Social services departments and area child protection committees
could be required to scrutinise thousands of licensing applications
a month when new licensing laws come into force next February,
social services directors have warned, writes Amy
Guidance accompanying the Licensing Act 2003 requires an ACPC or
a social services department to look at all new license
applications or applications for variations to existing licenses to
assess whether children will be adequately protected from harm at
the premises in question.
Peter Gilroy, director of social services at Kent Council, said
that he found it “very difficult to accept that this should
fall under social services” as, while the Act referred to the
protection of children from harm, this was a “general duty
not specific to child protection issues”.
He warned that Kent ACPC would be unable to complete the task,
which the local licensing steering group anticipated would amount
to 56,000 applications in the Kent area alone during the six months
from February: “As the Kent Child Protection Committee
concentrates on core business within existing time constraints,
scrutinising licensing applications is an impossibility for us in
terms of both time and resources.”
Gilroy added that his licensing authorities predicted the fees
raised from charging for applications would barely cover the cost
of their administration and would not be used to fund the ACPC or
social services departments to scrutinise applications.
A spokesperson from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
stressed that applications for premises that were just converting
their licences to bring them in line with the new laws would not
need to be scrutinised.
He accepted, however, that although social services and ACPCs
did not have a duty on them to put forward an opinion on each
application, they would still need to look at each one in order to
decide whether to do so or not.
The Association of Directors of Social Services is planning to
make representations to the government about the additional
workload the new laws represent.