The SIA in Sheffield: Baroness Ruth Henig’s Keynote Speech

SMT Online – Web Exclusive

Yesterday’s Security Industry Authority ‘Commitment To Regulation’ Conference was energised by a scene-setting Keynote Speech courtesy of the Regulator’s chairman, Baroness Ruth Henig. Brian Sims and Bobby Logue report.

The Security Industry Authority’s (SIA) second Stakeholder Conference of 2011 – held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Sheffield – was eagerly anticipated by the 150 delegates who’d arrived from all points of the compass to learn of the latest developments in the ‘transition to a new regulatory regime’.

The menu for Conference – which ran under the banner ‘Commitment To Regulation’ – included reviews ofcurrent thinking when it comes to future proposals surrounding regulation for the private security sector and how regulatory solutions fit for the future might be formulated and then delivered in the real world.

In addition, we were treated to a ‘Where Are We Now?’ and ‘Where Are We Heading?’ assessment of the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) and the challenge that lies ahead for employers when it comes to them assuming responsibility for individual licence applications when the Regulator eventually cedes that particular task.

Post-luncheon, the talk began to centre on The Security Alliance – or rather The Security Regulation Alliance, as it’s now known – and the state of play in relation to CCTV regulation. Olympic security and serious organised crime also fed into the mix, in turn rendering much debate and well-rounded discussion.

Certainly, many new points of order came to light in relation to the future of regulation per se (and we’ll be reviewing those statements in subsequent articles).

Dave Humphries
Dave Humphries

Following a brief introduction from Dave Humphries – the SIA’s director of compliance, intelligence and communication who made an excellent Master of Ceremonies on the day – the Keynote Speech was delivered at 10.40 am sharp by the Regulator’s greatest champion and chairman, Baroness Ruth Henig.

Ruth Henig
Ruth Henig

Aware of the challenging business environment

“At the SIA, we are very well aware of the challenging business environment in which companies are having to operate,” began the Baroness. That opening gambit will not have been lost on the myriad security providers present – from companies including Advance Security, Broadland Guarding Services, Securitas Security Services and Sodexo – all of whom continue to rail against heinously low margins, necessarily operate within a fractured fiscal climate and perpetually pray for better times ahead.

“Margins are tight,” concurred Baroness Henig. “Conditions are difficult to say the least, and many businesses are struggling just to survive. This makes it all the more important that we, as the Regulator, do everything in our power to bring down our costs and ensure that regulation is both properly targeted and risk-based.”

The Regulator’s chairman moved her engaging discourse forward by outlining key achievements made to date by her organisation. You’ll have heard some of these figures before, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive on repetition.

In seven years of regulation, the SIA has excluded – either via outright refusal or licence revocation – nigh on 50,000 individuals deemed unfit to work in positions of trust within the industry. In terms of the licensing requirements themselves, compliance stands at 90%. For many, that’s a statistic worth boasting about.

In tandem with support for partner agencies looking to take prosecutions forward (the police service among them), the SIA has itself prosecuted 12 cases and issued 100-plus written warnings and improvement notices.

The plus-points derived from regulation don’t end there, either. “The number of valid SIA licences currently stands at 366,000,” enthused Baroness Henig, “and, by way of demonstrating how licensing has helped to improve skills and training, more than 767,000 licence-linked security qualifications have been studied for and passed.”

March 2011: five years and counting for the ACS

March 2011 marked the fifth anniversary of the aforementioned ACS. It’s a schemethat, in Baroness Henig’s eyes, “continues to go from strength to strength”.

It’s difficult to argue with the statistics, that’s for sure. During those five years, more than 1,200 applications have been made by companies wanting to join the list of approved providers (which currently numbers 711 constituents). Those approved solutions/services providers employ over 130,000 individuals.

50 companies have, over time, been removed from the ACS for one reason or another, thereby ensuring that “only those meeting the highest standards hold ACS status”.

Tellingly, the Baroness mentioned the “growing requirement” to be an ACS member for those companies hoping to gain contracts in the public sector. Stipulating ACS credentials as a mandatory requirement when it comes to tendering processes in that space has already been rubber-stamped north of the border, so why not in England?

It seems no-one is either able or willing to answer that $64,000 question just now. Indeed, it has remained unanswered since it was first mooted at the time the ACS drew initial breath.

We shall now see exactly how robust the ACS really is when it’s used as the basis to develop effective business licensing.

The Baroness proceeded to sketch out those sectors of the security industry where the Regulator has “not yet reached” its goals: one of the most important being private investigation.

“This is a sector I would like to see included in the new regime,” asserted Baroness Henig, “mainly for the protection of the public. I know that many in the sector want regulation to be introduced here.”

The Regulator had made preparations for licensing private investigators well before the allegations surfaced around what was allegedly occurring at News International, but that work came to a halt roughly this time last year when BBC News Scotland let the world know that Government was planning to abolish the SIA as part of the whole Austerity 2010 cutbacks programme.

“We have now been requested to give evidence on private investigators to the Leveson Inquiry. We will review the private investigation sector – and the feasibility of regulating it – as we develop our plans.”

Solid platform on which to build

Baroness Henig firmly believes that there’s “a solid regulatory platform” in place on which to build for the future, and that this is a direct reflection not only of the efforts shown by the SIA but also the commitment and support emanating from the security sector.

“We must now ensure that, together, we build upon previous achievements in regulation and develop a regime that’s suitable for an evolving industry,” continued the Baroness.

“We know that regulation needs to change and adapt to remain relevant in the years to come. As I have said on previous occasions, this means lighter touch [regulation] for compliant businesses and individuals, a lower cost approach, a focus on business licensing – with businesses taking primary responsibility for vetting and registering their employees – and the industry assuming increased responsibility for driving up professionalism and standards.”

To date, regulation has necessarily focused on security sectors and not on the regulatory risks that have to be mitigated within and across the private security industry. Since regulation was established, though, it must be recognised that the industry, the world around it and the risks posed by that world have changed.

“The current legislation was developed in the early 2000s,” explained Baroness Henig. “Since then, we have seen the increasing importance of the industry’s role in preventing terrorism and supporting the much-expanded night-time economy. There has also been a huge shift in the use of technology, both in terms of mitigating risks – among them cyber crime and systems abuse – and also when it comes to new windows of opportunity.”

In terms of the latter, security officers and CCTV operators are making good use of new technology for monitoring and a host of other end goals.

Maintaining that theme, the Baroness opined: “We have, of course, to bring technology into the services we provide. We need to, and have begun to implement e-services such as online applications for licensing and alerts to stakeholders via text messaging. These are all facilities that you should expect to be offered by a modern Regulator focused on customer service.”

However, the Baroness stressed: “Regulation as it’s set up at present is not geared towards this evolution, but this can – and will – be taken into account as we plan and shape regulation for the future.”

Another key element of the new regime will be driving increased professionalism and standards through training and the development of skills.

“This is an area with which we fully expect the industry to be tasked within the new regime, and we at the SIA will work closely with industry to look at how we operate in this area in future, and how higher standards will be achieved.”

As far as Baroness Henig is concerned, driving up standards among those who work in the sector will be a mark of the industry’s maturity. A perfect example of such an opportunity is the additional training introduced for door supervisors.

“New entrants to this sector undertake the physical intervention module as part of the licensing requirements,” outlined Baroness Henig, “and I believe it’s important for the industry – and for public safety – that this training is also undertaken by those already licensed.”

To this end, the Regulator has already begun to encourage those working in door supervision to undertake this additional training on a voluntary basis.

“In Scotland and Northern Ireland,” explained the SIA’s chairman, “there appears to be a willingness, if necessary, to take this forward as compulsory for existing licence holders, and this may be introduced by the devolved administrations even if it cannot be implemented in England and Wales at this time.”

Progress has been made… but it’s time to move on

Drawing her polemic to an on-time conclusion, the Baroness urged that everyone involved in regulation must not lose sight of the progress made to date, but at the same juncture recognise that now is the moment to move on.

“The Government has made it abundantly clear that there will be, at the earliest possible opportunity, legislation to create a new regulatory regime with a new Regulator, a clear focus on business licensing and a reduced overall burden. We need to continue to work with industry on developing a new regime that satisfies these requirements, and one which will be fit to regulate the future shape of the industry.”

Those plans would be fleshed out later in the morning session courtesy of excellent presentations from Hazel Russell (the SIA’s director of transition) and Steve McCormick (director of service delivery at the Regulator). These are the subject of further articles in this mini series.

When it boils down to timetables around what’s going to happen, with so many competing priorities for Government and Parliament just now it’s perhaps little surprise that the final timetable for new primary legislation has yet to be confirmed.

“If this legislation does take time to be put into place, then it’s vital we don’t stall,” urged Baroness Henig. “We must maintain the momentum of change and continue to move forward, working in tandem with our stakeholders to decide upon priorities and begin to make changes now.”

Even though bereft of any immediate primary legislation, with Government support it’s clear there remain plenty of options for developing regulation and introducing key elements of the planned changes sooner rather than later.

“These could include the introduction of business licensing and developing individual registrations,” stated the Baroness. In other words, the key elements of the new regime.

By way of a parting shot, Baroness Henig told Conference: “We certainly must not stand still now that changes to regulation are beginning to take shape. Rather, we have to work together in ensuring adequate and appropriate regulation for the future.”

Brian Sims is group content editor for UBM Live’s Security Portfolio and editor of Security Management Today Online

Bobby Logue is managing director of Interconnective which publishes