When and How to Screen
Parents, not surprisingly, are becoming more cautious about letting kids attend research sessions WHATEVER THE CLIENT. What is the answer?
The research industry is one that prides itself on its ethical concerns, be it in matters of confidentiality, dealing with ethnic minorities, religion or other such sensitive issues.
It has never, to our knowledge, experienced problems with another vulnerable area of society — children — and we aim for it to stay that way. Thats why the AQR is investigating ways to screen researchers who work with kids.
There are two issues here: one is obviously the protection of children. The other is the protection of the researcher.
What would happen, for instance, if a child were to be injured while in the presence/care of a researcher — or if they claimed to have been?
The short answer is that, while we cant protect against all eventualities, we can show those we come into contact with — be they researchers, clients, parents, etc. — that we are taking this whole area seriously.
Sheila Keegan, who has taken up the gauntlet has, after delving into this subject at some length, come up with two options. The first is to link up with the Criminal Records Bureau, which carries out background checks on those who work with children and other vulnerable individuals.
The second is for individuals to go direct to their local police station, fill out the relevant forms, and come away with the results of a search of the forces database.
Neither option is completely satisfactory, but the first would seem to have long-term merit. It looks, currently, as though AQR needs to register with the CRB and agencies can then apply for checks on behalf of its staff.
The downside is that individual practitioners, because of a loophole, will not be able to do the same. The CRB knows that this is unsatisfactory — also affected are nannies and indeed anyone who works freelance.
For nannies the only way round it is, if they apply for a job through an agency, for it to approach the CRB. Needless to say, this loophole will be closed but there is, at present, no indication of when.
The alternative route looks simpler, i.e. just turning up at your local nick, paying a fee, and asking for the computer run. Things, however, are never that simple.
The Department of Data Protection is unhappy that individuals can be coerced by their employers to produce such data. This route, therefore, though available in the short term is unlikely to be an option in the future.
The AQR is still exploring the situation, and will come back to members with the results as soon as possible.
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, March 2004
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2004