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Security Industry Authority
Type Non-departmental public body
Founded 2003
Headquarters Liverpool, UK
Staff Bill Butler (Chief Executive)
Baroness Henig (Chairman)
John Mayhew (Chief Coordinator)
Area served UK
Focus Regulating the private security industry
  • Compulsory licensing of individuals working in specific sectors of the private security industry
  • Managing the Approved Contractor Scheme
Revenue Gross income for 2006/2007: £22,617,235
  • 87,000 licensable employees
  • 320,000 SIA approved qualifications
Motto Helping protect society by collaboratively developing and achieving high standards in the private security industry.

The Security Industry Authority is a non-departmental public body set up in 2003 in response to the United Kingdom Private Security Industry Act 2001. Its mandate is to reform and regulate the UK private security industry and to restore consumer confidence. Far reaching measures have been imposed on supplier contractors, for example all industry employees must hold a valid SIA issued licence. The categories of licensing include Door Supervision, Manned Guarding, Public Space Surveillance using CCTV, Close Protection, Key Holding, Cash in Transit and Wheel Clamping. The effects of the SIA's mandate are becoming evident, with 'cowboy' contractors being prosecuted.

The way forward for security companies appears to be joining the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS). It is thought that at some point insurers will require companies to only use approved security contractors.

Currently, licensing is only required by contract security companies' management & their employees. The British government is considering whether to extend this to in-house security officers.


Types Of Licences

Once a 'Main Licence' has been granted, this also entitles the bearer to the privileges of its applicable 'Integrated Licence' the current price of a licence is £245. Some security operatives may need more than one licence; in such cases the second licence will be discounted by 50%. Training is offered through companies such as the British Institute of Innkeeping Awarding Body, NOCN and Edexcel.

Main Licence Integrated Licence
Cash and Valuables In Transit (CVIT) Key Holder
CCTV Key Holder
Close Protection Door Supervisor, Security, Key Holder
Door Supervisor Security, Key Holder
Key Holder
Security Key Holder
Vehicle Immobiliser Key Holder

Approved Contractor Scheme

The Private Security Industry Act 2001 requires the SIA to establish a "system of inspection for providers of security services, under which those organisations who satisfactorily meet the agreed standards may be registered as approved, and may advertise themselves as such".

The objective of the SIA's Approved Contractor Scheme is to raise performance standards and to assist the private security industry in developing new opportunities. The scheme is voluntary and was developed in consultation with representatives from across the industry; it only covers those parts of the industry that are regulated by the SIA and the Private Security Industry Act.

There is a single scheme, with sector-specific approval based on a relevant set of qualifying criteria. Companies that operate in more than one sector will not be disadvantaged.

More information is available in 'How to Become an SIA Approved Contractor' brochure.

Failings of Licensing

There has been little or no average real terms increase in the wages paid to security officers since the requirement to licence staff was introduced in 2006. When looking at Job Centre Plus wage data for the period 2005-2008 it is apparent that roles are commonly advertised at minimum wager or slightly higher and that even with staff working in excess of 48 hours per week, wages still lag behind national averages[1]. The cost to train and acquire an SIA licence is estimated at an average of four hundred pounds per person (£245 for licence[2], £170 training fee inc VAT and exam fees.[citation needed]

This cost is prohibitive for many newcomers to the security industry, especially as pay rates often struggle to exceed minimum wage outside of London.

The high cost of licensing has resulted in security companies having to pay for new recruits to be trained up-front, which in turn has severely impacted upon small and medium sized businesses' ability to survive in the marketplace. The application cost of the credit-card sized licence is over three times that of a passport and almost five times more than a first provisional driving licence. Consequently, it is tempting for small businesses to tender for contracts at the lowest pay rates possible in an effort to try and secure profit by volume to ensure survival. This practice can have the knock-on effect of keeping officers' pay rates suppressed, precisely the opposite wage effect that industry experts were forecasting before 2006.[3]

Further problems have been met with the SIA granting licences to over 7,000 workers who were not legally entitled to work in the U.K. and subsequently having to devote vast resources into correcting this mistake.[4] In addition to this, the SIA chose to relocate from Newcastle to Liverpool in late 2007, planned and executed at the same time that they were attempting to roll out the licensing process in Scotland. The subsequent administrative problems that would have been evident with any large bureaucracy relocating were drastically compounded by the vast increase in workload caused by tens of thousands of new Scottish applications and furthermore by the realisation of the political blunder of granting licences to illegal workers shortly afterwards. This led to delays in licensing in England and Wales in some cases, along with huge delays of months in Scotland, with the SIA taking weeks just to open the post and acknowledge receipt of applications (the minimum that is required before a new applicant can work in the sector)[5].


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. This further cast aspersions as to the credibility of the licensing process and the benefits of the system.[6]

Issues with obtaining a licence without correct training include forfeit of licence to practice for the security officer, removal of approved centre status for the training provider and criminal investigtions for all, including the employer.

Future developments

The home secretary is considering issuing licences for other private surveillance activities like phone tapping and bugging. It is unclear whether the SIA would be the ones issuing these new licences.

External links


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  4. ^ here
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