What is the role of a chaperone?
Guidance in line with the Welsh Government's 'keeping young performance safe' 2015 document.
Every child taking part in a performance or activity must be properly cared for and supervised at all times. This cannot always be done by their parents, so the council will approve chaperones to look after the child and their best interests while they are involved in the performance or activity. This applies whether the child is living at home or whether the child is away from home for a time. The chaperone's top priority must always be the best interests of the child they are looking after, including their health, well-being and education, throughout the time of the performance or activity.
A chaperone is needed where the child's parent or teacher is unable to supervise the child for the duration of the performance, rehearsal or activity. If the child is being supervised or cared for by one of their parents, or by one of their usual teachers (for example, during a school production), then a chaperone is not required. However, this does not apply to other members of the child's family. If a grandparent accompanies a child to an event, for example, then a chaperone will still be needed unless the grandparent has parental responsibility.
Training and suitability
People wishing to be approved as chaperones should apply to the council. Those applying for approval as chaperones must be deemed suitable before they can carry out any duties of a chaperone.
The council will also need to be satisfied that a chaperone is suitable and competent to take charge of the children. This is likely to include references, an up-to-date Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, and evidence of experience, qualifications and anything else which shows their ability and suitability to care for children. A chaperone can take charge of no more than twelve children at a time or, if they are also acting as a private teacher, no more than three.
A chaperone's only duty is to the child, which comes above any other expectations or demands from any other person or employer. The chaperone must be the child's champion and advocate, standing up to any request that they believe is not in the child's best interests or which might adversely affect their health, well-being or education.
This also means that the child should be comfortable with the chaperone so that they can share any concerns. The chaperone must challenge behaviour and actions that they feel are not appropriate when children are involved and raise any worries about health, safety and risk in any area of the performance or activity.
This champion role will also mean the chaperone making sure that a child who is not well is not expected to perform, and that breaks are not shortened by demands to be ready the moment the break ends. This is also a child protection role: a chaperone needs to make sure the children are not left with other adults (except their parent or teacher) and must protect the child from being forced into anything they do not want to do, either as part of the performance or activity or off stage.
As this role is entirely about safeguarding the child in their care, chaperones must behave appropriately while looking after the child. They must avoid any actions - such as drinking alcohol or smoking while on duty, taking care of the child while under the influence of alcohol, wearing inappropriate clothing or using inappropriate language in front of the child - that could threaten the well-being of the child.
Similarly, the chaperone can only do that job while looking after the children. They cannot also be members of the audience, work backstage, or be linked to any activity associated with the performance. Parents acting as chaperones will also need to carry out just that role while they are at the place of performance or rehearsal: if they want to watch a performance instead of remaining with the child, they will need another chaperone to stay with the child to meet the needs of the licence.
A chaperone should have a 'key contact' list for each of the children in their care. This should include parents / carers, the licensing authority for the child, the host authority (where performance or activity is taking place), any agents and the management of the company organising the event. They should always remain in close contact with the organiser and licence holder who has a legal responsibility to safeguard the child. The chaperone looking after a child may be approved by a local authority other than the one that issued the licence for the child.
Where permitted by the licence, the chaperone can request to see the latest copy of the script being used for the performance, so that they can confirm that it is appropriate for the child. What is appropriate will vary according to the child, their age and the production itself. The chaperone should raise any concerns with the producers in order to safeguard the child in their care: if their concerns are not resolved, the chaperone should contact Child Performance Licensing for the child to alert the authority to their concerns.
Discretion on finishing times
The chaperone may decide whether or not a child will be allowed to work past the latest finish time in certain exceptional circumstances. Sometimes a theatrical production will overrun or filming is delayed by technical reasons, meaning that the child is needed later than the regulations or the licence allow. In these situations, the chaperone can agree an extension of no more than one hour, as long as they are satisfied that the child's well-being will not be affected and that the child's total time that day (including the additional time agreed) does not exceed the maximum allowed. The chaperone must then inform the relevant local authorities (those that issued licences for the children involved and the host authority where the event is taking place) that the extension was agreed and the reasons for agreeing it.
This discretion is designed for occasional use only, where there are unusual or unforeseen circumstances that delay a production. Chaperones should consider a request for an extension only in exceptional situations. It should not be used on a regular basis or to make up for poor scheduling by the organisers of the event. It would be reasonable for a local authority to ask for further information or to question the number of extensions granted if it seems to the authority that this provision is being used too often.
The chaperone may also agree to reduce one of the meal breaks to not less than 30 minutes where the performance or rehearsal is outdoors. Again, this is expected to be only an occasional occurrence.
How do you apply for a licence?
Only a person who has responsibility for making sure a child is properly safeguarded can apply for a licence.
Applications should be made in full at least 21 days before the licence is needed.