Oh for a life without forms

An article I was reading in the paper this weekend reminded me of a series of forms tucked away somewhere on my desk. I hate forms, so I had put them in the ‘to do later’ pile and hope they go away. I checked … and they haven’t.

The article was about another agency set up the Home Office to protect the people of this land. This is the agency every one of us has to register with if we deal with vulnerable people – it transpires there are 11.5 million of us, so that should keep some people in employment for a while. They think they will need to process 1 million people a year – how that works is unclear to me as this means it will take precisely 11.5 years to get everyone processed. I guess that means if you are vulnerable now you could be in trouble for a while.

But it is not that simple. I have two of these forms on my desk. One because I am a school governor and the other because I have been asked to support something called Young Enterprise, which helps kids develop their business skills. For each I have to fill in a separate form – two payments of course because, let’s face it, it is really another tax.

Let me be clear – I am all for the protection of vulnerable people. I have a daughter with severe learning difficulties who has been in a home for many years. I have her at home every month and for about 3 weeks a year. Anyone who tries to harm her, will not get a form – that is for sure. I watch very carefully how she acts, I spend time at her home and I make sure I know the people who live and work with her. Do I have faith in some forms being filled in? Hardly!

The third form is to protect society in general against me. I was a non-executive of a company which I had to put into administration, so now I need to be checked out. I wonder whether Fred the Shred had to do that? Or the other bankers or the government or all the others who bankrupted the economy. No – best to focus on the entrepreneur – fortunately I know I am in the clear, but still – the form needs to be completed.

The real question is of course, what all these forms achieve, not to mention the vast bureaucracies which have to deal with them. The forms have to be scanned or filed or copied into electronic format – more jobs! The contents needs to be checked – more jobs. Great! But how many vulnerable people will be protected? How many businesses will be saved? The nursery teacher who abused dozens of children was checked but that did not help. Baby P died probably because dedicated people were filling in forms so that jobs worths could tick boxes instead of listening to the experts.

What I miss in all this is the good old fashioned Enterprise Britain cost benefit analysis. Or is it simply some kind of moral justification to burn money and forget the benefit.

I have a much less bureaucratic solution to anyone who harms children or other vulnerable people but that is not for this blog, nor does it involve forms. I better fill mine in now.

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