That’s Entertainment: a Report on the Nature and Extent of Children’s Entertainment Licences: A Report for the National Network for Children in Employment and Entertainment (NNCEE)

Jim McKechnie, Sandy Hobbs, Amanda Simpson, Emma Littler

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


    1. This report on the regulation of children in entertainment is based on a survey of local authorities. It has been acknowledged for some time that the regulations relating to the licencing of children’s performances are problematic. The Thane report (2010) makes reference to a ‘postcode lottery’, whereby children in different authorities were being treated differently when it came to the issuing of licences. However, its findings were not based on the systematic collection of evidence.

    2. There are a number of different types of licence that may be issued to young performers. This contrasts with the licencing of child employees where there is only one form of licence, the ‘work permit’. The types of entertainment licences that we have identified are standard licence, open licence, unlicensed authorisation and body of persons licence.

    3. This study used the same sample of local authorities that was used in a recent Department for Education project on the regulation of child employment. It consisted of one third of local authorities responsible for regulating child employment in England. Diversity of authorities was reflected in the sample, based on the type of authority, geographical location and socioeconomic indicators. In addition a sample of Welsh local authorities was included. Similar criteria were employed for selecting the Welsh local authorities.

    4. The response rate ranged from 62.5% for London Borough to 92.3% for Metropolitan authorities. With respect to geographical location, the highest return rate was 100% (North West and Midlands) and the lowest 60% (North East).

    5. We asked each authority to provide us with the number of licences they had issued in 2013, 2012 and the period 2009-11. Not all authorities were able to provide all of this information for all time periods. According to the responses we received, the total number of licences issued, irrespective of type of licence, was 31,430 in 2013. Since we sampled only one third of responsible authorities, these figures suggest that the total number of licences issued would be over 90,000 in 2013. This figure is considerably higher than the estimate of 45,000 licences cited by Thane.

    6. The number of licences does not indicate the number of children involved. Some types of licence can cover a number of performers. One authority reported that in 2013 it issued 31 “body of persons” licences covering 745 children. Another issued 49 “unlicensed authorisations” covering 4,425 children.

    7. Variations between authorities clearly emerged. Shire authorities report the highest mean number of standard licences. Open licences were comparatively less common than standard ones, Metropolitan authorities appearing to issue them less frequently year by year. Unlicensed authorisation was used by most authorities, although London Boroughs issued relatively few. Body of persons licences were particularly common in Unitary authorities.

    8. We are unable to determine, on the basis of the evidence collected, why authorities vary in the level and type of licences issued. There may be differences in demand between areas and there may be differences in the provision authorities make for this sphere of activity. Comments made by respondents suggest that the latter may be an important factor.

    9. Respondents were invited to tell us about the information resources that they have available to inform interested parties of the legislation and procedures relating to the licencing of performances. Almost all authorities indicated that they produced such information. This material was targeted at parents/carers (87%) and employers (84%) more frequently than at children (64%).

    10. We asked respondents to tell us about the number of staff who have responsibility for this area in their authority. Less than half (39%) indicated that they had staff where this was their sole responsibility. In 7 authorities, this area of responsibility was handled by staff for whom it was only a minor part of their job role.

    11. Answers to open ended questions allow us to form an impression of key issues faced by staff working in this field. The legislation is viewed as complicated and subject to differing interpretations. Some authorities appear to have taken unilateral decisions to favour or reject particular types of licences. For example, some issue no open licences, because the system had been abused.

    12. Problems seen by staff include lack of national standards, lack of training and pressure by senior management to avoid negative publicity. In addition, the licensing of chaperones was seen as problematic and there appeared to be a fairly low level of scrutinising as to whether required standards were actually being respected.

    13. There are significant gaps in our understanding of local authority policy and practice. In addition there is no research, that we are aware of, that has considered the young performers’ experience of the licencing system.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherUniversity of the West of Scotland
    Commissioning bodyNational Network for Children in Employment & Entertainment (NNCEE)
    Number of pages24
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2014


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