Members of the British Security Industry Association’s Training Providers Section have spoken out in response to a BBC undercover investigation which revealed incidents of alleged malpractice at security training centres.
Broadcast on Monday 23 March, BBC London’s Inside Out programme was presented by Matthew Wright and investigated alleged malpractice at two training centres offering security qualifications – Ashley Commerce College in Ilford, East London and The London School of Social Studies located in East Ham.
The 11-minute report by Guy Lynn at the top end of the broadcast revealed that, as a result, Midlands-based awarding body Industry Qualifications had potentially fallen victim to fraud.
Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz appears in the broadcast and is shown the footage obtained by covert cameras. “We’re talking about a major scandal,” asserted the MP. “Forgery is the most appalling scenario. The Home Office needs to act extremely urgently on this matter. This is one of the most shocking things I’ve seen in all the years I’ve chaired the Home Affairs Select Committee.”
Industry Regulator the Security Industry Authority has responded by stating that it looks upon any allegations of malpractice very seriously and will act immediately on receiving evidence from the BBC.
Referencing the programme, which is something of an uncomfortable viewing experience, the Training Providers Section of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) has issued a statement in which the Trade Association makes it absolutely clear that Industry Qualifications was not complicit in any alleged fraud and malpractice.
The BSIA has also moved to underline the importance of end users choosing reputable training providers who deliver high quality training and rigidly adhere to the appropriate Codes of Conduct and British Standards.
In selecting a solutions provider from the BSIA’s Training Providers Section, end users are assured that their supplier is reputable, with background checks and vetting performed on all members of the Association providing added peace of mind.
Moreover, members of the Training Providers Section have developed their own voluntary Code of Conduct stipulating stringent standards of professional integrity on which membership of the Section actively depends.
Sustaining high standards in performance and training
Anthony Rabbitt, chairman of the BSIA’s Training Providers Section, commented: “The BSIA is committed to sustaining high standards in performance and training in the security industry, and totally endorses the stance adopted by the BBC in this programme.”
Richard Moore, commercial director at Skills for Security, added: “As the sector skills body for the private security industry, Skills for Security is committed to working with the industry to develop an accredited training provider programme as a direct response to demand from industry. It’s hoped that this will provide additional safeguards against malpractice.”
Raymond Clarke, CEO of Industry Qualifications, responded: “We are deeply disappointed that an Industry Qualifications training centre appears to have been involved in malpractice. Despite requesting details of the evidence obtained by the BBC for some four weeks now, which would have enabled us to conduct our own investigations, our initial viewing of the evidence was on the Inside Out programme broadcast last Monday evening.”
Clarke continued: “Taken on face value the evidence would appear to be damning, but we need to move very quickly to confirm the allegations and identify the scale of the problem. Industry Qualifications has undertaken three external verification visits to Ashley Commerce College in the past 12 months which did not unearth malpractice. We will review our practices in light of the BBC footage and, as more details emerge, determine whether different approaches might have identified the issue at an earlier stage.”
As reported in the programme, Industry Qualifications adopts a zero tolerance approach towards malpractice and fraud and will now work with the regulators to report the matter to the police and play a full part in any consequent criminal investigations that may arise.
In conclusion, BSIA spokesperson Anthony Rabbitt added: “Membership of the BSIA, including in the field of training, requires compliance with a rigorous Code of Conduct as well as accreditation with national standards organisations. Infractions of the BSIA’s Code would lead to decisive and robust action aimed at removing guilty parties from the Association.”
IQ welcomes BBC investigation and calls on the Corporation to play a positive role
Industry Qualifications has welcomed the BBC’s investigation into the conduct of training providers in the security industry. The Inside Out programme suggests that malpractice could be common in the industry and that “thousands” of security staff may be working illegally.
“Our primary concern at this time is to identify those candidates whose certificates may have been obtained through malpractice,” outlined Raymond Clarke. “This is important, both in terms of enabling us to identify candidates potentially working in the industry without possessing the requisite skills and knowledge, and also to ensure that those legitimately holding qualifications from Ashley Commerce College are not disadvantaged.”
Industry Qualifications has provided a statement for learners* who may be affected, while Clarke also appears in an extensive YouTube interview discussing the issues involved.
“We trust that the BBC will now play its part in helping the investigation move forward at an appropriate speed,” added Clarke. “We have requested all of the footage shot at Ashley Commerce College to ensure that we obtain the full and complete picture of what may have been happening.”
Industry Qualifications expects to make further comment on this matter over the coming days and will share any information gleaned with regulators, partner awarding organisations and other stakeholders in the sector by way of helping to drive improvements.
Troubling development for the industry
In response to the BBC’s Inside Out programme, David Ward (managing director of security guarding solutions specialist Ward Security) has also voiced his opinions by issuing a statement on LinkedIn.
“The recent BBC undercover exposé that has revealed how licensed security officers could be working in the UK on a fraudulent basis after allegedly buying qualifications for cash is a troubling development for an industry sector that has made great strides in recent years to both modernise itself and tighten up on both its internal and service delivery obligations,” asserted Ward.
“The industry is now far removed from its historic legacy image that encompassed many weaknesses. Largely, those weaknesses have been replaced by the highest standards of professionalism.”
Ward continued: “However, as this BBC programme illustrates, there are still some areas in which the security industry as a whole needs to be vigilant. At the same time, though, it would be entirely wrong to read this story as a blanket statement that reflects negatively on all aspects of the industry and, indeed, all of its suppliers. It’s the duty of responsible and conscientious suppliers and governing authorities to work towards ensuring they have systems in place that will actively mitigate any risk.”
In conclusion, Ward stated: “Ultimately, we’re confident that the industry as a whole will work towards ensuring any loopholes are closed.”
*Important statement for Industry Qualifications learners who have studied at Ashley Commerce College
**Qualifications body leads review of security training centres