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Government will push ahead for church group inspections

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The government is to push ahead with its widely-criticised plans to inspect church youth groups and other youth activities.

In a written response to "grave concerns" about the plans from the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), ministers announced their intention to press ahead.

The proposals to investigate all ‘out-of-school’ settings which provide "intensive tuition" for over 6-8 hours a week, are part of the government’s wider ‘Counter-Extremism Strategy’. The strategy has come under repeated criticism since its release in October 2015.

Christian Concern’s Chief Executive, Andrea Williams, has previously described the strategy as "severely flawed".

Ofsted to inspect if children's 'well-being' questioned

The JCHR had raised concerns about the plans to allow Ofsted to investigate ‘out-of-school’ settings in a report earlier this year, vowing to "return to this issue" when more details were known.

In its response, the government said it was considering how best to take the policy forward, and that settings that are deemed to be failing children’s’ ‘wellbeing’ will be targeted.

'Illiberal and statist'

In a parliamentary debate in January this year, several MPs spoke out against the plans, describing them as "illiberal" and "statist".

Among the concerns raised, it was pointed out that the "wide and shallow" approach would not target the real threat posed by hard-line Islamic teaching.

"The problem is confined to one religion and one religion only", said Tory backbencher Sir Gerald Howarth.

Sir Edward Leigh said that those who actually teach children radical material would not subject themselves to registration. If they were to be inspected, the true nature of their doctrine would be unlikely to be revealed during an investigation.

In April this year, Christian Concern issued a joint statement with CARE, the Christian Institute, the Evangelical Alliance and the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship, warning against implementing these proposals.

"We do not believe Ofsted should become the state regulator of religion. For an inspector to scrutinise a Sunday School class, Bible study, youth meeting or church weekend away would be highly intrusive. The prospect of inspectors questioning volunteer leaders and children (without their parents) is an unwarranted incursion into private religion and family life," it read. 

Related Links:
Christian charities urge opposition to government plans for registration and inspection of church youth work
overnment's 'out-of-school' settings plans 'illiberal' and 'statist', say MPs
ovt to push ahead with regulation of church youth work (Christian Institute)