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SIA conference: ACS review

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is reviewing its approved contractor scheme, it emerged from the regulator’s annual conference yesterday. That the SIA is doing so was one sign of how the Manchester Arena Inquiry, and the likely Protect Duty arising from the Inquiry findings, are already affecting the Authority’s direction, writes Mark Rowe.

In the case of the ACS – seemingly destined to be one of those things that can never please everyone, even its members – the SIA is looking to how security business licensing may come out of the Inquiry – something that has nearly come to pass during the SIA’s 15 years so far, but never quite. If all security businesses had to be regulated, the ACS would still be a ‘quality scheme’, the conference heard.

Steve McCormick, director of licensing and standards, at the online conference – the Authority’s first since November 2019 – seconded Tracey Lilley, head of business standards at the SIA, an earlier speaker. He said: “This is the beginning of a journey. We have taken some outside views; this is about exploring what is fit for purpose for the next ten, 15 years.”

There is ‘not anything broken’ with the approved contractor scheme, he went on, but what can we do to increase the appeal and the utility, he asked. Likewise Tracey Lilley said that ACS eligibility needed to be looked at; that is, the criteria whereby a (usually guarding) company can become ACS-approved.

Earlier she had stressed the need for involvement from the industry in the SIA’s review, whether from approved contractors (roughly 800), non-approved contractors (no-one counts how many, but presumably many more than are approved) and others interested. In 2022 the SIA plans workshops and research and webinars on the direction of the ACS scheme. “We need your good, bad and ugly views,” she said. “We need to understand the scheme from your perspective; we need to be able to see areas that we could further develop.”

To be involved in that review email stakeholder@sia.gov.uk.

Mark Rowe comments: among the ideas that the SIA has for ACS, that Professional Security also heard from SIA staffers before the conference, is a tiered scheme; some way whereby companies that do something specialist or extra can have that recognised. For there lies the dilemma for the ACS and any such scheme: the balance between the regulator wanting to involve as much of the security industry – for the sake of public safety, the SIA’s mission – in a quality standard, and not wanting to dilute the quality beyond what is useful for buyers, the companies themselves, customers and the public. The NSI has long had such tiers for its guarding firms: typically gold, also silver and bronze (basically meaning little more than that the company exists). However, the more tiers or ‘traffic lights’ you add, the more complicated a scheme might be for anyone, let alone non-security buyers, to understand.

Also cropping up at the conference was an old grumble, querying whether the SIA does enough to publicise the scheme, which throws up what the role of the SIA is and should be – whether as a cheer-leader for the security industry (whose badge application and ACS fees pay for the SIA, in the hundreds of millions of pounds so far) or promoting public safety (laudable, but not necessarily the same as what is best for the security industry).

(The Arena Inquiry is holding three weeks of closed sessions on ‘preventability’ of the May 22, 2017 suicide terror attack.)

Photo by Mark Rowe; steps leading from Manchester Victoria station to the Arena.


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