Government changes to licensing have led to uncertainty in the adventure activity industry over what will replace the current national scheme. As Scotland opts to keep statutory regulation, one solution could be a national register of activity providers holding third-party accreditation. Ed Douglas reports.
The proposal comes from the UK Accreditation Transition Group (UKATG), made up of those former members on the Health and Safety Executive's working group who represent activity providers.
The group was formed in early 2012 after HSE’s guidelines failed to recommend third-party accreditation, despite there being a clear demand for this from providers and users alike. The solution recommended by UKATG is a register of providers holding a recognised form of third-party accreditation.
The register would be open to all providers, not just those for young people, and recognise a wide variety of activities but still provide a single point of reference for users.
The register would need to accommodate the different third-party schemes chosen or being considered in the four home nations.
So far, Wales has opted to continue with the existing Adventurous Activity Licensing Authority, while Northern Ireland has chosen the Adventuremark accreditation scheme. Ironically, the Republic of Ireland is now actively considering choosing the same scheme.
An announcement for legislation to wind up AALA in England had been expected in the Queen's Speech in May but wasn't included. English providers are still waiting for an announcement of what will happen next. Those providers approaching a license renewal date still need to get a licence until told otherwise. The Scottish Executive this week announced it was opting to keep AALA.
The announcement concluded: "The retention of statutory licensing addresses the strong steer from local authorities and education respondents… of the need for a statutory scheme to provide the reassurance parents require and more broadly to users, their families and the wider public.”
The current position means Scottish and Welsh providers could operate across the whole of the UK but English providers and those across Ireland would be limited to England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
UKATG's proposal could get round the problem of providers from one of the home countries operating in another. The plan would fail if statutory licensing nations demanded providers hold a country-specific licence.
Funding to establish the register will come from SkillsActive, part of the UK Commission for Employment & Skills. Ultimately a registration fee would make it self-funding.
If UKATG's proposal was adopted, then there might be a way for sole-traders and smaller activity providers holding qualifications from Mountain Training to to get low-cost access to Adventuremark's accreditation. MTUK have agreed to investigate gaining accreditation on behalf of the 4000 or so instructors holding its different certificates, from MLs and MICs to British Mountain Guides and International Mountain Leaders.
MTUK have applied to Sport England for funding to do this, and will, if the idea is adopted, hold a conference – at cost price – for instructors to qualify under MTUK's Adventuremark. Only those providers offering activities that fall within MTUK's orbit would be eligible.
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