Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Abusive State

As previously noted, one of the most worrying areas of concern in the new Elective Home Education Guidelines is that they fail to make it sufficiently clear that there must be a good reason to suspect a significant degree of harm or risk of harm to a child before social workers have a right (and a duty) to come knocking on people's doors.

The argument from the DCSF seems to be that because home educated children are not necessarily seen regularly by statutory services, that they are therefore necessarily at risk. Indeed this is precisely the argument that a LA seem to have used very recently when they demanded to see a home educating family not very far away from us. There was no reason to suspect that this home educating family were at risk other than that they hadn't been seen by any statutory services recently. The social workers came a-visiting, but left agreeing that there was no case to pursue. Sadly this satisfactory outcome was only achieved after the family had had to deal with the stress of the intrusion, make arrangements for a Home Educating advocate to attend the meeting, make a sound case for themselves, ask whether it was strictly necessary for the social workers to go digging in their children's medical records and resist the calls for them to undertake a Common Assessment.

Is this the future for home educating families everywhere in England? It would seem a little unfair when you consider that the only statutory service that school children necessarily come across is their school. The idea here is presumably that teachers will reliably be able to spot abuse. Yet we hear from a survey conducted by CBBC's Newsround that:

"In a crisis, 76% would turn first to their mother for help, 11% would choose their father and 2% would go to a teacher".

Perhaps social work departments shouldn't just be picking on HE families. Perhaps they should go knocking on the doors of every family in England.

Conversely, it would be interesting to know if the aforementioned HE family has grounds for complaint, either directly via the local authority complaints procedure, or via the Local Government Ombudsman.


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