Wednesday, June 17, 2009

DCSF Review - safeguarding children (Rec. 21, 22, 23, 24 & 25)

Recommendation 21
This comes in section 8, "Safeguarding," after 8.11 - in 8.3 and 8.4 he says " The view was also expressed that attendance at school was no guarantee of a child’s safety, as other tragic cases have indicated. 8.4 I understand the argument but do not accept it in its entirety in that attendance at school brings other eyes to bear, and does provide opportunity for the child to disclose to a trusted adult."
That the Children’s Trust Board ensures that the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) reports to them on an annual basis with regard to the safeguarding provision and actions taken in relation to home educated children. This report shall also be sent to the National Safeguarding Delivery Unit. Such information should be categorised thereby avoiding current speculation with regard to the prevalence of child protection concerns amongst home educated children which may well be exaggerated. This information should contribute to and be contained within the National Annual Report.
In other words, he knows that school does not keep children safe from abuse at home, but feels that it ought to because there are other people seeing the child, even though it has been repeatedly shown that it doesn't, but common sense says it must. Surely.

But just in case, perhaps we ought to monitor things in case we're wrong about Home Educated children being more vulnerable.

I actually approve of that last bit, where he acknowledges that the value of your shares may go up as well as down actually home educated children may be no more abused than any other section of the underage population.

Recommendation 22
This comes after 8.12, where he says "First, on the basis of local authority evidence and case studies presented, even acknowledging the variation between authorities, the number of children known to children’s social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating population." and " So saying is not to suggest that there is a causal or determining relationship, but simply an indication of the need for appropriately trained and knowledgeable personnel."
That those responsible for monitoring and supporting home education, or commissioned so to do, are suitably qualified and experienced to discharge their duties and responsibilities set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children to refer to social care services children who they believe to be in need of services or where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.
I have no idea what he means by the "disproportionate" mentioned, because he doesn't say that there's a correlation at all (which might be quite clever of him, if there isn't one, but is pretty stupid if there is) but I definitely agree that anyone involved needs to be very seriously trained. Rather better than most social workers, in fact, who at least are visiting families more often than annually, when trying to spot and help prevent abuse.

Recommendation 23
This follows directly from Recommendation 22 and is mentioned in the Conclusion - "To that end, I urge the DCSF to respond to recommendations 1, 7, 23 and 24 as summarised in the next chapter, at the next available opportunity.".
That local authority adult services and other agencies be required to inform those charged with the monitoring and support of home education of any properly evidenced concerns that they have of parents’ or carers’ ability to provide a suitable education irrespective of whether or not they are known to children’s social care, on such grounds as
  • alcohol or drug abuse
  • incidents of domestic violence
  • previous offences against children

  • And in addition:
  • anything else which may affect their ability to provide a suitable and efficient education

  • This requirement should be considered in the Government’s revision of Working Together to Safeguard Children Guidance.
    If they think a child is at risk, they should report it, whether or not the parents are among Those People, defined as alcohol or drug abusers, victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, child abusers, or loads of other people who aren't fit to educate children, use your own judgment, but possibly including gay, poly, on medication for mental or emotional illnesses (even if those illnesses are currently controlled), too poor, or speaking something other than English as a first language. I am not at all sure that children in bilingual homes will be treated any better by home education monitoring than they are by teachers in schools, either.

    Recommendation 24
    This comes after 8.13 and is also mentioned in the Conclusion (see above).
    That the DCSF make such change as is necessary to the legislative framework to enable local authorities to refuse registration on safeguarding grounds. In addition local authorities should have the right to revoke registration should safeguarding concerns become apparent.
    We need to be able to deny parents the right to home educate if we suspect they are abusing their children... because children who are not safe in their own homes will be safer if 30 of their 168 hours a week are spent in a school, because schools make children safe, QED. But there's no mention of doing anything else to keep these children safe, in the 138 hours a week they are not in school, nor why those measures would be inadequate to cover the 30 hours.

    Recommendation 25
    This comes after 8.14, in which he says "I can find no evidence that elective home education is a particular factor in the removal of children to forced marriage,
    servitude or trafficking or for inappropriate abusive activities. Based on the limited evidence available, this view is supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers."
    and 8.15, where he says "had there been different regulations in place as proposed, they may well have had a mitigating effect without necessarily guaranteeing prevention. However, any regulation is only as effective as its transaction. To that end I believe it is important to hold local authorities to account".
    That the DCSF, in its revision of the National Indicator Set indicated in its response to the recent Laming Review, should incorporate an appropriate target relating to the safeguarding of children in elective home education.
    Part one: There isn't any evidence that we can see, so we're safe to say that more regulation might well have reduced abuse from a number we can't see to a smaller number we can't see. Part two: Local Authorities need to be monitored too, so let's have some targets.

    What kind of targets? A reduction in numbers of abused home educated children, from a number we don't know to a smaller number? Or an increase, from a number we don't know to a much larger number? A target for a percentage of home educated children on the lists to achieve certain things by certain times? A cross-referencing system against the child's medical records to see if they're on antidepressants or getting antibiotics too often? What???

    I'd have an opinion on this if I had any idea what kind of targets he's talking about. It might be obvious to someone who shares his biases or assumptions, but I don't seem to, and it's really not clear to me.

    2 comments:

    ms bias said...

    he knows that school does not keep children safe from abuse at home, but feels that it ought to because there are other people seeing the child, even though it has been repeatedly shown that it doesn't, but common sense says it must. Surely

    I read that quite differently: we know that, unfortunately, spending 30 hours a week in school does not protect all children all the time. But that doesn't mean that it protects no children, none of the time.

    Do you know what the statistics are for how many children who go on the at-risk register or who are offered other kinds of support are first identified through their schools, including absence/truancy? Your argument would make sense if very few are actually identified that way, but the fact that some children are appallingly badly abused despite being at school doesn't demonstrate that school isn't performing that function for a majority.

    First, on the basis of local authority evidence and case studies presented, even acknowledging the variation between authorities, the number of children known to children’s social care in some local authorities is disproportionately high relative to the size of their home educating population...So saying is not to suggest that there is a causal or determining relationship, but simply an indication of the need for appropriately trained and knowledgeable personnel."

    This makes perfect sense to me if you assume there a missing "home-educated" there, so it means "the number of [home-educated] children known to authorities is disproportionate &c"? But the bit about "causal or determining relationship" refers to the relationship between home educating and "potential additional risk". We have 10 children known to the LA, of whom 3 are HE, despite only 10% of the population in this area home-educating, but this should not be understood as evidence that HE children are more at risk.

    Thank you for writing this. I think I understand why home-educators feel indignant about the repeated association between child abuse and home-education, and I can certainly see how galling that must be. But I don't understand the attitude that because they know they're not abusing their children, and nor or any of the other home-educators they know, the idea that there should be a layer of checking to replace that which is lost because they aren't going to school. I don't think anyone thinks that school or any other form of checks provide 100% guarantee that nobody will get abused: it's all about having a series of systems in place, so that if one fails, hopefully another steps in. Unless you adhere to an absolute right of the privacy of the family over the rights of the child - as in the Irish constitution - I can't see why the idea that the safety-nets provided by school need to be replaced by something else in the case of home-education is controversial.

    For the same reason, I didn't think your comparison between social workers who see children more frequently than home education inspectors works: social workers are visiting homes which have already been identified as having problems; home education inspectors are expecting the vast majority of homes they visit to be perfectly lovely places, but looking out for the minority which aren't. I am baffled by people who think that shouldn't be done, and whilst I have some sympathy for people who find that intrusive, I can't see how else it could be done. What are the alternatives that home-educators themselves propose, to help children in that minority of homes where there is abuse, and children are being isolated from school, doctors, after-school activities and all the other places where that might be identified and help could be offered?

    Ailbhe said...

    If the visits are going to protect children, annual visits are never going to be enough, because the family can, if they want to, present as absolutely normal for that period. I think it would be much more valuable to have a service such as lizw mentioned in my Dreamwidth journal (may find link later) which used to exist.

    However, since they are reducing the health visitor service for the under-fives (the group most often killed by their parents), I don't see them increasing it for the less at-risk age group.

    Popular Posts