Below a template letter. Please do use and adapt to write to whoever you can think of - perhaps to the Gloucestershire Council Elective Home Education Service at: email@example.com, or use it on the complaint form to Gloucestershire Council here. Or to Tewkesbury MP, Laurence Robertson at LARHofC@aol.com. Or to comment to the Gloucestershire Echo here.
We are horrified to learn of the serious and prolonged abuse of three children at the hands of the Gloucestershire foster carer and adoptive parent, Eunice Spry and are writing to express our concern that despite the fact that the council had sufficient powers and a significant amount of evidence that there were concerns about this family, that nothing was done by the Gloucestershire Local Authority (including social services and the police) to deal with this.
from: this is Gloucestershire
we learn that
"the council "inspected" Eunice twice a year throughout the 90s when she was teaching the children at home. The accommodation was seen on each visit, but the most recent visits were made to the barge on which they were staying. There was no suggestion that the care of the children or the living conditions seen were unsatisfactory. "
We also have reason to believe that many people such as teachers, members of the family's church, health workers and neighbours, raised concerns over many years. In addition, the children are known to have run away on a number of occasions, and we believe that they reported their situation to the police who also appear to have failed to have acted.
We also hear that "In a press interview, Ms Jo Davidson, Group Director of Children and Young People's Services at Gloucestershire County Council admitted that "agencies and individuals failed to pass on vital information to each other.... nobody had a consistent overview of what was happening."
In other words, this is another case of social services provision failing to protect children's welfare.
Since the time of this dreadful case, the Children Act has come into force (at the end of 2004) bringing with it integrated Children's Services and multi-agency co-operation, plus the establishment of local Safeguarding Children Boards. In addition, more stringent requirements have been introduced for foster carers. We understand that the abuse in this case took place before the law extending the powers of LAs to share information came into force. We therefore hope that this sort of situation is already less likely to occur in the current climate.
However, Ms Davidson does not appear to recognise that local councils now have measures in place which are designed to protect vulnerable children and has instead used the case to demand stronger safeguards for children who are home educated.
Home Educators are furious that this case is being used for further intrusion upon their privacy. We should stress that we have been led to believe, eg by the Gloucestershire Echo that the children were already inspected by home education visitors who went to the house to assess the children's education notice. The question is asked as to how the problems were missed but instead of answering this question, Mr Shaw said: "The process 20 years ago was not as vigorous as the one in place today", thus suggesting that LAs already do have increased powers and yet at the same time we hear that other members of the LA have announced their intention to continue to lobby parliament for further powers over the lives of home educators. So what more rights could they possibly want?
LAs do, after all, have the right to make enquiries, and to carry an action further if they suspect that there is evidence that an appropriate education is not being provided. Given that in the case of Eunice Spry, twice yearly home visits failed to produce evidence of problems, and we hear from local people who knew the children, that on the face of it, they were articulate and well spoken with no obvious reason to suspect educational neglect, we imagine that the council must now be asking for the right to enter home educators houses unannounced, and with a right to see children without parents being present, for this seems to be the only conceivable measure that would have unearthed abuse in this case. And yet this sort of measure, not unsurprisingly, strikes home educators as disproportionate.
We cannot help but suspect that your current call to lobby government for more powers to enter home educators' homes is a matter creating a smokescreen to an attempt to obscure the fact that there were long-standing failures on the part of the Local Authority. In so doing, it seems to us that you are unfairly passing the buck onto a community who are already feeling beleaguered by prejudicial announcements and who feel that they should have some rights to privacy in their own homes when there is no reason to suspect that they have not acted within the law.