The Security Industry Authority (SIA): licensing in the private UK security sector

February 17, 2017

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The rising role of IT in physical access control

A profile of the Security Industry Authority (SIA), which regulates the private security industry in the UK, issuing SIA licences and running the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS).

SIA overview

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is the regulator for the UK private security industry. It has two main duties: the compulsory SIA licensing of individuals undertaking designated activities within the private security industry; and management of the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS), which assesses industry suppliers against certain criteria.

The SIA ensures that licensed security operatives are properly trained and qualified to carry out their job, with licensing covering areas such as manned guarding, key holding and vehicle immobilising.

Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS)

The ACS is based on operational and performance standards that suppliers of private security services need to meet in order to achieve ‘Approved Contractor’ status, which gives assurance that a contractor is committed to quality. Once a licence has been issued, the licence-holder’s details are placed on a searchable register.

SIA license types

There are two types of SIA licence: a frontline licence, which is required if undertaking licensable activity, other than key-holding activities; and a non-frontline licence, which is required for those who manage, supervise and/or employ individuals who engage in licensable activity, as long as no frontline activity is carried out.

The manned guarding licence is broken down into the following activities:

  • Cash and valuables in transit – this licence is required when guarding property against destruction, damage, being stolen, or being dishonestly taken or obtained, and involving the secure transportation of property in vehicles specially manufactured (or adapted) for such a purpose.
  • Close protection – this licence is required when guarding one or more individuals against assault or injuries that might be suffered as a result of the unlawful conduct of others.
  • Door supervision – this licence is required if manned guarding is undertaken in relation to licensed premises, except where the activity only involves the use of CCTV, or it falls within the definition of cash and valuables in transit or close protection.
  • Public space surveillance (CCTV) – this licence is required when manned guarding is carried out through the use of CCTV to monitor the activities of a member of the public, or identify a person.
  • Security guard – this licence is required when manned guarding activity that doesn’t fall under the descriptions of door supervision, close protection, cash and valuables in transit, or public space surveillance (CCTV) is undertaken.

A key-holding licence is required when keeping custody of, or controlling access to, any key or similar device for operating a lock, with certain qualifications. Licensing of vehicle immobilisers applies to Northern Ireland only.

In July 2016, the SIA introduced a new online licensing system, allowing individuals to register for online accounts and apply for or renew licences online. The website also allows individuals to change their personal details remotely.

Companies can register for online business accounts and have access to new products, such as watchlists, which allow them to check the licensed status of their staff.

SIA-approved contractors have access to Licence Management and Licence Assist services, allowing them to apply online on behalf of consenting staff.

The Licence Assist service also keeps employers informed when a licence is granted to one of their employees, and allows employers to check the licensable status of licence-holders.

Providing all the same benefits, the Licence Management service allows employers to carry out identity checks for new applicants without having to visit a post office, and allows employers to update their employee’s details on their behalf.

In 2014 the SIA sponsored a study into the state of training, licensing and professionalisation in the UK security industry.

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