probably be regarded like staff, and would therefore not have to register immediately but could register between 2011 and 2015.&quot; He added: &quot;That&rsquo;s the window during which existing staff have to register&mdash;they&rsquo;re phasing it in so that schools are not overwhelmed.&quot;<br /><br />Le Fanu added: &quot;Now the worry is that schools will work on the basis that if you&rsquo;re not ISA cleared they are exposed so they won&rsquo;t engage you. We are hoping that part of the guidelines will be expanded to make clear that authors won&rsquo;t necessarily need to be registered.&quot;</p><p>The new legislation has now come under wider scrutiny after objections were made by other organisations that regularly work with children. The SoA visit came on the same day that schools minister Ed Balls asked ISA chairman Sir Roger Singleton to review the Vetting and Barring Scheme. &quot;I don&rsquo;t sense the government has any appetite for completely abandoning the scheme but it does want me to look particularly at the circumstances in which people are required to be registered, how frequently they have contact with children, and for how long,&quot; Singleton told Radio 4&#39;s &quot;Today&quot; programme last week. He has been asked by Balls to report by the beginning of December about whether any adjustments to the scheme need to be made.<br /><br />Le Fanu paid tribute to authors including Philip Pullman and Anne Fine, who both described the scheme &ndash; set up in response to the 2002 Soham murders and requiring the 11.3m people who work with children to register on a national database for a &pound;64 fee from next July &ndash; as &quot;demeaning&quot; and said they wouldn&rsquo;t appear in schools again because of it.<br /><br />&quot;I think authors can take a lot of credit for waking everyone up to the issue,&quot; he said. &quot;Philip and Anne did a great service.&quot;<br /><br />The meeting with the DCSF, however, wasn&rsquo;t &quot;to bust up the minister&quot;, Le Fanu said, instead, &quot;we were like sherpas at the summit, trying to get a few practical details having made our objections clear&quot;.</p>