Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

2012 Dream of Teenagers Crushed by Safety Laws

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

2012 Dream of Teenagers Crushed by Safety Laws

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Beard Sports News Correspondent

THOUSANDS of teenagers will miss the once-in-a-lifetime chance to help at the 2012 Olympics because of new child protection laws.

Games organisers have set a minimum age of 18 as they begin recruiting 70,000 volunteers including marshals, ticket inspectors and first aiders.

The age policy will come as a huge disappointment to thousands of under-18s who had hoped to help at the world's largest sports event.

Games organiser Locog said that it had adopted the policy to comply with legislation which will require adults to be subjected to regular checks if they are working with children.

It may be impractical to carry out these tests as Locog has to hire and train its helpers within two years in the biggest peacetime mobilisation of a British workforce. Adults working with children will be vetted by the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which was set up in response to the Soham murders under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. The body has attracted fierce criticism after it was revealed that it was planning to vet up to 11 million people -- a quarter of Britain's adult population -- in checks that critics claimed were disproportionate.

Vetting of adults who have "close and frequent" contact with children or vulnerable adults began last November and will be compulsory by 2013. Locog will make an exception for a small number of under-18s who will be permitted to work as ball boys and girls at the Olympic tennis tournament at Wimbledon. The All England Club, which employs 250 ball boys and girls every summer, is better equipped to cope with the new vetting procedures and adult staff already have checks.

Experts said the Olympics would be affected by the safeguarding authority's rules more than other major events because of the need to recruit so many helpers in a short period.

The age limit was raised in a parliamentary written question from Labour MP Tom Levitt, who asked Olympics minister Tessa Jowell to reduce the minimum to 16 years. …

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