Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why Schedule 1 Won't Work

In our time as home educators, I have come across a very small number of HE families who weren’t coping. This is about as much as you can say about them. They weren't evil and indeed all of them had nothing other than the best of intentions for their children, but for one reason or another, usually an accumulation of adverse circumstances, things had gone wrong. Usually the living standards were unhygienic to a degree that meant that health was compromised, and sometimes children weren't being given the appropriate moral guidance or basis for understanding how to live in this world.

At the time I met these families, some of them were not known to the authorities. At that point I would go away and agonise. Several times, I thought it would be possible for the HE community to help in a significant enough way that these families would be able to get back on their feet. However, on each occasion the situation was taken out of my hands, as someone else then rapidly referred them to social services.

Home educators, the poorly functioning and the successful families alike, get referred to social service departments left, right and centre. Indeed there is one HE group we attend in which we are the only family who has not been utterly spuriously referred to and then discharged by a social services department.

Unless a family hides their child under the stairs, home educators are highly visible. Neighbours, relatives, friends, friends of friends, village gossip, the net spreads fast and wide and if there is a hint of concern and very often even when there isn't, people take it upon themselves to let the authorities know.

Problem is, since Baby P, social workers have gone into "covering their backs" mode. Indeed, we strongly suspect this is the reason why one UK HE child we know was taken away from his/her family, only to be returned a year later after huge efforts by the family, their lawyer, their MP, and even the police. This is scary stuff for all HE families who will be wondering "might we be next?"

But this parlous situation will not be resolved by implementing the registration process as proposed in Schedule 1.

As I said, I think the number of children who are abused under the guise of being HE who are not known to the authorities is vanishingly small. However, if there are any such families it would not be rational for them to come forward to register, since what have they got to lose? The worst that can happen to them under the new proposals if they don’t register is that their children will be sent back to school and seeing as far worse could happen if they were known, a rational decision would be for them to keep schtum.

Schedule 1 won't work to patch up any holes in ContactPoint and given that Ed Balls' main motivation in all this seems to be to avoid any negative red top coverage, he might as well know this.

Instead the Schedule 1 proposals will damage well-functioning families with the loss of privacy and autonomy and will be a massive wast of public money which could be far better spent on overloaded social services depts.


Anonymous said...

While I agree that Sch 1 wont help anyone and will hinder many, I have to disagree that SWs are now covering their backs. I have had to inform SS of a serious matter involving a child just very recently and I was given the brush off. They are not interested in real abuse-but I am quite sure they will come after easy targets.

Anonymous said...

I agree that even their efforts to avoid 'red top coverage' and 'cover their backs' are a complete waste of time and money as they aren't even going to achieve this.

It is a fact that local lawyers, who would normally assist low income families achieve justice, no longer have the time or inclination for this work as they are inundated by demands from the LEA work to take parents to court.

Another anon!

Anonymous said...

I think that government know that they won't be government for much longer and wish to create as much havoc for the new bunch as possible.

The Commons seem to me to mirror the worst kind of school playground containing a group of bullying schoolboys intent on scoring points off each other, and, in this case, destroying children's lives.

Kelly said...

Ah, logic. It seems that you home educators are part of a very tiny group in England who can still use it. Of course the same is true in North America as well.