Security Industry Authority – SIA Meeting Debrief

There has seemingly been a growing discontent among rank and file security industry workers when it comes to our regulatory body, the Security Industry Authority. TPSO has heard horror stories about licence appeals taking months to deal with, licences being suspended despite no Police action being taken against the holders, and numerous other issues ranging from an inconvenience to career destroying.

The SIA has told us that it is well aware of many problems and it is making efforts to adapt and improve it’s service.

We wanted to find out for ourselves and put some of your questions to senior SIA management, so when Mark Burtonwood, Deputy Director of SIA Operations invited TPSO to SIA Headquarters, to get an overview of what they do on a daily basis, and for discussions, we very enthusiastically excepted.

On Monday April 29th, Mike O’Sullivan arrived at the SIA with an open mind, a sharpened pencil and some questions, provided by our readers.

Here are the official written responses to our questions:

TPSO: Why does the appeal process take so long?

We receive appeals against refusals of licence applications as well as the suspension or revocation of licences and licence conditions. We review all incoming appeals on a daily basis in order to take urgent action on suspension cases since this is when licence holders are prevented from working.

Due to the volume of appeals that we receive we cannot always respond immediately. We are often dependent on other parties when dealing with cases and obtaining character references, especially when we have requests for further evidence, can be time consuming. However, we have been making good progress in reducing the time taken to consider appeals as a result of better separation of the different types of appeal and allocating accordingly.

At the start of 2019 we had almost 400 appeals to review, this had been reduced to 100 at the end of April. We currently have less than 40 appeals that were received prior to March 2019 and all of these cases are assigned to dedicated case owners.

TPSO: Why not consider a driving licence style badge with categories on the back instead of having to carry several licences?

This does sound like an interesting idea and one that would allow operatives to demonstrate levels of experience.

Our current legislation does not differentiate between levels of experience or seniority.

We are however actively looking at how Continuous Professional Development opportunities could be recognised within a commonly recognised framework of achievement.

TPSO: If a person makes a false allegation against you, why suspend immediately instead of after an investigation takes place?

We apply our published suspension criteria which is found at page 47 of Get Licensed. We appreciate that each time we take the decision to suspend a licence that it has a significant impact on the licence holder. If a decision has not yet been made by the relevant prosecuting authorities whether to charge the individual with an offence, then the suspension must be authorised by a Senior Manager.

Whenever we do suspend a licence we invite the licence holder to make representations to us and we prioritise consideration of these representations given the impact that the decision has on the licence holder.

However, when there is an ongoing Police investigation into an alleged serious violent or sexual offence, or one that relates to the safeguarding of children, then we must consider the threat posed to public safety or whether it is in the public interest to suspend the licence during the Police investigation.

TPSO: The SIA seems to police Door Supervisors. Why so little checking of other front line workers?

We think that we appropriately “police” all the sectors that we regulate, this is certainly what we strive to do. There are a number of factors that lead to this, the way that we regulate the different sectors and the way we report our activity.

Our approach is focused on risk and intelligence led, we also look to work in partnership. Our largest sectors are security guarding and door supervision. Intelligence about door supervisor activities arises from a high level of interaction between this sector and the public and partners. The level of interaction with the public for this sector also raises the potential risk to the public. For these reasons, we do carry out inspections of this sector more than other sectors that we regulate.

Where problems are identified in the door supervisor sector they are often around the particular operatives or venues rather than their employer. This leads to operations in towns (if we are checking one venue it is usually worthwhile us checking neighbouring venues whilst we are on the ground). This type of activity we can publicise because it doesn’t point to a particular individual or business.

Where we have intelligence about the manned guarding sector it is more likely to be business specific and this will lead us to taking up the matter with the business. We don’t usually publicise these cases because it will relate to a specific business rather than a town centre. It may not even need an inspection of front line staff, we may be able to resolve the matter by dealing directly with the business or customers of the business.

We do undertake inspections in other sectors. In the past couple of years we have done work a considerable amount of work looking at construction sites, for example. For other manned guarding sectors, in the last few months we have also undertaken a random inspection of CViT staff at a cash handling centre and also inspected a CCTV monitoring station in relation to a case we are dealing with.

We also do quite a significant amount of work ensuring ACS applicant businesses are fit and proper. The majority of these businesses are in the guarding sector, so we often engage with these businesses and look into them but they would not necessarily be part of an inspection (even though we may carry out an inspection of particular operatives that they deploy, these are not reported under operational activity on the website).

The following prosecution cases are good examples of our activty outside of the door supervision sector:

TPSO: The communication issue! Why are people with such a poor grasp of spoken English being licensed, when they need to deal effectively with emergency situations?

Within the qualification there is a minimum requirement that a learner completing a licence-linked qualification must have. This is Level 1 speaking, listening, reading and writing. It is the responsibility of the training centre who has registered the learner to ensure their learners meet this requirement and this is then quality assured by the appropriate Awarding Organisation.

Training centres are expected to retain evidence of how they checked this for every learner and provide it to the Awarding Org if/when requested.

We have completed two research pieces into concerns raised around English language levels and both concluded this was not a major issue in the industry as a whole (but there were of course isolated cases).

There have been occasions where people have been tested on English language ability. In most cases the learner passes the test, but there have been occasions where we have taken licences away from people due to their lack of English skills.

We have begun a series of unannounced visits to training centres and tasked the assessors with speaking to learners on courses to establish English skills. No serious concerns have been raised so far.

It is important to note that difficulty in English can be due to a variety of other things such as accent, tone, words used, hearing issues of individuals and not just an inability of a licence-holder to speak English. It is also the responsibility of the employer to ensure any security staff they deploy is able to complete all tasks for their assignment (of which English language may be one).

TPSO: Is there any plan to reinstate the telephone helpline?

We do have a business support telephone line, however we find that the vast majority of applicants and licence holders communicate with us through their account or through methods available on our website. We also allow people to request us to call them.

TPSO: Why don’t the SIA ‘mystery shop’ training venues?

We have started a programme of unannounced visits. Between Jan – Mar 19 25 have been conducted and all actions raised followed up with the relevant Awarding Organisations and training centres. We are not prepared to do a ‘mystery shop’ due to the need to hand over ID as part of the course – we cannot expect people to use their own ID for the issue of their personal safety.

In addition it is important to note that both points raised above relate to the qualification, the SIA is not the regulator for the qualification it is Ofqual. Any work completed in this area by us is over and above our regulatory requirement.

TPSO: Why no guidance/training or testing in the area of alarm response? Given that the field can be so potentially dangerous and fraught with legal issues?

This does not fall within the remit of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 so it is outside the scope of SIA regulation.

I must thank the SIA for the time they took to consider our questions and to show Mike the work that they do. The answers however, do raise some more issues that we will discuss with them at a later date.

During the meeting it was clear to Mike that the SIA has a phenomenal workload and staffing levels that make keeping up with the day to day tasks of licence issuing, renewal, and appeals, incredibly challenging. If more of the money raised from licencing was used to fund the SIA more generously, instead of just disappearing in to the central government money pit, then I’m sure that most of the issues that cause us problems, would be dealt with far more effectively.

We have met a lot of hard working professionals at the SIA, that both care, and do their utmost to get things done. Communication however is a historic problem with just the odd press release, regarding convictions or high profile investigations, seeing the light of day.

Moving forward, we will be publishing more about the SIA and the work they do, that never normally reaches the public domain. We will also continue to raise your issues with them so please keep us informed of the problems you encounter:……