Since the Health & Safety Executive’s initial consultation and series of meetings with the sector regard Licensing in 2016 and 2017, the Institute has been working to support the sector to ensure an open and informed debate. The Institute has played an active role in the establishment and operating of UK Adventure Industry Group (UKAIG) specifically established to provide support for the HSE’s review.
In the past 6 months the UKAIG has worked closely with the HSE to develop 3 options for the outdoor sector to consider, regarding the future of adventure activity licensing across the UK. The largest element of this work has been to outline a sector led and managed scheme for inspection and accreditation consistent with the HSE criteria for such schemes. This has enabled the HSE to offer 3 options for the future of licensing to the sector in its latest consultation which closes on 9th March 2018. Those options are:
- Option 1 Retain the AALA regulations and current licensing scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and increase fees
- Option 2 Retain the AALA regulations and current licensing scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and increase fees and extend the activities in-scope
- Option 3 Removal of the AALA regulations and move to an industry-led; not-for-profit accreditation scheme underpinned by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, to provide assurance to users of outdoor activities
It is clear that the sector has benefited hugely from the introduction of Licensing. The current inspections and the inspectorate are highly valued across the sector. A survey of the sector by The Institute in 2010 resulted in two very clear messages; that there was very little appetite for the removal of Licensing without any replacement and secondly that any changes to Licensing should result in a UK wide scheme, reflecting the reality of how young people are accessing adventurous activities across the UK.
It is also clear that the current Licensing regime is not financially sustainable and has very little governance input from the sector it is designed for. In addition, the very limited scope of the inspection scheme as defined in the 1995 Act and restrictions on its development as a result of it being embedded in legislation, has led to the emergence of a number of non-statutory schemes. A direct consequence of this is that many providers have multiple inspections for different schemes and both the sector and its users have a complex and confusing array of badges to contend with.
The Institute is seeking to increase the value placed on outdoor learning across the UK. In considering the role of inspections in outdoor learning service provision it is appropriate that the inspections and the standards that drive them be developed and managed by the sector. Shaping and governing an sector led inspection regime should be the responsibility of a professionally led and managed sector and can play an important role in raising the sector’s value proposition.
Whilst the Institute for Outdoor Learning’s board recognises that not all Institute members will take the same view, the Institute is recommending that outdoor learning professionals across the UK respond to the HSE’s consultation by selecting Option 3.