A Child Protection Conference, on the surface of it, seems very heavy-handed. We are talking here about the invocation and use of Section 47 of the Children Act 1989:
"47) 1. Where a local authority....
(b) have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm,
the authority shall make, or cause to be made, such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare."
What have this family done to earn such suspicion, one wonders? According to HEors who specialise in supporting HEing families with disabilities, this sort of situation is not unusual and appears to result from the fact that statistically children with disabilities are much more likely to suffer abuse. The Social Services get worried, and prefer to cover their backs.
SS also apparently get worried because specialists such as paediatricians, educational psychologists, speech or occupational therapists may have stated that the child needs to be in school to learn from their peers, or needs specialist teaching or therapy. Any suggestion that the parent is withdrawing from therapy services can be construed as neglect of medical needs, despite the fact that they may well be withdrawing the child from school precisely because these services were not meeting the child's needs.
However Social Services don't need to prove their reasons for their concerns at the Child Protection Conference. All they need to do is raise enough doubt so that other professionals at the conference don't feel they can confidently say "I know this child will be OK and there is no need for the family to be monitored." The SS often come up with the accusation of emotional abuse or neglect of educational and social needs which given the subjective and often prejudiced nature of such judgements, particularly with regard to LAs ignorant view of home education, could be very hard to disprove.
For parents of disabled children who have experienced both the schooling system and home education, the double standards are very hard to tolerate. Home educators seem to be held to far, far higher account. One parent commented:"From the fuss they kick up you'd think schools, both special needs and mainstream, were providing what disabled children needed. This is so far from the truth.
Where are the SS when the school forget to feed a child, don't provide a communication aid, don't provide escorts on the bus who can administer medication, don't fulfil the child's social needs cos they are strapped into a chair, have a wheelchair that is too small and is hurting them, are bullied because of their special needs????
Grrr with nobs on."
The Rotherham family are now in touch with the local HE group but it rather looks as if they will be needing yet more by the way of specialist HE support in order to be allowed to do the best for their child.