354 - Kids become an avoidable risk | Scoins.net | DJS

354 - Kids become an avoidable risk

During lockdown I attended a zoom course on Band Safety. I found this severely depressing. Reaction to the perception of a wealth of child abuse has resulted in a growing amount of regulation regarding the inclusion of children—which means under-19s not under-15s—in any sort of public performance. A similar but reduced set of circumstances apply to any rehearsals prior to such performance. This means that all sorts of clubs have to have (should have) policies and certificates and permissions, while performances must have licences; with those licences comes inspection; failing to meet the standards of inspection results in closing the activity. So, to an extent, not having a licence means you don't get inspected. Now, in terms of protection of our young, this certification and its associated demands is fine – and the media would have us believe all this is necessary. We have a society in which all sorts of bad things occur out of sight, so of course we must act to reduce this. Whether such action drives the unwanted activities underground or eliminates them is something we don't ask too closely. 

But—and you knew a 'but' was coming—the predominant feature of leisure activities is that they be FUN. Regulation and compliance with those regulations is most definitely not fun. While participation in fun activities means that somebody else is chasing around after the regulatory approval, fine. But that guarantees that many participants in any leisure activity are tacitly relying upon those few dedicated individuals who get apparent enjoyment out of working through the bureaucracy. This is my idea of the complete antithesis of fun; in effect it is a tax upon fun. Worse, I do not think it is even a little bit fair that the mass of participants presume upon the regulatory action having occurred. We cannot expect people in general to do this work—and that is what it is, work—without reward or compensation.  So we have a situation where, so as to protect each other, we must all contribute to cover the costs of the regulatory work. Or we simply don't do the activity because somehow it has been deemed Not Safe.

So let us look at the consequences....

Thanks to having been on the BandSafe course (idiot, should not have volunteered), I am now considered by default to be one of those idiots who is going to fight with bureaucratic nonsense. I am not at all happy with this situation. I am not prepared to do the work attached to getting permissions so that a youth can play; I am unwilling to go around the band (and you should substitute any social group in your own experience) ensuring that every member of any age understands the issues and required actions, not a one-off occurrence   I am not interested in having to accept that we are not trustworthy as adults nor am I prepared in consequence to take actions that present the facade that says we are trustworthy.  Which evidence is really only that none of us has been caught transgressing — multiple negatives do not make a positive. So I'm not prepared to be part of the solution that brings under-19s into the band and I'm easier with ignoring them than spending effort 'looking out for them' which to me is very little different from the perception I have of whatever 'grooming' is, short of the offensive acts themselves. In indirect consequence I do not think the band for which I play will survive. Partly this is because such as myself are soon going to cry "Enough!' and move to something else, something with no reduction of the fun factor.

Avoidance of risk here amounts to avoidance of youth. Add to this that far too many collisions of youth and older adult result in the older adult feeling degraded, insulted and disrespected (been there); my perception is that children are in several senses dangerous, not least because an adult is so easily accused (and tainted) over any interaction. Thus, to an adult, a child can be considered dangerous, and I've come across youths that understand and exploit this. The regulations specifically do not permit a parental presence to be sufficient protection. In turn that means that it is not action by a parent that results in their child being permitted to participate, for the onus of the work attached to this inclusion is moved to the club, the leisure activity organisers. I see this as tantamount to encouragement of activities by the very sort of people the regulations are there to prevent. My risk avoidance is therefore obvious; avoid children. The consequence of a load of regulation for the inclusion of children in performance is, simply, the exclusion of children.

So the consequence of this regulatory action is that the inclusion of under-19s in any activity requires paperwork, easily seen as daunting. In turn, that means that activities which could include youth will generally be confined to youth, because the perception is that mixing children with adults (all those not already dedicated to working with kids) is a Bad Thing. Which means that it becomes (even) more difficult for children to learn to mix with people definitely not their in age group not already somehow child specialists and conversely, that non-specialist adults don't and won't meet youth in any normal circumstance. So, for those considered perverts who want to take advantage of youth, this is an obvious honey-pot; the adults that want to work with kids now includes those who are there for bad reasons. Because we're very bad at sorting risk, we then label all adults attached to youth activity as suspect, and we have very poor tools for discerning who is present for the wrong reasons. 

Are the very few under-19s that attend band safe? Yes, in that there is an adjacent parent, or that the person who brings the youth to band is clearly designated as okay by the parents and also sits adjacent. If risk is recognised, it is this adult who represents that risk. While we have covid restrictions this is so, but our behaviour was the same through 2018 and 2019. All conversations in the band are what I might describe as public and there is a high degree of care for others, irrespective of age. The largest subgroup of adults in the band are or have been teachers. I say we are already safe (and friendly and collectively beneficial) and that the required process to 'prove' that we are safe will make us sufficiently uncomfortable to behave differently.

I feel that if I were to discuss these concerns with band members individually or collectively the result would be many forming the same opinion that I have. Thus such discussion would be destructive and should be avoided; I can see that it would be very tempting to record the protocol as required, tell everyone where it is and be pretty sure that this will then not be read but instead ignored as a hoop already jumped through. I am unhappy at this prospect, which I see as deceitful and without integrity. The trouble here is that any inspection does not test whether the child is safe, but whether the regulations and protocols have been followed – real jobsworth stuff.

So right now I'm pretty close to writing 'band' off. The test here is the balance between gains from doing it and the disbenefits of continuing; repeating that, to balance the enjoyment gained against the angst generated by having to make the lives of others uncomfortable.  In particular, I am very close to the point where the not-fun elements cause a change in the whole such that not-band would be more pleasant.  Meanwhile we continue, both in attending band and in ignoring the actions that would comply with regulations we'd rather not know about.


Among the consequences of covid is a realisation that we should spend effort (develop better habits) for biosecurity. This means more frequent washing etc but also taking care to keep distant. Crowding is then made something for those I would like to deem as stupid, but in fairness they are only making different open-ended decisions from me. Already I don't like crowds and the self-care that covid has underlined merely adds to good reasons to avoid crowds. But this also means that very many social activities become perceived as risky. If I distinguish (i) your family bubble from (ii) those in your social group from (iii) general public not in either category,  then any visit to a club, pub or bar gives proximity to that larger third group, though cafés and restaurants might well provide enough space to confine risk to your social circle, the second group. This then moves the occasions that mix with Joe Public to a less safe category and the easiest way to mitigate risk is not do the activity.

Behaviour at a national level demonstrates a recognised truth, that we deal with our own situation before we deal with others, even those perceived as equal. Look at the co-operation in development of vaccines and then where those vaccines went. I'm not criticising at all; I was surprised at each suggestion that implied we would, for example, be sending vaccines off to somewhere like East Africa before we vaccinated ourselves. Don't be stupid, of course we're not going to do that. We'll send stuff when we have a surplus. But, if we were being sensible, we'd be recognising that a holiday overseas is not 'on' again except to places of equivalent vaccine position. That is an individual choice, of course magnified by all the vested interests in the overseas holiday and travel businesses, but those of us that don't do overseas travel don't want to add to our risks by having neighbours bringing in new virus.   At a personal level, then, I really don't want to hear about your overseas holiday; I don't want to hear you did such a thing and I certainly don't want you close enough to tell me in person.

Quite obviously this reduces to a matter of risk and perceived risk. We already accept to a large extent that perception is more important than truth. At the level of the individual, we make hopefully informed choices about the relative risks of possible activities. Above some undefined perception level—probably governed by the fear that the media perpetuates— we have a number of concerns, let's say fear of sexual harassment and fear of contracting a disease. The best way to deal with risks is to avoid them and second to that is to take mitigating actions to reduce the recognised risk. That is clear and I hope not to be argued with.

So then we find that there is some sort of cost-benefit analysis to apply to a activity, balancing the gains made against the losses if a risk turns into a regrettable event. At the level of leisure activities, the element of fun is at risk (yes, I'm mixing meanings of that word risk). For some, even being caused to think about a balance of risks is a massive reduction in fun level; for others it is the acceptance or mitigation of risk that adds to the excitement. 

Take jumping off a cliff as an example: possible routes to doing this include (i) no parachute (ii) parachute but no training (iii) with some training (iv) with a second chute (v) doing it in tandem with an expert (vi) refusing to entertain this at all. Somewhere in that spectrum offered is a choice that you deem exciting—just risky enough to count as fun—bracketed quite possibly by choices you reject as completely mad. 

There are activities where lots of training goes before the event (training with a parachute, any sports training / practices) such that in a sense the event becomes an excuse for the training. As I heard Daley Thompson say more than once, if you didn't enjoy the training, you wouldn't do the sport. I failed to find evidence of this quote, but to do well in a competitive sport there is a disproportionate amount of training, quite akin to the learning and revision before an exam. If you expressed this as overhead or as a ration of time spent in preparation compared to time tested, then you come up with conclusions that say the training really must be enjoyed to justify that time spent. And quite possibly there is huge remuneration attached to being suitably good. Even if you reference the test as a whole day (your event at the Olympics) then the previous years of carefully directed and dedicated effort suggest that the ration of prep:test is of the order of 1000:1.  No wonder so many of us settle for relative ineptitude.

Personally, I don't need to be the best I can possibly be, I'lll settle instead for suitably adequate. I set my running target as 75% on age-grading, because that is where I have historically reached in most years when I take running seriously – it makes a decent target. In terms of music, I'm happy at Third Section band level but uncomfortable at Second and Fourth, where the challenge is too much or too little (for the me/instrument combination). But what I get out of music doesn't have to be band, it could be a choir or playing keyboard at home. I prefer the people associated with band and the social side of banding, but I really do not like the contesting, which moves the activity away from fun to stress. At least in running any lack of success is my problem and no-one else's.


DJS 20210620-30

top pic of StBreward Silver Band at Padstow bandstand, Sunday afternoon 04July2009


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