Licensing Guidelines

Licensing and safeguarding children and young people

What are the requirements for safeguarding children under the Licensing Act?

The Licensing Act 2003 brought about a change in thinking about children’s access to licensed premises and now it is normal for children to be allowed in to pubs, clubs and other licensed premises.

Under the Act a number of ‘Responsible Authorities’ have been created, each one should be notified of any new license applications  or any variations to existing licenses. 

The Responsible Authorities include Police, Fire Authority, Planning Authority and the Essex County Council (ECC) Children’s Services is the ‘Responsible Authority’ in respect of the protection of children from harm, and the Local Authority Designated Officers (LADOs), carry this role out on behalf of the County Council, specifically looking at the child protection / safeguarding element.

What risks can there be on licensed premises for children and young people?

The risks will vary from premises to premises depending on the type of licensing activity and the age of the children.

Young children may be at risk if they are not properly supervised or are exposed to adults who have become intoxicated.  They can be dangerously intoxicated by quite small quantities of alcohol, so care needs to be taken to clear used glasses to protect them from this risk.

Young teenagers may attempt to buy and consume alcohol and then become vulnerable because their judgement is impaired, this could put them in danger from getting involved in fights, from drink driving or from sexual predators and abuse from those who choose to exploit children.

All children are at risk of adults who are viewed as a danger to them.  Care must be taken when staff are appointed to ensure that such individuals are not placed in an environment where they can exploit their position.

Adult entertainment is not suitable for children.  At premises where such entertainment is allowed arrangements must be enforced to ensure that children are not exposed to any inappropriate acts or material.

What can Licensees put in place to reduce risks to children and young people?
  • Use clear signs so that people are aware when and where children are welcome in the premises
  • Display signs and adhere to laws relating to alcohol and children
  • Have a clear policy for dealing with children on their premises, e.g. age, thresholds, supervision, expectations of adults, timings, etc.
  • Age-identification procedures used – national, local, premises schemes
  • How expectations on adults are enforced e.g. instructions to staff
  • Vetting procedures for staff, to ensure that no unsuitable adults are employed
  • Staff should be easily identifiable (uniform or badge) and aware of safeguarding issues
  • Policy on clearing glasses to minimise opportunities for children to access left-over alcohol
  • Minimise the risk of passive smoking with clearly defined ‘smoking’ areas to which children have no access.
  • Use CCTV to monitor the premises/event including toilet and play areas.

What are the risks of child sexual exploitation (CSE) at licensed premises?

The risks vary depending on the style and character of the business but premises can be involved in the following ways:

  •  If an adult venue (night clubs/adult entertainment venue) is frequented by underage customers this can attract perpetrators; or if a premises (or event) hosts under 18 events or mixed age activities.  Equally, underage customers frequenting an adult venue with older peers or adults can be an indicator that child sexual exploitation is happening, staff should be trained in spotting the signs and clear about how to log incidents or report concerns that they may have  
  • Where underage drinking takes place, children and young people are vulnerable as their judgement is impaired
  • There is a risk of CSE at premises where goods or services can be offered in exchange for sexual favours (such as free food, transport, drinks, cigarettes, or free access to a venue). This can happen if a perpetrator is employed there (or works voluntarily) and has regular or private contact with children
  • Children and young people are vulnerable in areas of premises that are not monitored (such as toilets, beer gardens)
  • Risk may present if information technology is in use at a premises (internet, mobile phones/cameras/video recorders)
  • Premises providing facilities for private parties, private dancing/entertainment booths or overnight accommodation may be vulnerable to child sexual exploitation

How can Licensees manage the risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) at licensed premises?

Under the Licensing Act 2003, the ‘due diligence’ defence can be used to protect your business, if you can demonstrate that all reasonable steps have been taken to manage risk. Here are some suggested safeguarding measures to help evidence ‘due diligence’ and keep children safe:

  • Undertake a written children and young people’s risk assessment and use it to inform your operating policy and staff training
  • Staff should be trained to recognise indicators of child sexual exploitation and know how to report concerns
  • Staff should be trained to operate an age verification scheme, know what types of identification are acceptable and to recognise signs of proxy purchase of alcohol
  • Staff training records should be maintained
  • Activity at the premises should be monitored (for example using CCTV or by regular patrols. Patrol records should be maintained)
  • Suspicious activity should be reported to the police (including details such as vehicle registration numbers, description of individuals) and should be recorded in your incident log
  • If you have a delivery service (for example hot food) enforce a Code of conduct to promote good safeguarding when deliveries are made to unaccompanied children.

Who can Licensees contact if they are concerned about child sexual exploitation (CSE)?

If anything in the child sexual exploitation section of this page gives you concern about a young person, you must pass this information onto the Police.  

Further information can be found in the ESCB leaflet for licensed premises

What is the process in respect of protection of children from harm?

Licensing applications for Essex County Council (not incl. Southend and Thurrock) need to be sent by email to the following address:

They will be considered by the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) who is based within the Quality Assurance and Safeguarding Children Service. 

Applications will be vetted to ensure that the licensing objective of protection of children from harm is met, and if the LADO is satisfied both the relevant District Licensing Officer and applicant are informed via email

Where insufficient information is provided the applicant will be contacted and advised accordingly (and the relevant District Licensing Officer notified)

Where cases need further discussion this will be done through the relevant District Licensing Officers

Applications will be logged on a database on receipt and outcomes noted as appropriate

What are the requirements for safeguarding children under the Gambling Act 2005?

In September 2007 the Gambling Act 2005 came into force and replaced numerous pieces of legislation governing gambling activities.  The Gambling Act 2005 promotes safer practice at premises where gambling activities take place. 

Under the legislation, licensees and their operators have a legal responsibility to ‘protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling’. 

Essex County Council has a statutory responsibility to ensure that licence holders operate in a way that safeguards children and young people

The risks to children will vary, depending upon the type of gambling activities taking place at the premises.  Children may be at risk of being:

  • Exposed to information or advertisements encouraging them to gamble
  • Allowed or invited to gamble or bet in a commercial setting
  • Financially exploited
  • Allowed to purchase and consume alcohol

There are a number of measures that gambling establishments can put in place to manage the risks to children:

  • Challenge 21/25 scheme operated by all door and bar staff and only recognised proof of age accepted (for example photo driving licence or passport, PASS Card)
  • All points of entry monitored by security staff / CCTV
  • Signage prominently displayed at all points of entry regarding the prohibition of under 18’s
  • Signage displayed on machines highlighting age restrictions
  • Signage prominently displayed in bar areas regarding the law and the sale of alcohol
  • Operate a membership scheme
  • All staff trained to be vigilant and respond (as outlined in the premises operating policy) if a child gains illegal access to premises
  • For gambling establishments that offer a range of gambling activities (regional casino, licensed entertainment centre, bingo premises, gaming machines in category C or above) they must operate systems to ensure that under 18’s are prevented from accessing areas where adult activities (betting or high stakes gambling) take place or where adult gaming machines are located.  For such premises they may also need to operate the following systems: 
    • Designate family-friendly areas using physical barriers/cordons to segregate these from restricted areas
    • Points of access/egress to be located for easy supervision by staff and regularly monitored
    • Signage to display to indicate access rules
    • Signage to remind parents/adults of their responsibilities
    • Use bandit screens
    • Assign at least one member of staff as a ‘Children’s Safeguarding Champion’