SIA – FAQs

by SIA Site Admin // April 4

Security Industry Authority Q&As

Background

Licensing

Competancy

Compliance

Approved contractor scheme

Why was the Private Security Industry Act 2001 passed? The Private Security Industry Act 2001 (PSIA) was brought in to regulate the private security industry in England and Wales. This industry has grown substantially in recent years and its work has changed from a largely passive role into one with far greater and more active contact with the public. Previously there had been little or no self-regulation and standards varied widely. The Act was passed to protect and reassure the public by preventing unsuitable people getting into positions of trust in the private security industry; and to raise standards generally within the industry.

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What is the Security Industry Authority? The SIA is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) responsible directly to the Home Secretary. An NDPB carries out specialised functions on behalf of its ‘parent’ government department and has substantial operational freedom in discharging the functions given to it. The SIA became a separate organisation on 1st April 2003, with its own governing Board, Chairman (Molly Meacher) and Chief Executive (John Saunders). It has headquarters in Central London and will have a regional structure covering England, Wales and (in the long term) Scotland.

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What will the SIA do?
The SIA has been created to regulate and oversee the private security industry in England and Wales. The main tasks will be to:

  • License individual security employees and operate an approved contractor scheme which will ensure that training, recruitment, supervision and quality systems conform to SIA guidelines and criteria.
  • Keep under general review the private security industry and the operation of the legislative framework
  • Monitor the activities and effectiveness of those working in the industry
  • Carry out inspections of individuals working as security operatives, ensuring that they are properly licensed and conform to licensing requirements.
  • Work with key groups within the security market to improve standards of conduct, further develop training and supervision standards within the industry
  • Raise the profile of the industry and make it a profession to be proud of.

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Why is licensing being centralised? It is important to remember that we are establishing a national scheme with a single standard applicable across the country. While local judgement based on the national standard would theoretically be possible, it is inevitable that local variation would occur, undermining the consistency of the standard. In addition, the practical arguments in favour of centralised door supervisor licensing are extremely strong. In a nutshell, it is less complicated more effective and both easier than having to apply for licences from many different local authorities. Local Authorities remain key partners in our approach to local compliance and enforcement.

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Will an SIA licence make you a quasi-police officer? No, The Police Reform Act 2002 extended the power to issue fixed penalty notices to community support officers. The Home Office White Paper “Respect and Responsibility – Taking a Stand against Anti-Social Behaviour” published in March 2003 proposed that additional persons accredited by Chief Police Officers might also be given this power. It is likely that Chief Constables will want to see a personal SIA licence or company approval as part of their requirements for accreditation, but it is very unlikely that this will be enough to become accredited. Chief Constables will very probably wish to require additional training over and above that required for SIA approval.

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Who will need a licence? You will need a licence if you fall within the following categories:

  • Security contractors
  • Managers, supervisors and operations directors of security companies
  • Partners in security firms
  • Operational employees of security contractors, firms and companies
  • In-house managers or supervisors of wheel clampers or door supervisors
  • In-house wheel clampers and door supervisors

More info

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Which sectors will be covered?
Anyone working in designated sectors of the industry in England and Wales will require a licence. The designated sectors are:

  • Door supervisors – in-house and under contract
  • Wheel-clampers on private land – in-house and under contract
  • Manned guarding – under contract
  • Key holders – under contract
  • Private Investigators – under contract
  • Security Consultants – under contract

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What does door supervision include?
A door supervisor is defined by the Private Security Industry Act 2001 as a person who carries out security activities in relation to licensed premises, at or in relation to times when those premises are open to the public. The security activities are:

  • Guarding premises against unauthorised access or occupation, against outbreaks or disorder or against damage
  • Guarding property against destruction or damage, against being stolen or against being otherwise dishonestly taken or obtained
  • Guarding one or more individuals against assault or against injuries that might be suffered in consequence of the unlawful conduct of others.

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What does key holding include? Key Holders are “those that have custody of or controlling access to any key or similar device for operating (whether mechanically, electronically or otherwise) any lock”. If you have custody of, or control access to, any key or similar device for operating a lock and/or provide a first response to incidents at premises for which the keys are held, and you are employed under contract, you will require an SIA licence.

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What does private investigation include? The Act applies to individuals, under contract, who carry out any surveillance, inquiries or investigations for the purpose of a) obtaining information about a particular person or about the whereabouts of a particular person; or b) obtaining information about the circumstances in which or means by which property has been lost or damaged. There are potentially complex areas of definition, and the SIA will be consulting widely, in due course, as part of our implementation programme.

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What does security consultants include? If you give advice about security precautions in relation to a person or property, or about acquiring the services of a security operative you are covered under the Act. This might involve security auditing and risk evaluations, setting up security policies and contingency planning or assisting with the development of physical security systems. This applies to security consultants who are operating under contract, rather than in-house security directors/managers who are exempt. There are potentially complex areas of definition, and we will be consulting widely, in due course, as part of our implementation programme.

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What does manned guarding include?
Manned guarding is defined under the Act (Schedule 2, Part 1, Para 2) as applying to any of the following activities:

  • Guarding premises against unauthorised access or occupation, against outbreaks or disorder or against damage
  • Guarding property against destruction or damage, against being stolen or against being otherwise dishonestly taken or obtained
  • Guarding one or more individuals against assault or against injuries that might be suffered in consequence of the unlawful conduct of others.

Manned guarding is defined by the duties that the operatives perform rather than by specific job titles since the sector is very diverse. If you think of yourself as any of the following, or your duties could be summarised as protecting persons, property or premises then you would be covered under the Act as a manned guard (if you are working under a contract rather than in-house):

  • Security guard – with or without a security dog, static or on patrol
  • Store detective
  • Cash-in-transit guard
  • Close protection operative (bodyguard)
  • This is not an exhaustive list and you should pay particular attention to the job duties, rather than title.

Some guarding activities will be exempted from the need for an SIA licence since they are already subject to at least as rigorous a screening process as we shall be applying. This is likely to be the case in many areas of defence and airport security services. We shall be publishing clear guidance about licensing requirements and exemptions well in advance of the start of manned guarding licensing in 2005.

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Do ‘in house’* staff require a licence? Both contracted and in-house door supervisors need a licence. When the Private Security Industry Act 2001 went through Parliament there was a lot of concern about conduct in this particular sector and Parliament decided that all door supervisors, regardless of their employment status, should be licensed under the Act. Both contracted and in-house wheel clampers on private land need a licence. Wheel clampers are a sector of the private security industry where there is a lot of public concern about the behaviour of a few individuals who have been recorded as intimidating vehicle users (particularly the vulnerable) and abusing their positions by charging exorbitant release fees. Parliament decided that all wheel clampers on private land, regardless of their employment status, should be licensed under the Act. Only contracted manned guards need a licence. The Government originally proposed (in its White Paper published in 1999) to include in-house guarding in the SIA’s regulatory regime. It subsequently decided, however, not to include this sector within the scope of the legislation. We are aware that there is a strong body of opinion which favours extending regulation to in-house guards, and we shall be consulting interested parties about this in the run-up to the introduction of licensing.

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When will licensing begin?
Door supervisor licensing: We will be piloting the first stages of licensing with door supervisors in early 2004. Full licensing will start, upon completion of a successful pilot, on a rolling geographical basis in 2004.

Wheel clamper licensing:

Licensing will begin in early 2004 and will be completed at the same time as door supervisor licensing is completed.

Manned guarding and key holder licensing:

Licensing for this sector will begin in 2005.

Security consultant and private investigator licensing:

Licensing for these two sections of the private security industry will begin in 2006.

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When will SIA licensing cover Scotland? The Scottish Executive announced, on 25 March, that it will implement regulation of the private security industry through the SIA. We shall be working with Scotland and the Home Office to establish a programme plan and a target date for the start of licensing.

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If I have a concern with a security company or individual before licensing begins whom can I contact? You can speak to your local authority trading standards department or the relevant trade association if you think the matter is a civil one, or you can contact the police if you feel the matter is a criminal one.

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How long will a licence last? An SIA licence for each of the sectors will be valid for three years unless regulations provide for a different length.

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Will licences have conditions? SIA licences are likely to have conditions attached to them, and are likely to cover such aspects as wearing the licence on duty, returning the licence to the SIA and supplying other information to the SIA in specified circumstances.

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How much will licence cost? The licence application fee will be between £150 and £190 for the three year licence. We are refining this estimate and will publish the final figure in July 2003.

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What types of licences will there be? There will be for licences for operatives, managers, and directors of companies supplying security services. If you deliver on the front line any of the activities licensable in any sector then you will require a licence as an operative, no matter what level you are at in the hierarchy of the company you normally work for. Directors of companies providing more than one security service will need SIA licences for the different sectors that they work in. If you are licensable at different levels and within different sectors then you will have to show you fulfil the licence requirements for each category.

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Will non-operational staff need a licence? Non-operational staff, such as administrative assistants, financial directors, and those working in the personnel departments will not require licences. A licence is only required if you:- carry out any of the licensable activities; directly supervise (in the contracting company or for door supervisors and wheel clampers) those carrying out such activities; or are the director of the company supplying security services under contract or the in-house duties that are covered.

More info

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Do to apply for a licence now?
No. The SIA will be advising everyone involved in the security industry just when and how to apply for a licence. We are using advertising and publicity well before licensing is due to start, to make sure that everyone is aware of what needs to be done and when. What you can do NOW is register with us so that we can keep you informed about the introduction of SIA licences and what else you should do for a licence when that time comes.

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What will I need in order to get a licence? There will be two checks on people applying for licences – the first will be a criminal record check to see if you have any previous convictions, the second will be a check on professional competence to do the job. We will be publishing the criteria on each of the industry sectors at least six months before it comes into force, so there will be time for any extra training to be done.

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How long will it take to issue a licence? We are working to ensure that the process time from the full application form being received, with all the necessary documentation, to the issuing of the licensing decision is as short as possible. This is primarily dependant on the information received from other agencies. Applicants can assist in the reduction of process times by ensuring that the correct supporting documents have been received and the form is correctly and legibly filled in.

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Can I get the licence fee refunded if I don’t get a licence? The fee is not refundable if a licence is refused. It covers the costs of the administration and statutory checks the SIA makes on every application, whether or not the final decision is approval or refusal. Monies will be returned to the applicant only if the application form cannot be adequately processed, due to incomplete documentation or illegible completion of the form.

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Is there any way I can appeal against a licensing decision by the Security Industry Authority? There will be a reviews process within the SIA. We intend to ensure that this process is expeditious, rigorous, fair and well publicised. If, despite these measures, anyone is dissatisfied with our decision, under the Private Security Industry Act, they have the right of appeal to a magistrate’s court, and thence to the Crown Court.

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Where can I use an SIA licence? You can use an SIA licence anywhere within England and Wales

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What is the criteria for checking criminality?
If our check reveals that a licence applicant has received a record of one or more convictions, cautions or warnings we will first consider how relevant it is to the type of licence being sought and, if necessary, at how serious and how recent it was. Our aim will be rigorously to exclude from licensing individuals with unacceptable criminal histories, but not to exclude those who have reformed. The SIA will require 2 years to have elapsed since the end of any sentence, and 5 years since the end of any sentence imposed for a serious offence. Further details will be published in due course.

More info

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Why is the SIA specifying new competency criteria? The SIA has been charged with regulating and raising the standards of individuals working in the private security industry. Within each of the six sectors there is a very large variety of qualifications and training programs. Some sectors require no official training, while others do but the quality and content of the available training is varied. The SIA, in conjunction with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and Awarding Bodies in the different sectors, will specify the competencies should be developed.

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Who will be drawing up the criteria for professional training and competencies? Since spring 2002 we have been consulting with trade associations, industry bodies, security service providers and users, other government departments, and the police. We are determined that the professional competencies we arrive at will be practical and achievable by the majority of people working in the industry, and will improve the professional image of the security person. We’ll be continuing these links with the industry so that competencies and training are continuously reviewed.

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What competencies are required? The six different areas of the private security industry that are to be licensed under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 are varied. There will be some competencies that the SIA determines should be covered in the training for all the sectors, but there are bound to be differing competencies between the sectors. Until the consultations for each sector have been completed we are unable to clarify what the universal or different competencies will be.

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Will the SIA recognise prior experience? We are looking at how transitional arrangements might apply to people already working in the industry but who might not have achieved the competency that we prescribe. We want to give everyone a reasonable chance to pass our competency check. But, at the end of the day, everyone will need to satisfy our awarding body partners that they meet our criteria in order to get a licence.

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How long will training last? The training duration and content for each sector cannot be commented on until full industry consultation has occurred for each one. At the current time it is estimated that the new training process for door supervisors will be between 4 and 5 days, and the training for wheel clampers and towers away will have a 5 day duration. In order to ease the process for people who already work in the industry, or have other jobs as well, it is foreseen that the training will be modular and will not have to happen on concurrent days. The modular process is one training method that may suit the other sectors as well. The SIA is currently in consultation with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and appropriate awarding bodies to confirm the details of the training modules for the door supervisor and wheel clamper sectors.

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Who will provide the training? The QCA and awarding bodies in each sector will be checking that the training providers are approved through them, with all quality checking of courses and individuals providing the training reaching standards agreed with the SIA. The SIA will have the option of checking the training providers to assure themselves that standards are being set to a suitable level.

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What about previous training? There are an extremely large number of training courses available for the different sectors. The training content, duration and quality vary widely and it would be difficult for the SIA and the awarding bodies to find details of every training course offered at the current time, and then check the quality and content of the course. Without this knowledge it would be irresponsible of the SIA to accept prior training without putting in place a method of verifying that the competencies are to the prescribed SIA standards. The awarding bodies and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority will be developing methods of checking that applicants, who have completed prior training, have all the required competencies.

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Will the SIA recognise the British Standards for the industry? The SIA does not intend to take over the ownership of the relevant industry-specific British Standards, but we shall be taking them into account when developing our competence criteria and we look forward to a close working relationship with the British Standards Institute.

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How will the SIA ensure the industry complies? The SIA will be seeking to engender maximum compliance by the licensable population. It will do this in many ways, for example: a) media advertising, b) influencing the decisions made by users of security services, c) influencing insurers of security companies, d) high profile enforcement operations, e) close working relationships with local authorities and local police forces, f) tying in to suitable legislation (such as the Licensing Bill Part 7), etc.

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What are the offences under the Act?
The offences created by the Private Security Industry Act are:

  • Engaging in licensable conduct without an SIA licence
  • Using unlicensed operative when providing designated security services
  • Using unlicensed wheel-clampers
  • Failure to comply with SIA licence condition
  • Wrongly claiming SIA approved contractor status
  • Violating the terms of SIA approved contractor status
  • Obstructing an SIA authorised person who exercises power of entry and inspection; Failing to comply with any requirement imposed by such a person; Unauthorised disclosure of information by an SIA authorised person when exercising this power
  • Making a false statement to the SIA

These offences carry various fines and/or terms of imprisonment according to their seriousness.

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What are the criteria for the approved contractor scheme? The SIA is in continuous dialogue with stakeholders and industry bodies about methods which can be used to raise standards within the private security industry. The criterion for obtaining approved contractor status will take into account many aspects of working practices within the industry and will, ultimately, be robust, practicable and realistic.

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What is the benefit of the approved contractor scheme? A company which has been granted Approved Contractor Status by the SIA will be entitled to use such information, and the Approved logo, on their promotional campaigns and corporate activities. This will give potential and current clients increased confidence in the standards of the services provided by the company and will become an increasingly useful marketing tool. Clients can inspect the ACS register when making decisions about which companies to accept tenders from when seeking new security service contracts.

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Can I see who is an approved contractor and who holds an SIA licence? Yes, we will maintain a register of licensed persons and approved contractors.

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What’s the Approved Contractor Scheme? This is a voluntary scheme under which individuals or firms supplying security services can apply to be inspected by us. We will publish criteria and standards which applicants for approved status will be required to meet. Inspectors attached to the SIA will carry out on-site inspections of the companies to assess whether they meet the standards. Successful companies will be able to advertise themselves as approved contractors. A national register of approved companies will be established and maintained which will be available to members of the public.

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Will the public be able to access the approved contractor database? Yes, we will have in place means by which members of the public can see who is licensed and which companies are approved.

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