The Security Industry Authority (SIA)
is the organisation responsible for regulating the private security industry in the UK. It is a non-departmental public body
In the United Kingdom, a non-departmental public body —often referred to as a quango—is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, Treasury, Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive to certain types of public bodies...
reporting to the Home Secretary and was established in 2003 under the terms of the Private Security Industry Act 2001.
The SIA has two main duties. One is the compulsory licensing of individuals undertaking designated activities within the private security industry; the other is to manage a voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme, which measures private security suppliers against independently assessed criteria.
On 14 October 2010 the UK Government's Cabinet Office made an announcement on the future of many public bodies. Its intention for the SIA was stated as: 'Security Industry Authority - No Longer an NDPB - Phased transition to new regulatory regime'.
The exact nature of this new regulatory regime is yet to be determined. In the meantime the existing regulatory regime remains in place and existing laws will continue to be enforced.
One of the main duties of the SIA is the compulsory licensing of individuals working in specific sectors of the private security industry.
Whether or not an individual requires a licence is determined by the role that is performed
and the activity that is undertaken
. These are described fully in Section 3 and Schedule 2 of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 (as amended). It is a criminal offence to engage in licensable conduct without a licence: if found guilty, the maximum penalty is six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
Licensable Activities (Sectors)
The activities defined as licensable by the Act are:
- Manned guarding, which includes:
- Cash and Valuables in Transit
- Close Protection
- Door Supervision
- Public Space Surveillance (CCTV)
- Security Guard
- Immobilisation, restriction and removal of vehicles
- Key Holding
The Private Security Industry Act 2001 (as amended) allows for SIA licensing of private investigation activities, security consultants and precognition agents. However, the SIA does not currently license these activities.
Types of SIA Licence
There are two types of SIA licence:
- A front line licence is required if undertaking licensable activity, other than key holding activities (this also covers undertaking non-front line activity). A front line licence is in the form of a credit card-sized plastic card that must be worn, subject to the licence conditions.
- A non-front line licence is required for those who manage, supervise and/or employ individuals who engage in licensable activity, as long as front line activity is not carried out - this includes directors or partners. A non-front line licence is issued in the form of a letter that also covers key holding activities.
Licence Application Fee
The licence application fee is £245 for a three year licence, except for front line vehicle immobiliser licences where the fee is £245 for a one year licence. The fee is to cover the cost of processing the application and is not refundable. Individuals paying their own licence fee can claim tax relief against their taxable income. For employers paying the licence fee on behalf of an employee there is no tax or National Insurance liability.
Multiple Licences and Licence Integration
Some people may need more than one licence; in such cases the additional licence(s) will be discounted by 50%.
In some cases, the SIA is satisfied that the licensing criteria to be met for one licensable activity are sufficient to allow a licensed individual to carry out other licensable activities. Details of where a licence may be used to cover more than one activity are available here
The Private Security Industry Act 2001 does not require manned guards employed in-house to be licensed unless their activities are in relation to licensed premises.
The SIA was charged by Parliament to investigate the implications of extending the legislation to cover in-house manned guards once licensing of the private security industry had been in force for three to four years. In order to meet this obligation the SIA consulted widely through a range of mechanisms.
Its assessment of the evidence took into account that regulation should only be targeted where action was needed; that regulation should only intervene where there is a clear case for public protection, and any proposal for further regulation should be proportionate and follow a risk-based approach.
Its conclusion is that there is no clearly defined or substantiated risk to public protection to be addressed and that it is unable to make a case which would justify extending its remit to include the licensing of in-house guards.
The SIA has committed to reviewing the situation again in the 2012-2013 financial year.
Individuals applying for a front line
SIA licence must prove that they are properly qualified to do their job. If they don’t hold one of the SIA-endorsed qualifications then their licence application will be refused.
The licence-linked qualifications are intended for individuals entering the private security industry. Their purpose is to ensure that the individual is capable of performing their duties in a manner that will not cause harm to themselves or any member of the public. The qualifications are meant to address the core areas of the role; they are not intended to cover all of the training that an operative could possibly have.
The SIA does not run training courses or award qualifications; it also does not approve or vet training providers. The SIA specifies the knowledge and skills that a licence holder needs to know and be able to do, and these specifications form the basis of the qualifications linked to SIA licensing.
The SIA has endorsed certain awarding bodies to offer these qualifications and approve training providers. As of September 2010, these awarding bodies are: British Institute of Innkeeping Awarding Body (BIIAB); Buckinghamshire New University; City & Guilds; Edexcel; EDI; HABC;Industry Qualifications (IQ); NOCN; SQA.
In January 2008, Panorama carried out an undercover investigation in to the training that candidates were undertaking to obtain their SIA licences. This revealed that mobile phone use and open talking in exams was common practice during the training course and examination that the reporter took.
Training malpractice such as this is a matter for the various UK Qualification Regulatory Authorities. Training malpractice can be defined as any deliberate activity, neglect, default or other practice that compromises the integrity of the assessment process and / or the validity of certificates.
Confirmed cases of training malpractice may result in:
- the relevant awarding body or bodies removing the training centre's approval
- the SIA revoking the licences of those licence holders who benefitted from the malpractice.
Approved Contractor Scheme
One of the main duties of the SIA is to manage the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS), a voluntary quality assurance scheme that measures private security suppliers against independently assessed operational and performance standards. Organisations that meet these standards are awarded 'Approved Contractor' status. As of June 2010, the total number of approved contractors was 672.
The ACS is based upon widely recognised business improvement models: ISO9001 and the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model. The Scheme also references the British Standard codes of practice applicable to the private security industry and conformance to the relevant codes is built into the ACS requirements.
Companies applying to the scheme are assessed against 89 individual indicators of achievement. The SIA does not normally assess contractors directly, though it may do so in exceptional circumstances. The usual practice is for assessment by one of the SIA's appointed assessing bodies. As of August 2010, these UKAS-accredited assessing bodies are: BSI; Chamber Certification Assessment Services Ltd; NSI (prop. Insight Certification Ltd); ISOQAR; SSAIB.
SIA approval is only available for the activities of an organisation that are regulated under the Private Security Industry Act 2001.
Approval is sector-specific, so a company offering two different kinds of private security services may be approved in one but not the other. To maintain approval an approved contractor must re-register every year and renew approval every three years. This process means that approved contractors are independently assessed on an annual basis.
The fees charged by the SIA relate to:
- Pre-approval. The application fee, payable for processing of the application including initial eligibility checks. The application fee is non-refundable once the processing of the application has begun.
- Post-approval. The annual registration fee, payable on approval to cover the operational costs of the scheme. This fee is payable each year that approved status is maintained.
|Size of Organisation|
|Annual Registration Fee|
|Up to 10|
|£17 per licensable employee|
|11 to 25|
|26 to 250|
Other fees payable that are relevant to approval but are not levied by the SIA are:
- Fees paid to assessing bodies to assess whether the applicant meets the requirements for approval
- Fees paid to assessing bodies for relevant accreditations used to support Passport applications
Falsely Claiming Approval
Claiming to be an approved contractor when this is not the case is an offence under section 16 of the Private Security Industry Act 2001. A section 16 offence includes use of the Approved Contractor Scheme accreditation mark or the use of language that may suggest approval or endorsement, such as "SIA registered" or "SIA member". The penalties for committing an offence under Section 16 are:
- Upon summary conviction at a Magistrate's Court, Sheriff Court or District Court, a fine of up to £5,000.
- Upon conviction on indictment at Crown Court, High Court of Justiciary or Sheriff and jury trial, an unlimited fine.
Varying Degrees of Success
Before the SIA was created it was widely accepted that the private security industry suffered from deep-rooted problems that it could not resolve on its own. The tendency for clients to treat security as a 'grudge spend' and award contracts to the lowest tender had forced down profit margins, which meant that private security companies had little money available for training and staff development. This, coupled with the often temporary nature of security work, had resulted in a high rate of staff turnover - which in turn, made it less likely that companies would train their staff any more than was absolutely necessary. The industry therefore found itself locked in a spiral of diminishing returns and deteriorating skills that it could not break out of.
The primary objective of SIA regulation was to improve public safety by ensuring that individuals placed in certain positions of trust had been checked and vetted, and were properly qualified to do their job. However, the SIA was also seen as the external force that could fix the industry's problems. Expectations were high - and, in the early days of regulation, the SIA believed that it could satisfy all of those expectations. As an example, the Authority claimed that regulation would help to increase wages: it believed that the introduction of licensing would create a shortage of manpower, which would stimulate demand and enable security companies to charge more for their services. This did not happen, and at the SIA's 2010 stakeholder conference its Chief Executive Bill Butler accepted this and took back the SIA's promise to create a 'golden age'.
However, reports published in August 2010 on the impact of SIA regulation indicate that licensing has had a positive impact on the private security industry. Private security companies noted improvements in staff recruitment and retention; increased trust and improved relationships between guards and police; new money or investment from third parties. Private security operatives said that licensing had improved their range of skills, ability to do their job and future career options.
In 2007 it was widely reported that the SIA had granted licences to over 7,000 workers who were not legally entitled to work in the UK. Such reports damaged the credibility of SIA licensing despite the fact that the SIA had not, in fact, failed in its duties. The Authority has no statutory duty to carry out right to work checks - that is the responsibility of the employer. Matters were made worse because many people confused "not having the right to work" with "being an illegal immigrant". The two are completely different, and it is entirely possible for someone to have the legal right to remain
in the UK - and therefore not be an "illegal immigrant" - but not have the legal right to work
in the UK.
The SIA now works with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to check the right to work of all SIA licence applicants who are non-EEA nationals (EEA nationals automatically have a right to work in the UK). It also checks the right to work of SIA licence holders from outside the EEA (i.e. individuals who have met its licensing criteria and have been granted a licence). Where the recorded right to work of a licence holder expires before their SIA licence, a further check is undertaken with the UKBA and, if the results of that check suggest that the individual's right to work has expired, the SIA will revoke their licence. These checks do not in any way replace the legal responsibility of an employer to check the right to work of its employees.
2007 also saw the re-tendering of the SIA's Managed Service Provider (MSP) contract and the subsequent re-location of the Authority's document handling centre from Newcastle to Liverpool. Problems arising from this re-location and the late delivery of supporting IT systems resulted in a significant drop in service levels. This was exacerbated by the industrial action taken by members of the Communication Workers Union in October 2007. The SIA's licensing process relies heavily on the passing of documentation between the applicant and the SIA, and between the SIA and other bodies such as the Criminal Records Bureau. The CWU strike disrupted this and caused further delays.
All of this damaged the SIA's credibility yet again, because it developed a reputation for taking a long time to process applications - a reputation that persisted long after service levels had returned to normal.