Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The State as Parent?

It emerges from home education lists that the meme that was highly likely to flow from the Home Education Review is flowing indeed. Home educators have already received letters from their LAs insisting that LA personnel be allowed access to the home and child on the basis that the child must be assessed for the five "outcomes" of the Every Child Matters Agenda.

This is not surprising when you read questions such as this from the Review's LA Questionnaire:

"Q55 Do you think that home educated children in your local authority are able to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes? Please say why you think that for each of the five outcomes."

We are left wondering if something legal has changed when we weren't looking. The Children Act 2004 didn't mention that the ambitions were to become targets that must be assessed for and we were under the impression that assessment and eCAF would only take place should a family request a service and then only with the consent of the family.

So is this new insistence on the part of the LAs ultra vires?

I suspect, though have yet to confirm this, that the answer is "yes". Of course the state had better hope that it is, for otherwise it really has become the parent of first resort, for what else is a parent meant to do if it is not to help a child establish his or her own personal ambitions, work with the child to achieve these outcomes, and then perhaps (depending upon a family's point of view on this particular subject) to assess to see whether these have been achieved? However, should the state have an automatic right of access to assess for the government's pre-determined five "outcomes" and this when a family has not even requested their services, it should be obvious to all that the state must accept that it now parents all English children everywhere.

The fact remains, however, that despite all the recent proliferation of policies which flesh out the Children Act ambitions, and which frequently portray them as outcomes that "must" be tested for, that there is no remit in law for the state to assess a child when the family are not using services.

Woe-betide you, however, if you are one of the 50% of children who the government estimates will need additional services. According to ARCH, you are unlikely to escape the full stare of the state, right down to the registration of the closest intimacies of your life, as undertaking an eCAF will be a condition of receipt of the service. Yep and all that information, you know all the stuff about how you the parent relate to the child (yeah - like that is going to be very normal when you know you are being assessed by a powerful person who could either remove your child themselves or recommend to others that they do), will be popped down on another national database. This from also from ARCH:

"Although eCAF is presented as a consent-based process, in practice there is considerable pressure to gain consent, with many practitioners making it a condition of receiving a service, and government guidance has suggested that parental consent can be dispensed with if a child is over 12 - although the form gathers sensitive information about parents and other family members."

It seems that the only sensible thing to do is not engage with state services at all. Don't tell your GP anything, don't ask for help, don't even start a trickle of anxiety in any state employees mind for that way NO PRIVACY, NO AUTONOMY, NADA, no parental duties, you are just there to do the bidding of the state. But if you think you might need a service, then you'd better jump to it and get about fulfilling government edicts on the state-determined ambitions for your child. For example, you have to make sure your child enjoys and achieves, which apparently means making sure they do well in primary and secondary school. (OK, failure number 1, home educating families everywhere in England.)

So this is what it has come to. You can now no longer trust anyone in any position of power, for they will spill your beans left right and centre, onto ContactPoint, into an eCAF entry, onto the NHS Spine, blaah, blaah, blaah, big brother blabber mouth.

And the effect? That families will stop talking. They will stop trusting government agencies and they won't get the small amount of help that they could have done with that would have helped them before a crisis blew up? Tell your GP you have a bit of post-natal depression? Not likely. She'll pop it on your NHS computer records. God knows who'll read it and if you want to work in the NHS somewhere down the line, you're probably screwed! It'll go everywhere. Your Health Visitor will get to hear about it, she can do an eCAF and your life is on record for god knows who to see. Not getting the private, confidential help you need will mean you might end up in a far worse situation that really will be desperate.

Honestly, I shouldn't have to be putting the arguments in favor of confidentiality, but it seems this government needs a lesson in it all over again.

And of course, the final irony is that all this assessment of far lower levels of concern is all so pointless, so much make-work. When it comes to solving the problems these assessments supposedly expose, there won't be any other solutions out there on the plate. Social services departments are massively understaffed and overstretched. They only just about cope with dealing with horrendous cases of abuse, let alone a child who has the occasional ding dong with his mum and dad. LAs round here are hugely strapped for cash. They are still paying out for flood damage, and now have to find the cash for snow damage.

We ran out of grit up here and couldn't get off the hill all week as a result. Wonder if that is a greater priority? And yeah, yeah, it IS a terrible example of citizenry incapacitated by the state. Had I imagined that the council wouldn't manage to keep up the supply of grit, I would have got my own supply!

Yep, get them off our backs. Let us supply our own grit and formulate our own ambitions for our families.


Gill said...

We've got our own Grit!

Far more valuable than any they could supply ;-)

Carlotta said...

FAB...feeling much more stable for that!

Gill said...

LOL! Isn't she great?