It’s been two years since I last commented on the future of Adventurous Activity Licensing in these pages (see Perspectives in issue 78). Since then, the HSE has conducted a consultation and presented the sector and wider stakeholders with three options, namely:
Option 1: The existing HSE-led inspection remaining with little change
Option 2: A revised HSE-led regime with a wider scope or
Option 3: A sector-led alternative.
The response level to the consultation was good and extensive narrative was provided by respondents to help inform the HSE decision. This led to a wide range of outdoor adventurous activity stakeholders to come together, to provide a single body for the HSE to hold a conversation with. This body, formed in 2017, became known as UKAIG (UK Activity Industry Group) and it draws on input from all home nations and most large stakeholder groups across the UK.
As a direct result of the dialogue between the HSE and UKAIG, Sarah Newton MP confirmed her support for the HSE’s board decision to pursue Option 3, leading to a request that the UK Adventure Industry detail an alternative to the current AALA statutory licensing.
To propose the detail of a sector-led, inspection-based regime, the sector needs to develop a new regime that incorporates a range of existing accreditation schemes. The new regime can draw on the best of the existing schemes, as well as featuring developments that support wider participation by providers. In addition, the new regime can improve sharing of good practice and provide a better understanding of the capacity and potential of the sector (a current issue for policy makers and those looking to draw on the sector to meet societal needs around health, education and environmental sustainability).
To develop the new regime the sector needs to:
• Review the scope of the existing accreditation schemes, including their inspection process, with a view to incorporation into a new regime.
• Design and cost an inspection cycle that is sustainable by providers, accessible to the full range and scale of providers and gives developmental feedback.
• Establish a sector-wide governance body recognised and accepted by the sector and HSE.
• Establish a management function to manage the scope of activities covered by the new regime, appoint an inspectorate, provide a Quality Assurance function for the inspecting and the inspected, share good practice and lessons learnt, as well as provide information to HSE.
• Provide a sector-owned and -led publicly accessible listing of providers recognised by the regime.
• Agree a transition approach from AALA and the existing sector schemes that are to be incorporated.
There are obviously some fantastic opportunities to build on the lessons of the past 25 years and to support increased provision of outdoor adventurous activity, whilst continuing to develop standards and increase the value placed on that provision. This is an important step forward for the sector and although there is commitment to creating a better place, there remain some key questions to be answered:
i. What are the key features of an inspection regime that can provide an alternative to AALA that can be endorsed by the HSE?
ii. How can a sector-led scheme continue to improve the standards of delivery of adventurous activity in a consistent manner across the UK?
iii. What are the true sustainable costs of a sector-led scheme?
iv. What pricing approach reflects the range of size and type of delivery models and promotes inclusion?
I am clear that the sector is capable of developing and running an alternative to AALA and that the time is right for that to happen.
I am equally clear that without such an approach there is a very real risk of the sector fracturing across home nation and outdoor discipline lines; fracturing will only make it harder to access, understand and realise the potential benefits of outdoor adventurous activity provision.
Thank you to all who have ensured their voice has been heard in the conversations to date. Please look out for opportunities to continue to influence the design and development of the sector-led inspection regime. IOL will continue to support both the debate and the development activity.
Visit http://ukaig.uk to read the latest news from the UK Activity Industry Group.