RETIRED teacher Brian Hardwick is more than qualified to look after youngsters.
Or so he thought, until he fell foul of Kirklees Council red tape.
Mr Hardwick, 65, of Mirfield, has more than 40 years' experience in schools, teaching at Fartown High School and Queensbury School, near Bradford. He also helps out at a local play scheme.
His wife, Barbara, 63, was until recently a volunteer helper at St Mary's Church Sunday school in Mirfield. She is Dewsbury Deanery president of the Mothers' Union.
But when the couple tried to offer their services to help with the Lawrence Batley Theatre Youth Theatre group in Huddersfield Kirklees told them: Sorry, we need to run a few checks.
The couple, from Towngate Grove, offered to chaperone the children taking part in a production of Roald Dahl's The Witches at the LBT next month.
They have Criminal Records Bureau clearance, which means they have been successfully vetted by the Government to work with children.
The couple have also been part of the LBT community for seven years, volunteering as performance stewards.
But even this record did not satisfy council staff, who said they needed further interviews for chaperone approval. This involves an interview by a panel.
Mr Hardwick, who has a clean Department of Education and Science record, said: "The theatre desperately needed someone to look after the children and we were only too happy to help out.
"We were then told we had to go for a long interview process with a council panel to see if we were suitable. I was outraged.
"Why should we submit ourselves to interrogation when we have national recognition of our suitability to work with children?
"The council are undermining this in seeking power over and above the Government. and I refuse to jump through its hoops."
Mr Hardwick and his wife have now withdrawn their chaperone application. He said management at the theatre were embarrassed by what has happened and the production will struggle to find volunteers.
But he is still happy to be a steward at the theatre.
A Kirklees spokeswoman said: "Since the Children's and Young Persons Act came into force in 1963 all adults chaperoning children's performances have to have council approval.
"A chaperone takes on all the responsibility of a parent and we need to make sure that they understand this and the issues involved. This is why we conduct the interview.
"We strive to ensure the safeguarding of all young entertainers. Theatres now recognise the need to prioritise child safety.
"We are not singling Mr Hardwick out. The process will be much quicker for him because he has CRB clearance."
The top number of children that chaperones are allowed to have in their care is 12.
Parents of children involved in the production do not have to be approved by a council to be chaperones.
Mr Hardwick added: "I still think it is ridiculous I have to go through all this, having the credentials that I do. It makes a mockery of the system.
"The voluntary sector risks being squeezed out by such over-zealous checks."