October 26, 2012 by David Miller
Many thanks to Paul Stephenson of the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) for forwarding on a press release issued last week issued by the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP). It’s a noteworthy development in the improvement of criminal background vetting between the UK and other jurisdictions, and is of particular importance to Ireland’s child-focussed voluntary organisations who have volunteers that have come from the UK. Confidence is likely to increase in the criminal background vetting services for UK nationals teaching and working abroad with the emergence of the International Child Protection Certificate – so long as the service is used. It’s rather like adding another string to the bow of child protection services.
Of course it’ll be interesting to see what Irish voluntary organisations promulgate the availability of the new service (though of course use of the International Child Protection Certificate is relevant to organisations worldwide), especially in the context of the radically changing criminal background vetting environment in Ireland with the onset of the National Vetting Bureau and the legislative advent of Children First legislation.
With Ireland voting on 10th November on the Children’s Referendum (vote YES!) placing the ‘protection of children’ at the heart of the Irish constitution (if the proposed amendment is passed), the uptake of the International Child Protection Certificate will be a useful barometer of whether the ‘rubber hits the road’ in terms of organisations (and individuals) moving beyond aspirations and sentiments around child protection, to further action.
A note of caution however: the new International Child Protection Certificate must not be used in isolation, or seen (like criminal background checking generally) as the panacea for all ills. There are real risks if organisations are only focusing on criminal records and use this International Child Protection Certificate as the only suitability test for working with children or vulnerable adults, as the International Child Protection Certificate does not have non-conviction information; nor indeed does it make reference to the importance of other common sense bedrock safe recruitment practises such as the taking up of two independent character references.
As the statement says: “Similar to the UK’s CRB system, the ICPC is a police check for UK nationals who are travelling and working overseas. It will help identify and screen out those who have previous convictions that make them unsuitable to be working with children”.
CEOP launch a new way to prevent UK child sex offenders from abusing children overseas
The launch of the International Child Protection Certificate
A new weapon to combat the threat of UK sex offenders travelling to other countries and gaining access to children through teaching, charity or volunteering roles has been launched today.
Analysis by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre of offender management cases undertaken in 2011 found that one in five were associated with roles that involved access to children. Teaching and schools-related positions were the most represented occupations or voluntary roles associated with cases of offending overseas. Since 2006, CEOP has undertaken over 1200 investigations into travelling UK sex offenders.(1)
Many international schools, charities and other agencies overseas do not currently have access to the same level of police checks available to organisations in the UK and this has sometimes enabled sex offenders to gain positions of trust with children abroad.
CEOP has worked with the ACPO Criminal Records Office (ACRO) to launch the International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC), which CEOP believes is a vital new tool for schools and other overseas organisations in the prevention of harm to children under their care. Applications can be made at www.acro.police.uk/icpc
Similar to the UK’s CRB system, the ICPC is a police check for UK nationals who are travelling and working overseas. It will help identify and screen out those who have previous convictions that make them unsuitable to be working with children.
The ICPC will allow international schools and other organisations who work directly with children abroad to be able to access the criminal conviction history of UK citizens and those who have resided in the UK for any period of time. This will enable overseas schools and other organisations to assess an applicant’s suitability to be working with children. The ICPC can also be requested for those UK nationals already in paid or voluntary employment in other countries, including the estimated 74,000+ UK teachers who currently work in international schools around the world. (2)
The certificate, which takes approximately 10 days to process, can be applied for from anywhere in the world and will help to ensure that working abroad is not seen as an ‘easy option’ for those who are not suitable to work with children in the UK but who may otherwise seek to travel overseas to abuse children.
Peter Davies, Chief Executive of CEOP:
There is clear evidence to suggest that serious sex offenders who are known to authorities in the UK will often seek out opportunities to work or volunteer abroad. In many instances this will be through teaching roles but could equally be through other occupations such as charity worker, orphanage worker or as a children’s home worker. The International Child Protection Certificate is intended to be a world-wide safeguard which will give employers and voluntary organisations reassurance that applicants have no convictions in the UK which would make them unsuitable to work with children.
I am confident the ICPC will become an essential pre-employment or placement check to protect children overseas from UK offenders.
Superintendent Phil Winchester, ACPO Criminal Records Office said;
The ACPO Criminal Records Office is pleased to be working in partnership with CEOP to ensure information can be made available to overseas organisations in order to help protect children and young people from sexual predators who would seek to abuse their positions of trust.
The ICPC provides a significant opportunity to afford protection for children around the world.
Jon Brown, the NSPCC’s Head of Strategy and Development for Sexual Abuse, said;
The introduction of an International Child Protection Certificate is a positive step towards preventing known sex offenders in the UK from being able to work with children overseas. As an organisation which campaigns to end child cruelty and which works closely with CEOP, the NSPCC welcomes this safeguarding measure, which will further help to protect children from harm.
(1) Teaching and employment in roles that provided access to children accounted for between 7-19% of the cases between 2006-2011
(2) Council for British International Schools, ISC Research
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
CEOP works in both online and offline environments to protect children from sexual exploitation. Full information on all areas of work, as well as online safety messages and access to online reporting, can be found at www.ceop.police.uk
For more information about the International Child Protection Network, please visit
ACPO Criminal Records Office (ACRO)
ACRO have many years experience producing police disclosures for a number of purposes including Subject Access and Visa applications. ACRO also host the UK Central Authority for the Exchange of Criminal Records (UKCA-ECR) which includes access to the criminal histories of UK nationals abroad.
Further data – ACRO
According to ACRO from 2008 – 2012, 457 UK nationals were arrested overseas for sexual offences against children. These countries included Germany, USA, France, Spain and Thailand. The results may reflect the reporting / notification procedures in these countries.
Further data – ISC Research
The very latest figures published by ISC Research, part of the International School Consultancy Group, show that as the 2012-13 academic year commenced, the number of English-medium international schools globally stood at 6,327; an increase of 153% in just 12 years.
Nearly 2,837 of these schools have a ‘British’ national orientation – using elements of the National Curriculum for England and Wales.
Based on fee income alone, the international schools market is currently worth US$33 billion(GBP£20.4billion)
Further Data – Council of British International Schools (COBIS), credited to ISC Research
– Numbers of teachers going overseas to teach National Curriculum has risen by 26% in three years.
– There are now approximately 74,500 teachers from the UK in such schools.
– This is equal to approximately 14% of teachers in UK state schools.
– By 2013, this is estimated to rise to approximately 115,000 (an increase of 54%)
Further Data – Council of British International Schools (COBIS)
– Over 90% of international schools do not have access to CRB