21 February 1997

Young farmers slam Police Bill

YOUNG farmers claim the new Police Bill, which plans to charge voluntary organisations working with children under 18 a fee for checking employees criminal records, could put the organisations future in jeopardy.

Home secretary, Michael Howard, has insisted the police checks will be voluntary. But the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs believes they would face huge public liability pay-outs if a case arises and they have not taken up the scheme.

NFYFC also points out that the cost of obtaining a criminal record certificate will be £10 a volunteer and with 8000 volunteers working with the networks 850 clubs, the provisional cost could be as high as £85,000.

Brendan Loughran, NFYFCs chief executive, said the organisation attracted up to 1000 new volunteers a year, which would mean bolt-on annual costs of up to £10,000 a year.

"We are in a no-win situation at present. If we agree to the criminal record certificates, we face an £85,000 bill, but the implications if we do not and have one bad egg among our volunteers could leave us with a £30,000-£50,000 compensation bill plus legal fees," he said.

Mr Loughran said the NFYFC, the fifth largest national youth organisation, had tried to lobby Mr Howard through the National Council of Voluntary Youth Services without success. &#42