Alison Preuss was one of the speakers at the latest NO2NP roadshow, which attracted a lively audience to the Park Hotel in Montrose. Chaired by Michael Veitch from the CI, the audience also heard from Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust which represents families of young ME sufferers.
Concerned members of the public took the opportunity to raise questions and concerns about lack of training for teachers, named person allocation for home educated children, data sharing without consent, consequences of ‘non-engagement’, and the potentially damaging effects of ‘labelling’ children from an early age.
Montrose NO2NP Roadshow – Alison Preuss
Hello the Mo! It’s a real pleasure to be here tonight, back in my home town and just a few hundred yards from my old school, which I couldn’t wait to leave in 1974 but which I now look back on fondly for providing a proper education through sound academic teaching. All long since abandoned in favour of the ‘experiences and outcomes’ of the Curriculum for Excellence. which is inextricably linked to the Named Person scheme and the bigger GIRFEC picture – Getting Information Recorded for Every Citizen.
Being a bit of a misunderstood minority, home educators have developed highly sensitive ‘early warning’ antennae to detect threats to our existence. We’ve been variously accused of subjecting our children to neglect or abuse, domestic servitude, forced marriage and religious fundamentalism, and have had quite a few Mel Gibson moments as the state has repeatedly tried to encroach on our freedom to educate our children ‘by other means’. From a purely self-preservation point of view, we have been actively opposing the universal data gathering behind what was to become the Named Person scheme for more than 12 years. We saw this one coming for everyone, not just us, and really wish we had been wrong.
Back in the Higher Latin class at the Academy, under the tutelage of George MacLeod and Alastair Russell, we studied Virgil’s Aeneid where some sneaky Greeks used the gift of a wooden horse to fool the Trojans into letting their guard down. Well, what we have with Part 4 of the Children & Young People Act is effectively a tartan Trojan horse that may at first seem to be a cuddly sort of cuddy, but before you know it, will be taking you for a ride in a direction you may not want to head, to a destination you may not want to reach.
For the record, we are the lab rats for Tony Blair’s New Labour social engineering project known as ‘early intervention’, which was allegedly designed to identify the delinquents of tomorrow and ‘remediate’ them, but effectively consigns most of us to the ‘criminals in waiting’ class for ease of herd management.
The first stealthy move by the government was to lower the established child protection threshold from ‘risk of significant harm’ to ‘risk of not meeting the state’s dictated wellbeing outcomes’, based on an all encompassing risk assessment framework that includes being under 5, an only child, having a disabled parent or one who is ‘non-engaging’. The next step was to persuade the public, by embarking on an emotive PR campaign of which Pinocchio would be proud, that this new scheme was being introduced to help save the most vulnerable children and prevent future tragedies.
You’d think it would be difficult to get sensible people to believe that building bigger haystacks would make it easier to find smaller needles – and you’d think lessons might have been learned from the Isle of Man, which abandoned a similar scheme after children’s services melted down due to over-referrals – but apparently every single MSP was fooled (or more likely told how to vote), despite a significant number of clued up parents alerting them to the implications for every single family in the land.
Tony Benn famously described the policy as ‘eugenics, the sort of thing Hitler talked about’, and as a former pupil of Mrs Morrison and Mr Pullar at the Academy, where the Higher History syllabus covered both world wars in some depth, it’s hard to disagree. Having also lived in Germany (with a decent grasp of the language courtesy of my German teacher Mr George, affectionately known as ‘The Killer’), I heard straight form the horse’s mouth about the experiences of some who lived through the Nazification process of the 1930s.
What they pointed out was:
“There’s no deadline for when a nation becomes a police state, the bar just gets gradually lower and lower until one day you can’t squeeze under it, and you’re trapped.”
We’ve all seen the Sound Of Music (I watched it at the John Street picture house before it burned down). You should all look at the GIRFEC named person’s risk assessment framework and see how many boxes you tick.
Of course the government and its highly paid charity cheerleaders boldly claim early intervention to be their final solution for every social ill afflicting Scotland, but it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine how an army of state snoopers covertly recording every child’s pet bereavements (I kid you not), lunch box contents, pocket money rates, and mummy and daddy’s failure to buy the latest trainers is going to help the thankfully few children who are know to be at risk of something far worse than missing out on their five a day.
Indeed as we have heard at earlier roadshows from paediatrician Dr Jenny Cunningham, there is no evidence to support the premise that early intervention makes an iota of difference and can in fact damage children and families. It does, however, allow service providers new and exciting publicly funded opportunities to perform subjective ‘parental capacity to provide wellbeing ‘ assessments at every stage of every child’s life, from the womb onwards. It’s also an open invitation for IT companies to flog ever more sophisticated surveillance software to database and profile the population. Big data is worth big bucks to the economy.
Which brings me to the Evidence2Success school survey that caused such a stooshie in Perth & Kinross due to its notorious questioning of pupils about their sexual and drug taking habits, and feelings of worthlessness. (We never had that in Modern Studies at the Academy in my day!) Well, it had to be hastily re-branded as ChildrenCount so that it could be rolled out in new Trojan horse wellbeing livery to the school children of Dundee, Angus and North Ayrshire where parental consent was deemed unnecessary as some folk might make a fuss. Unfortunately for those conducting the North Ayrshire supplementary household survey, the ‘Saltcoats Solution’ was swiftly deployed by parents who robustly rebuffed the advances of strange blokes from Birmingham asking dodgy questions about young children!
GIRFEC may have been ‘piloted’ in Highland, but it’s not a Scottish idea. It’s part of the same outcomes based policy that is being pursued relentlessly across the EU and relies on accumulating every bit of data about every one of us to allow the government to cross-reference information and control citizens’ behaviour through proactive ‘nudging’ and/or direct intervention.
E-profiling s now a reality, and pity help you if you don’t build your four capacities according to the state’s good citizen template, for which you need to ‘show your working’ to prove you are a ‘successful learner, confident individual, responsible citizen and effective contributor’. There are of course set marking guidelines in the form of tick box assessments to measure your performance in each. As the proverbial square peg, I doing score very highly according to their round hole criteria. The Academy clearly served me well!
Since the CYP Act was passed in February 2014, more and more families are experiencing unwanted interference by named persons, up to and including referrals to the children’s reporter, often on spurious grounds. A full two years before the scheme is scheduled to come into legal force, families are already having their personal data stolen and assessed by multi-agency box tickers who may not happen to personally approve of particular parenting choices and decisions, and have had a couple of hours’ training on how to circumvent the law. Think chronic illness and disability, vaccination, travelling lifestyles, home birthing, attachment parenting, home education – and remember the Ashya King case, which led to a European Arrest Warrant being issued for ‘irresponsible’ parents seeking a second opinion and private medical treatment for their sick child.
So what about the Highland pilot that has been used to justify imposing a data collector on every child in Scotland?
- For starters, the whole thing was predicated on a lie. Danielle Reid, the five year old who was murdered in Inverness, despite multiple concerns being raised about her safety, was the original poster child for the scheme, but she was quietly dropped when it was revealed that the dates didn’t add up – the data theft project was in fact already well advanced, just waiting for a suitable grave to rob. (Victoria Climbie was the English equivalent, whose murder was cynically exploited to sell the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda after she had been failed by multiple services, notably the NSPCC who falsified records.)
- Secondly, it was selective. The pilot was not a universal service across Highland, rather one in which parents whose children had additional needs were over-represented and understandably crying out for a single point of contact., having been serially fobbed off by services in the past.
The social engineers have of course been busy defending the indefensible with large doses of spin:
- The chief cheerleader for Highland hailed it as a success while being economical with the above facts. It is well documented that targeted multi agency working is effective if properly resourced. But it usually isn’t, and compulsory, as opposed to invitational, inclusion on a universal basis is bound to fail, as it did in the Isle of Man, but not before causing lasting damage to services and families alike.
- It was also publicly claimed there were no complaints, but the press has carried numerous stories of parents who did complain and were ignored. We have also been hearing from them on a regular basis.
- The ‘evidence’ was purely policy-based, having been commissioned from vested interests who need to justify their own highly-paid existence for the next funding round. The so-called ‘children’s workforce’ is big business, and the public sector and state funded charities have all fallen into line, drowning out smaller grassroots groups who have witnessed the pitfalls at first hand.
- Named Person apologists like to shout about children’s rights, but citing Convention rights on a selective basis as an excuse to intrude into young lives, database entire families’ sensitive personal information and force them into doing something against their will (where they are not ‘a risk of significant harm’), perverts the whole purpose of the UNCRC which is supposed to prevent such abuse of minors. A right is not a right without the right to refuse, like forcing a named person on every child without opt-out and stealing data without consent.
- Finally, our favourite claim of all is that opponents of GIRFEC (that’s us!) are all misguided scaremongers who don’t understand that it’s only a signposting service for parents who want it, there’s no obligation to use it, and they’re only here to help (where ave we heard that one before?). If it’s really so great and we are all asking for it, why the need to make it compulsory?
There are also some familiar chestnuts that are repeatedly trotted out by those who haven’t bothered to think for themselves, so let’s take a minute to demolish them too:
- “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear” (straight from the Goebbels propaganda playbook). How many people would willingly hand over their online baking passwords, and why on earth do they bother with privacy settings on social media accounts? Ashya King’s parents had nothing to hide, but everything to fear as t turned out. Personally, I am happier hiding my wobbly bits from public view, although it isn’t a crime to eat too many cakes (yet!) Also, remember that ‘privacy is a necessary condition of mental health and wellbeing’, which is one of the reasons it is specifically protected in human rights legislation.
- “If it saves just one child” is another clichetrotted out by people who have no understanding of the realities of child protection work. GIRFEC didn’t save Mikaeel Kular, who was killed by his mother, despite being known to be vulnerable by children’s services in Edinburgh and Fife where the named person is already operational and already causing problems for families who have been the subjects of malicious referrals. When implemented universally, GIRFEC puts the most vulnerable children at greater risk by diverting resources.
- “We need to know everything about your family so we can plan the services you’ll need.” For that, read ‘the services we decide you’ll need’ as the enabling state is primed to disable dissenters who may stray from their state-programmed outcomes. Why not actually address the needs of parents and children who are queuing up to ask for support they have identified as necessary but are being turned away through lack of resources or reluctance on the part of ‘professionals’?
The future isn’t bright if we do nothing, so we need to keep reminding parents that no family is now safe from routine state intervention. The bar has been set so low that we are now all deemed a risk to our own children’s wellbeing.
Fortunately, the judicial review is in progress, but who would have thought that law-abiding citizens wold need to go to court to protect their children fom the government’s assault on their human rights? For the sake of every child, we can’t afford for our legal challenge to fail.
In the meantime, we are relying on our overarching rights under Article 8 of the ECHR, the EU Data Protection Directive and the UK-wide Data Protection Act, none of which the Scottish Parliament has the legislative competence to override. Here are some of our tried and tested tactics to keep the snoopers at bay:
- Opt out of any school surveys and don’t allow your child to be coerced into taking part. Have an opt-out note attached to your child’s records and remind teachers that there is a law against grooming children to disclose personal sensitive data.
- Formally withhold or withdraw consent from every ‘service provider’ for any data processing without your written authority and obtain confirmation that they have complied with your instructions. this might make you a non-engaging parent in the risk assessment stakes, but Aileen Campbell has stated on public record that there is no requirement to engage with a named person. They really need to make up their minds!
- Avoid providing personal information to service provides wherever possible, including third sector organisations whose remit is now to mine data from you and your children. Try not to get guilt tripped into providing ‘feedback’, which they will claim they need to prove they have met their outcomes, to get their next grant and provide future services (you get the drift).
- This one is the most effective, we have found, and they don’t like it! Submit subject access requests under the Data Protection Act to obtain your own and your children’s records, and do so on a regular basis. They must produce them within 40 days and you may be surprised at what has been recorded and shared about you with every Tom, Dick and Harry, playground tittle-tattle included. One parent was surprised to learn from the school that she was ingratiating, not just moving two streets away! Do you really want your child’s teacher to have access to your entire family’s medical and social work records at the click of a mouse so that they can go on fishing expeditions at the behest of government (something that is expressly prohibited under the EU Data Protection Directive)? The Assistant Information Commissioner for Scotland seems remarkably complacent and is even quoted in Perth & Kinross Council’s training manual that encourages staff to break the law. But his ‘opinion’ looks very dodgy when compared to the opinion of leading counsel. especially in the context of the 2013 Haringey judgment and a growing number of European cases.
- Make formal complaints about every concern you have as a parent about the actions of your child’s assigned (without your consent) named person – whether a health visitor, nursery worker, teacher or ‘other’. Consider asking for access to their police, health and social work records to satisfy yourself as to their suitability to work with your child. On our forums, you’ll find a 50-page thread listing professionals convicted of abusing children as disclosure checks obviously only pick up on those who have been caught. The ‘care’ system routinely fails the most vulnerable children, the Rotherham sexual abuse scandal is said to be the tip of an iceberg of organised exploitation, and Scotland has its own embarrassing skeletons rattling their way out of the closet. It’s little wonder that children’s databases are commonly known as ‘paedophiles’ address books’.
- Finally, when you find a government agent at your door announcing they’re there to help you (whether you like it or not), don’t hesitate to employ the ‘Saltcoats Solution’ and send them packing with directions to the NO2NP website!