By Christopher Hope, Home Affairs Editor
The launch of a new Government agency will see 11.3million people vetted for any criminal past before they are approved to have contact with children aged under 16.
But the increase in child protection measures is so great it is “poisoning” relationships between the generations, according to respected sociologist Professor Frank Furedi.
In a report for think tank Civitas, he said the use of criminal records bureau checks to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults has created an atmosphere of suspicion.
As a result ordinary parents – many of whom are volunteers at sports and social clubs – now find themselves regarded “potential child abusers”.
Professor Furedi said most adults now think twice before telling off children who were misbehaving, or helping children in distress for fear of the consequences.
He said that the need for the checks had transformed parents “in the regulatory and public imagination into potential child abusers, barred from any contact with children until the database gives them the green light”.
But Prof Furedi’s report, Licensed to Hug, highlighted examples of when adult-child relationships were distorted by the need for CRB checks already being required by schools and other organisations.
In one example, a woman could not kiss her daughter goodbye on a school trip because she had not been vetted.
In another, a mother was surprised to be told by another parent that she and her husband were “CRB checked” when their children played together.
In a third example, a father was given “filthy looks” by a group of mothers when he took his child swimming on his own in “a scene from a Western when the room goes silent and tumbleweed blows across the foreground”.
Prof Furedi details how one woman was made to feel like a “second class mother” because she was barred from a school disco because she did not have a CRB check.
He said: “When parents feel in need of official reassurance that other parents have passed the paedophile test before they even start on the pleasantries, something has gone badly wrong in our communities.
“We should question whether there is anything healthy in a response where communities look at children’s own fathers with suspicion, but would balk at helping a lost child find their way home.”
Figures show that volunteering is on the decline with 13 per cent of men saying they would not volunteer because they were worried people would think they were child abusers, according to a survey last year.
The CRB said yesterday that it will process 3.6million checks this year – up from 3.4million last year – of which 20 per cent were for volunteers.