Brass bands in row over child performance licences

Brass band members
Image caption Brass bands feel it is unfair they have to apply for licences when there is no need for sports teams to do so

Children may not be encouraged to join volunteer brass bands in the future because of a row over licensing.

Bands legally need a licence for under-16s to compete but they feel it should only apply to those who are paid.

The child performance licence protects children from exploitation in the workplace and is issued by councils.

Some want it scrapped and others have complained about varying rules councils have, but the Welsh Government said it was "not intended to be burdensome".

Bands only discovered the law in March when a UK-wide umbrella organisation Brass Bands England (BBE) posted on Facebook about the need to licence all players under 16 ahead of regional championships being held in north Wales.

It stems from an old 1960s law to protect children from being exploited in the entertainment industry which was revised in 2014, but BBE said councils were catching up with how it applies to brass bands.

A letter has been written to AMs and Welsh MPs by the chairman of Cross Keys Silver Band in Monmouthshire, which called the licence "unnecessary".

David Francis wrote he would be proposing to the band "that we do not encourage children to join" because of the risk of falling foul of the rules surrounding child performers.

He agreed it should be in place for paid performers but for volunteers, it was "poorly thought out and lacking in knowledge about how brass bands operate".

Image caption Ammanford Silver Band has a small number of children under 16

Gary Pritchard, secretary of Beaumaris brass band in Beamaris, Anglesey, said the licence was "an extra level of bureaucracy".

"The child performance licence is seen as a form of child protection but it's not. It's a legislation that was intended to stop people from being exploited in the workplace rather than any other way," he said, adding all volunteers are DBS checked.

"We would like to see brass bands removed from the child performance licence requirement in much the same way that sports teams aren't required to have this legislation."

Other bands have called for the licensing application process to be made simpler because different councils have different requirements, leading to inconsistency.

Philip Rogers, from Ammanford Silver Band, said: "To a certain degree I can see why they have put them in place.

Image caption Seindorf brass band in Beaumaris have had to apply for licences before competing in different areas

"We are quite fortunate but some bands have 20-plus individuals and to fill all of the paperwork is quite a colossal task I would have thought.

"All the councils work from a different remit and if you were to standardise all of the forms it would please everybody."

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "The purpose of a child performance licence is to safeguard children taking part in a performance or activity.

"It is not intended to be burdensome, but a fundamental step in providing assurances that our children are appropriately safeguarded when partaking in performances and activities outside of the school environment.

"We will raise this issue with local authorities to identify whether more can be done to make the process more consistent without jeopardising the safety of the child."

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