Report of the online conference hosted by Home Education Forums on 29 May 2012.
Practical strategies to tackle intrusive threatening and bullying behaviour disguised as ‘support’
This conference, while aiming to give voice to alternative views to government’s adopted-without-evidence policy of universal early intervention and forced delivery of compulsory ‘services’, acknowledges the necessity for statutory intervention in a minority of cases where there is actual, or properly risk-assessed evidence of the likelihood of, significant harm being caused to another person. Contributors’ views are their own.
Thanks for plugging into our online conference which aims to highlight the dangers of pursuing the essentially misguided, blinkered, expensive, intrusive and unnecessary policy of universal early interference in family life, as promoted by government(s) and cleverly disguised as ‘support’.
Using a tried and tested combination of scare tactics and sensational child abuse cases (which invariably demonstrate public servant failure), policy-based-evidence has almost seamlessly replaced evidence-based-policy, while the presumption of innocence principle is simultaneously being eroded by purveyors of the “if you’ve got nothing to hide” mantra.
It is blindingly obvious to most of us here that identifying and protecting the small minority of children (and vulnerable adults) who are abused or neglected, whether in their own home or in a ‘care’ setting, is essentially more difficult when they are lumped in with the entire population. As child protection expert Eileen Munro has pointed out: “It doesn’t get easier to find a needle in a haystack if you make the haystack bigger.”
There now exists a veritable army of public sector locusts and third sector worker ants who have been bred by the nanny state and trained to force compulsory services like ‘education’ (i.e. schooling) on everyone and (literally) his dog. Resistance is futile unless you want to be labelled a ‘service resistant’ subversive who is at risk of being at risk of being at risk of (ad nauseam) demonstrating independent thought. Many of us attending today are proud to be service resistant, but might prefer the labels ‘self reliant’, ‘autonomous, ‘freethinking’ or ‘independent’. None of us involved in this conference believes that our way is the only ‘right’ way, and we both acknowledge and accept the diversity within our own community of interest, provided that no harm is done to others.
As we convene online today, participants will be aware that a new inquiry into ‘support’ for home education (in England)has just been announced by the UK Government, the consultation being timed to perfection as ever to coincide with the summer holiday period. Who would want to take part in another consultation after the Badman debacle and failure by the current UK government to take any action to curb councils’ ultra vires activities? Cynics might argue that there must be an ulterior motive and there will undoubtedly be ‘rent’ in it for somebody, quite possibly the new breed of home education ‘expert’ who likes to pretend s/he knows best for everyone else and that everyone should be compulsorily ‘offered’ support to achieve state dictated outcomes for their own good (and in their children’s best interests, also defined by the state, of course).
Please feel free to post under any of the agenda headings as the day goes on. What we are looking for are lots of contributions to illustrate the breadth of opinion that exists on dealing with the highly intrusive public servants you are likely to encounter as you go about your lawful business.
mirky: Thank you for already highlighting so many relevant issues that vigilant families can act upon. Our strength is not in oppression but in honest resistance & standing up for our principles. One area that I haven’t had time to research, but hope to, is the significance of psychopathic behaviour in those who come to oppress the marginalised (or those perceived as such). If anyone is an expert on this, please share. Found Jon Ronson interesting! The Psychopath Test
Sheila: Neil T is our resident expert on this. Maybe he’ll put in an appearance later. He comments on this here.
“Finally, there was another link that enabled me to name for myself Children’s Rights as a Trojan Horse, before inevitably discovering that others had come to the same conclusion in the same words before me. It was the obscure, and perhaps equally offputting, but for different reasons, work of a Polish psychiatrist and academic, Andrew Lobaczewski in his book ‘Political Ponerology’. This is not an easy book to read, at least I found it hard going as well as occasionally inspiring and passionate, but it is the culmination of his life’s work with others to try to achieve an academic, scientific understanding of the phenomenon that overtook his country with the communist invasion, and weirded them out and deeply disturbed them, motivating them to undertake this very dangerous study. They quickly discovered that all the books in their university library on psychiatry that were still card indexed, had mysteriously disappeared from the shelves – permanently! Indeed communism effectively prohibited the pursuit of this science entirely, so Lobaczewski’s work was largely conducted in isolation from Western advances in understanding, and results in his own idiosyncratic and East European terminology, further adding to the difficulty of a lay understanding. It lead them to the discovery that they were enduring rule by identifiable types of psychological deviants, with psychopaths at the top of the heirarchy. He coined the term ‘pathocracy’ to distinguish this kind of rule from what he contrasted as ‘the society of normal men’, a problematic ideal I’m not sure it is possible to illustrate with any examples, except in matter of degrees I suspect. Indeed, once you understand the basic landscape of psychopathy and psychopathic rule, and the classics by Cleckley and Hare are invaluable here to understand the psychopath, it is possible to see its legacy infesting every institution in our own country, although full blown fascism or communism is pathocracy fully developed. This is where we are headed, and many Eastern Europeans who have been there can see what is facing us, where too many of us can’t. The fundamental character of the UK government is becoming increasingly psychopathic, with a number of psychopaths in key ministerial positions. That is with no capacity whatsoever for human empathy, nor any conscience, which is what defines the psychopath. The successful ones though become extremely good at faking those very qualities that they do not possess, yet we still instinctively recognise that something is wrong with them and what they are trying to foist. Developing that ability to suss them is actually not that hard, which is encouraging, to discover their potential achilles heel. They are the ones that know they are right and just bulldoze through fake public consultations without taking a thing from them beyond a measure of the opposition to their plans for us all. Consultations are really SATS, we really should try to give them up, LOL!
The fatal mistake that 98% of us always make is in assuming that this 1 or 2% of the population that find power easy to acquire and exercise is that they are essentially the same as us. They are not. The bits that we consider make us human – define our humanity, are missing through physical or psychological damage, sometimes amongst the ruling class deliberately induced. This results in psychopath’s motivation to understand the bits they don’t have, and to learn to fake them not just for their own survival, but their successful dominance of the rest of us. They have no fear, they do not blush, their confidence knows no limits, their ruthlessness is unconstrained by conscience. They are charming and plausible, and attractive quite often, and at ease socially. And they are often intelligent, but if we recognise that real intelligence is more than the function of the neocortex, and involves other centres of the brain that include the ones they do not have functioning, we can learn to recognise the deficiency underneath the surface plausibility. But we who are ‘lumbered’ with low self esteem and confidence admire them, and wish we were like them. We choose them for our leaders. We never suspect. Machiavelli understood this when he described the psychopath as the ideal Prince:
“…it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite.”
Given that he was writing tactfully for a Prince in the hope of obtaining a position, it should be obvious that ‘to be so’ was a dispensable flattery!
The same principles apply today to our current leaders to the extent that we fail to understand what Machiavelli understood about successfully faking humanity as superior to possessing it for the successful exercise of power! A key characteristic of psychopaths is their belief that the normal rules don’t apply to them because of their natural superiority, so an institution that offers them ‘parliamentary privilege’ for example is going to be very attractive to them, and confirms them in this belief. It may even have had psychopathic origination. Just one example of how this new understanding which has eluded ‘the society of normal men’, but not psychopaths, for centuries if not millenia, is overdue to be remedied!”
Elaine: Parents should remember that never in Britain have public employees had a duty to monitor their employers! If considered logically a person wanting to work with children has to have a crb check, this is a paper exercise , no public servant has power to interview them or their families nor enter their homes to monitor their suitability so why is the monitoring of family life being muted as a positive?
Once monitoring of one section of society has been legalized the framework is there for a roll out, what next? The children of prisoners being labelled as possibly needing support and therefore in need of monitoring? So many reasons these parasites can think up in their tax payer funded wonderland to ensure their jobs are safe. I may sound like I am confusing this conference thread and the inquiry thread but I really find it hard to describe how parasitic these people are.
1. “Stopping them in their tracks”: Building barriers to cope with overly intrusive public servants
AP: The importance of networking to obtain relevant information from a variety of sources and peer support cannot be over estimated when it comes to stopping overly intrusive public servants in their tracks. It is unwise to believe everything you read on the Internet, but it is equally unwise to believe everything you are told by a public servant. While there have been home education and wider parenting mailing lists for many years, the explosion of social media like Facebook and Twitter in more recent times has encouraged greater sharing of experiences and helped individuals find others of like mind. Public servants who seek to mislead (by ignorance or design) can no longer rely on their victims’ lesser knowledge of the law and can be publicly held to account. As evidenced throughout the Badman campaign, social media were exploited to the full, and especially effective use was made of the FOI Act on sites like What Do They Know and links to and from public forums and blogs. There is little doubt that networking, information sharing and peer support all help build effective barriers to cope with intrusive public servants.
1a Recognising and overcoming the many reasons public servants have for making ultra vires demands
AP: These workers do what they are told – only following orders from their superior officers – so many have never bothered to think for themselves, ask questions or refer directly to the legislative framework they are supposed to work within. Those who do so usually become so frustrated in their efforts to effect change that they are spat out by the system or suffer breakdowns. We know some of them personally.
- Because they are told to. There is a growing culture of automation, ticking boxes and “dumbing down” of professional provision rather than comprehensive trust in ability, individual skill sets and ongoing breadth of experience.
- Because they are paid to. How many professionals rigorously question policy and legislation they rely on to pay their mortgage and bills?
- Because they are scared of criticism. In the light of recent serious case reviews where children who were known to be at risk died, some professionals have advocated a move towards the lowest common denominator approach: “There will be times when (professionals) have to grasp the nettle, using professional judgment, in the knowledge that they may be proved to be mistaken. Better that than the harm that the child will have to experience instead.” — Graham Badman, failing to acknowledge the dreadful harm that false positives inflict on innocent families. Some professionals and commentators will say that child professionals are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. I say in this article that this argument really has to be picked apart once and for all. Social workers should not damned for failing to keep all children safe at all times. We all know that’s impossible. Social workers are probably damned when they fail to act on a mountain of referrals to save a child who even the stand-in milkman knew was being abused. And social workers will always be damned if they remove even one safe child from the protection of his or her loving family. It’s that simple.
- Because they genuinely believe it to be in the best interests of the child — when the prevailing worldview is that parents are at fault and need to be corrected for the good of the children, this vehemence can be particularly dangerous and damning for innocent families who are on the fringes of convention by circumstance or choice.
- Because groupthink can and will occur in an organisational environment — even when an articulate individual questions the operational and strategic status quo, what chance do they have when employed by people who refuse to ask or answer those questions? Free-thinking individuals in such positions can be bullied, on medication to cope, driven off sick or even suspended.
Barbara (Facebook): Recent experience in Notts has shown how important it is for the existing community of regional and local home educators to get information to new home educators and particularly those who are deregistering children from state schools
Where local officials will embark on early or unannounced home visits during which parents are misinformed and children are tested by strangers in their home etc, the involvement of experienced and well informed families can stop this in its tracks by sharing the proper information and tools for handling misbehaving officials in the most effective way possible to achieve the best outcome for their children.
This is difficult because the authority knows about these families on the day of deregistration and will not always tell parents where they can get in touch with other families before the council embarks upon ultra vires practices; but once parents access yahoo groups, facebook and internet forums or are in touch with the network the situation can be resolved in the interest of children.
For this reason it is important to keep sharing experiences and information and to make sure information is current.
1b Identifying the paths parents can take to deal with hostility and threats while maintaining minimal civil communication with intrusive public servants
AP: Get everything in writing. Do not believe everything you are told. Access peer support via communities of interest. Never be without a witness in face to face exchanges. Expect value judgements to be made about your lifestyle choices if they do not confrom to the economically active consumerist norm as dictated by the state.
RP: Some possible courses of action you might want to consider, with the caveat that every family and situation is individual. This information is to help innocent families who have experienced unwarranted persecution at the hands of statutory agencies:
- Don’t make the first approach to authorities/statutory agencies – whether this is to ask for help or make a complaint. Definitely don’t struggle alone – but if you need advice or support then go to completely independent organisations or individuals you know you can trust in real life. You can also look online for help. Avoid the urge to make formal complaints (you can’t improve a rotten-to-the-core system from the inside) and instead take positive action of your own to remove yourself from a vexatious situation and/or make other people aware of it.
- Develop and demonstrate that you have a strong and supportive network surrounding you. Friends, family, community, independent professionals – showing or talking about these links and relationships makes you far less likely to be singled out for unwanted attention.
- Remember the superficial, too. If you are visited at home, then make sure that your house is clean and tidy and that you and your children are dressed and well-presented. No, it is not right. Yes, it is important. There are many things that can trigger a red flag and you can’t predict all of them. But you can do a lot to help yourself.
- Understand what you are really dealing with, regardless of how kind and supportive a professional appears. Do not take any statements at face value and think very carefully before you do what they ask of you. This goes for signing paperwork, handing children over for “temporary” or “voluntary” foster care, admitting any fault whatsoever, giving more information that the bare minimum, and submitting to psychological assessments conducted by their expert of choice.
- Be polite, calm and respectful at all times. Only talk about the hurt likely to be caused to your children, rather than to yourself. As difficult as it might be, try to avoid shows of excessive upset, aggression or hostility. However, please bear in mind documents such as Lincolnshire’s working with uncooperative and hostile families practice guidance which may give professionals carte blanche to deem you problematic no matter how you behave.
- Always tell your children how much you love them and how, if ever they were taken from you, you would never, ever stop looking for them. Encourage them to respect their instincts and always to question the morality of authority. Make sure they learn their personal details as soon as they are old enough and tell them that wherever they are and whatever the circumstances they can always contact you.
- Only ever work with a solicitor who is prepared to fight against the local authority where it is correct to do so. Find one who encourages you to speak out in court. If you cannot find a solicitor who is prepared to do this, then represent yourself.
- If you are innocent and feel that your family is facing a truly significant threat, consider leaving the country before the case goes to court [update: following on from the comment below I would just like to point out that this is a serious course of action that should be well thought through by anyone considering it – obviously – but it’s certainly a legitimate one that others families have been grateful for.]
- As well as “real life” communities, the internet is your friend. Use it to connect with other people, spread the word, pass on resources and share whatever you deem to be appropriate or helpful to your case. Don’t forget to educate yourself about the legality of the information you choose to share.
2. Managing hostile situations
AP: Hostile situations need careful handling and usually back up from others, online and/or in real life, so that careful records ofincidents can be kept. Examples we have come across include:
- Appearance of uninvited public servants on a family’s doorstepwhose stated concerns relate wholly to the family’s decision to exercise lawful parenting choices (such as home education)
- Threats of prosecution for failing to send a child to a school in which his/her safety cannot be guaranteed
- Claiming right of entryto a private home and/or unsupervised access to a child when no such routine right exisits
- Making various other ultra viresdemands and threats
2a Dealing with aggressive and intimidating public servants
AP: Don’t allow such operatives anywhere near you, and most especially your children. If caught in a surprise attack, express understanding of how they may have been misled into believing they have a vital role to play in your life and ask them to go away and write you a letter with all their ‘concerns’. Do not engage with aggressive and intimidating public servants by telephone other than to invite them to put their ‘concerns’ in writing or refer them to websites with accurate information about your lawful parenting choices.
2b Guaranteeing personal safety in your home setting
AP: Keep the door bolted and do not allow strangers access to your home unless by invitation. Always ask for references (visit their homes and examine their computer hard drives if at all possible J). Never leave them alone with your children, no matter how friendly they appear.
2c Ensuring that motivation is not lost as a result of threatening encounters
AP: It can be difficult to maintain motivation in the face of ongoing attacks by public servants on your lawful lifestyle choices and your family’s privacy, but you will find support from other parents and might even want to take up marathon training to build up stamina.
3. Identifying indicators of disguised support and taking appropriate action to improve outcomes for your child
AP: Be very wary of the assumption that ‘support’ is something all parents need or want. Public servants will often use language to denote voluntary participation when what they mean is the forced uptake of de facto compulsory services and monitoring how well parents and their children are meeting state dictated outcomes as economic units. Consider how strongly ‘early years’ education and day care for babies are pushed to get all parents out to work (paying taxes) and all children into institutions. Those who choose to ignore the government’s growing nudge industry are accused not only of failing to serve the economy and big burger-flipping corporate interests, but also of failing to uphold their children’s rights to own the latest gadgets and designer trainers (mostly produced by other children in third world sweatshops). Every Consumer Counts.
Barbara (Facebook): Guidance on EHE for parents from the local council – how very helpful! Except, why are these so often unnecessarily thick? Why in all that detail about forms and visits and keeping records and LA monitoring “services”, the actual correct parts are lost! Handle this support bomb with care or it might explode in your face!
Sheila: I’d like to put it on record here that I’ve had direct knowledge of two instances where erroneous/spiteful referrals to the Children’s Panel have resulted in attempts to threaten the parent (on the phone)into having ongoing “voluntary” social work support ie accept the “support” or “it will go to the Children’s Panel”. This is after these families have gone through the pretty thorough investigation that a panel referral requires and nothing of concern has been identified.
When asked to put what was said on the phone in writing, nothing materialised in both cases. Both families (I put the first in contact with the second) refused to be blackmailed and wrote to the SWs involved informing them that a reputable lawyer and education law expert had said that “voluntary meant voluntary”. The SWs backed off but it was a very stressful time for all involved.
The “modus operandi” in both cases was scarily similar – there must be more?
llondel: I believe this highlights the modus operandi of the machine – push and push and push until you’ve steamrollered the parents into doing exactly what you want, but if they show knowledge of the true limits of power early enough in the process, back right off and go find someone else who isn’t as knowledgeable about the law. I suspect that in this case, the mention of consulting a lawyer was enough.
It all comes down to the fact that if the home ed community can get to a family before they deregister or otherwise come to the notice of the LA, the family is much better informed and able to deal with the LA from a position of strength and it works much better. The LA will test the resolve but ultimately, with support from the EHE community, a family can resist the ultra vires demands. I think most LAs eventually learn that if they discover a family who is already in contact with the local EHE group, the family will know the rules and the LA won’t even bother to try more than their basic minimum box-ticking exercise.
pendlewitch: Many years ago there was a document from Leeds council in which they stated that they preferred it when their home ed families were unaware of the law as once they were in touch with he orgs they stopped agreeing to visits.
Sheila: Wonderful to have so many comments so early – unlike the public servants who get well paid to attend conferences (and a free lunch too!) most of us have to “attend” in between work commitments and/or looking after our own children (an alien concept for public servants types).
Something that makes dealing with these people more difficult is that many of them are unaware of the monster they’re bringing into being and are themselves being manipulated into becoming data collectors for “experts” slightly further up the food chain.
They have their egos boosted, their various professions praised, their opinions sought through endless “CONsultations” and then one way or another the data-grabbing system monster progresses as was intended all along.
One example of this is from Report on the independent evaluation exercise carried out by Lanarkshire Getting it right for every child Research Team.
“Despite practitioners reporting concerns about the volume of change, the majority remained enthusiastic about the prospect of practice change to support Getting it right for every child. However, a substantial number of practitioners associated Getting it right for every child with very vulnerable children and families and a need was identified to raise awareness within universal services of education and health in order to shift the focus to every child.”
3a Lessons to be learned from serious case reviews (SCRs)
AP: Serious Case Reviews (and their predecessor inquiries) consistently show that it is public servants who have almost always got things wrong when a child tragically dies or is subject to serious abuse or neglect. Invariably these public servants will try to shift the blame by finding a suitable scapegoat and home education is an old favourite fall guy which has worked well in the past (e.g. when a child known to be vulnerable was less of a priority than public servants’ partying), despite home educated children being far less likely to suffer abuse or neglect. Such underhand smear tactics have even resulted in home educating families and home educated children being abused and vilified in the community.
3b Moving beyond ‘box ticking’ to provide context to your dealings with public servants
AP: When dealing with tick box tyrants who are intruding into our family’s private life, it is hard to facilitate their transition to thinking outside the state sponsored bubble in which they have been contained. You can try to educate them by pointing out the parameters of the law, sending relevant links and even meeting with them formally to explain concepts they don’t understand. However, they tend to be ‘change resistant’ as it might affect their promotion prospects, and those who do show initiative tend to be moved, fired or succumb to nervous breakdowns.
3c Ensuring ‘parental optimism’, giving public servants the ‘benefit of the doubt’ and increased workloads in responding to enquiries do not interfere with your judgement on what is in the best interests of your child
AP: Human nature being what it is, many of us are inclined to give public sevants the benefit of the doubt as we like to think the best of others’ motives. However, we should never mistake ultra vires activity for ‘support’, no matter how smiley and helpful the public servant might appear. Whether by ignorance or design, you should not be misled about the law or about the support which they claim ‘may be available’ (invariably there will be none, or it will be determined by a public servant ‘expert’, i.e. complete stranger, and won’t be what your child needs). It will undoubtedly take time and energy to establish the ‘support’ (as opposed to interference) they are allegedly offering, and to respond to them appropriately, but public servants are supposed to exist to serve you as you fulfil your parenting role in the way you see fit in the best interests of your child.
3d The difficulties of assessing levels of risk to your family, particularly in cases of doorstepping and harassment. When enough is enough?
AP: When placed in a vulnerable position by public servants who misconstrue and/or misrepresent their role in relation to your lawful parenting choices, it can be difficult to objectively assess the level of risk to your family. When you feel the ‘reasonable’ line has been, or is at risk of being crossed, by a public servant, it can often be useful to sound out and seek views from others in your community of interest and/or wider network to help you decide how to respond to ultra vires demands or behaviours.
3e Listen to your child and analyse the evidence
AP: The voice of your child is paramount and you are best placed to act in his/her best interests, not some stranger with a vested interest in pushing state sponsored services disguised as ‘support’. In the vast majority of cases, a parent is much better able to weigh up the pros and cons of accepting or refusing services based on an individual child’s needs and wishes, and those parents who wish to avail themselves of state sponsored support for their children should not be denied access but provided with it on their own terms and unconditionally.
4. Understanding the psychology of manipulative public servants to avoid inadvertently colluding with deception
llondel: I guess I’ve developed an internal alarm for this one, there’s a certain manner adopted by people who have to make the unacceptable more palatable. They always remain calm and avoid conflict or raised voices and will hedge and change the subject if directly challenged, often returning to it from another direction. A good example of this is Tony Blair, another was Tony Benn.
I’ve certainly seen it in action in my local LA team, who are keen to build relationships and offer support. I’m not sure that people in such posts understand the concept of “no thank you”, to them it means they’ve failed to explain exactly why you should be saying yes and so they’ll try again. A good example of this is the EU and referenda, saying ‘no’ merely means you get to repeat the exercise.
AP: Watch out for lies, threats, false claims, manipulation and blackmail and bribery, such as the following examples from our forums:
- We’re from the LA and we’ve come to offer ‘support’
- Everyone else has visits
- We can serve a school attendance order if youdon’t let us in/present your child/show us your child’s ‘work’
- No one else objects to monitoring
- We have developed our policy inco-operation with local home educators / home ed organisations
- (In Scotland) If you don’t do as we say, we won’t consent to yourwithdrawing your child from the council school which is failing to meet his/her needs
- We need to check you’re notabusing/neglecting your child by ticking boxes (Khyra Ishaq/Baby P/Danielle Reid/Victoria Climbie?)
- If you’ve got nothing to hide…
4a How some public servants mislead parents in telephone and face to face communications through passive, covert manipulation
AP: From anecdotal evidence on the Home ed Forums, Facebook groups and mailing lists, false claims, aka lies, are commonplace in unrecorded telephone conversations with public sevants, as is lying by omission in cases where parents are not told about home education even being a possibility while they are being threatened with prosecution or social services refarral for not sending their often desperately unhappy child to school. It seems like some public servants will stop at nothing to prevent parents exercising a lawful choice that doesn’t happen to involve one of their monopoly ‘services’.
4b Methods to detect deceptive and ‘grooming’ behaviour amongst public servants
AP: From our Home Ed Forum threads and as frequently reported in other groups, parents are routinely subject to tactics which involve deception about the law and in particular about access by public servants to private homes and children. Parents need to be alert to the fact that this may occur and may even occasionally extend to exhibiting elements of grooming type behaviour whereby strangers seek to become ‘friends’ in order to persuade families to accept unnecessary intrusion and violation of their rights.
4c How independent networks and communities of interest can help parents to ascertain when they have been duped
AP: Maintaining contact with other members of your community of interest via forums, local groups and social networks can be useful when parents need to take soundings about particular patterns of behaviour by public servants. Usually someone else will have come across the same or similar behaviour in the past and can offer peer support and advice based on experience. It may be that public servants are genuinely trying to be helpful, but in the absence of support services without strings which are non compulsory there is little or no incentive to engage with them.
5. Analysing Risk in Child Protection from Public Servants
AP: If your parenting choices or family circumstances do not happen conform to the norm, and even if they do (but that Lisbon-conceived cover story about protecting vulnerable children as opposed to mass surveillance is a closely guarded secret in order not to alarm the smug “it couldn’t happen to me” brigade), your children are essentially at risk from intrusive public servants who want to determine their outcomes for them rather than allow them the opportunity to decide on their own ‘pathways’. Since so many public servants have no idea of the real agenda (as they are kept busy in their own little worker ant boxes) they often genuinely believe that universal early interference disguised as support is a good thing and can be highly dangerous predators. Despite so called austerity cuts, they appear to have unlimited budgets for the purpose of interfering with other people’s children. It’s homogeneity, not spontaneity – or else!
Sheila: On the subject of “pathways”, have a look at this (click on high res – you’re not meant to, though!)
“This resource is designed for practitioners (it is not seen as helpful for children and families) and should be displayed in a place where practitioners can use it to remind themselves how and when the core components are used in Lanarkshire.”
And yes those are parental capacity to provide well being assessments.
Please don’t ignore this if you’re not in Scotland – we’re just a bit further along this particular pathway – you’ll be catching up soon
5a Introducing a tried and tested model for risk assessment in these cases
AP: ‘Just Say No’ to public servants who appear and seek to interfere for no good or lawful reason.
5b Identifying clear pathways to forming judgements and making decisions in the best interests of your child
AP: When faced with intrusive public servants, ask yourself: Is what they are doing/asking for legal? Is it acceptable to me? If no, the pathway is self-evident.
5c Ensuring that risk factors associated with intrusive and inappropriate behaviours like doorstepping are clearly identified and integral to your assessment
AP: Be mindful that some of these public servants will telephone, email and even turn up uninvited, with or without having unilaterally made appointments to visit your home and expect access to it. Some can be quite intimidating and threatening if they don’t get their own way and may present a risk to your family, so always be prepared to outline the legal position in a calm and collected way. In order to be helpful and minimise risk to your own children, you could ask them for their home address and drop by with a group of other parents to explain the law – it will be more convenient for them not to have to travel, after all.
6. Identifying and managing risk when dealing with public servants
AP: There are many people around who can help you identify and manage the risks presented by public servants, and you will find that information is shared freely across the social media, blogs, forums and mailing lists. You need to know the enemy within as well as without, however, so heed early warnings about trojan horses and take care never to confide in anyone who makes a living out of promoting sell-your-own-granny parties, save-your-own-skin performances and feather-your-own-nest events (usually held at Chatham House).
6a Assessing risk and decision making to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your child
AP: Your own and your child’s safety and wellbeing are paramount, so you might want to check out the track records of the LA and public servants you are dealing with among your peers via forums, social media and local groups – they may have form, good or bad. These info and ‘rating’ resources may further assist you: the Home Education Database (UK) and our Council Home Ed Policies sub-forum (Scotland).
6b The use of a virtual world in which parents and young people can safely reflect on the risks, challenges and complexities faced when ‘judgement calls’ have to be made about engagement with public servants
AP: Online forums, social media networks and virtual conferences like this one allow parents and young people to fully consider risk factors and explore all their options for dealing with public servants.
6c Locating the virtual world within a training tool that draws on game playing (e.g. Laming’s Lemmings), spoofs and satire to help parents understand and manage situations where public servants are intrusive, pushy, deceptive or threatening
AP: Laming’s Lemmings is a favourite’ training tool’ and/or eye opener for those who fail to question the answers and believe ‘support’ cover stories without checking all the facts. It is vital to shine a bright light back on the attitudes, behaviours and activities of public servants who designate parents and members of the wider community as ‘nobodies’ in relation to their children’s safety and wellbeing simply because they are not in receipt of state sponsored services or ‘rent’.
7. Public servants with statist mentality and/or authoritarian obsessive disorder
AP: These links may provide some useful insight into the mentality and distorted thinking of state sponsored public servants, some of whom suffer from authoritarian obsessive disorder (often without realising it): All gooey inside, You will obey and Guidance queens and pushy authoritarian types. This type of we-know-best thinking is also prevalent across charity and third sector organisations which like to ‘win’ contracts for pushy authoritarian projects and regularly produce their own vested interest ‘research’ paid for by the public to justify the need for more research paid for by the public (ad nauseam). Noticable by their absence are real solutions to real problems experienced by real families (many of whom are understandably crying out for practical ‘support’), but early interference/ intervention is the sexy one-pathway-fits all (literally) universal solution adopted without question and even less evidence by those who don’t appear to know any better (or do they?)
7a Recognising where obstructive or deceitful behaviour may be a result of a public servant’s statist mentality and/or authoritarian obsessive disorder
AP: When you are told as a parent that your parenting choices are illegal and/or damaging to your child when you know full well neither is the case, you are probably dealing with a public servant (or multiple public servants) with authoritarian obsessive disorder.
7b Protecting the rights of children and affirming the presumption that parents (and nominated carers) will act in their children’s best interests
AP: When government (of any persuasion) seeks to promote universal interference (aka ‘early intervention’) in family life based on the arrogant and erroneous assumption that parents are less willing and/or able to protect their own children’s rights (including the rights to education and privacy), and when that same government does nothing to curtail the routine abuses of power by public servants who believe it is their right to assume responsibility for everyone else’s children’s ‘rights’ (as long as the said children aspire to state dictated ‘outcomes’), it is time to stand up and be counted before it’s too late.
7c Ensuring adults with mental health problems are empowered to serve as public servants without violating the human rights of others
AP: Public servants with any degree of empathy may sometimes exhibit signs of stress and mental ill health as a result of having to operate in a box ticking bureaucracy with a rigid hierarchy based on power-over relationships. Having been disempowered by an inflexible system to which independent thinking is anathema and brainwashed into accepting a collectivist mindset, they are at increased risk of violating the human rights of members of the non homogenised public they are allegedly employed to serve. They too can be victims of state sponsored abuse and may need ‘support’ in carrying out their duties appropriately.
mirky: I have knowledge of a parent support worker (PSA) who lost their job because it was felt that they ’empathised too much with the client’. Relates to some of the comments posted above that talk about the culture within these services, the hierarchy etc. If a worker appears to want to do the right thing by a client, but this goes against the PTB, the worker risks losing their job. PSAs were invented suddenly and recruited under the last lot to staff Children’s Centres and perform surveillance and safeguarding. Magical funding & pop up centres were astounding, they opened tens in our county alone on the same day!. Many of the staff have been got rid of now though, but the culture they created has remained.
A long time ago, Elaine (I think) shared an observation sheet that health workers were to use (secretly, I suspect) when they entered homes. It was highly suspect and has some intriguing things that they considered as ‘at risk’ factors. It might help to share this with the conference.
Elaine: Found another doc of the type mirky refers to. This is a checklist used by e.g. the preschool staff doing the oh so innocent home visit to ‘meet and greet’.
7d Professional ‘grooming’ by public servants
AP: Public servants may use a variety of sophisticated means to ‘groom’ families into acquiescing to demands which are neither lawful nor form the basis of an honest, healthy, minimally intrusive relationship.
7e Community networking – preventing or resolving tension between families and public servants with state sponsored disorders
AP: Challenging an embedded culture of prejudice and institutionalised discrimination against your family’s lawful choices can be both daunting and exhausting, but you will find others in online communities and local groups willing to help you. However, take time to consider a wide range of opinions and beware rentseekers who are paid to provide ‘support’. By the same token, be equally suspicious of self-proclaimed ‘experts’ who may well be trojan horses with an undisclosed self-serving agenda.
8. Accepting public servants’ cultural differences within the framework of the law: Dilemmas outlined and explored
pendlewitch: The biggest problem members of the general public have is that often they don’t understand the language of the public servant’s culture.
In general parlance, to be offered support would mean receiving help, advice, encouragement and possible solutions to solve a problem. However, in the language of the public servant this is turned on its head in a rather Newspeak manner.
The misleading use of language and the manner in which it has been warped to fit a social engineering agenda is discussed in this article by Hilary Searing – the Radical Social Worker.
A news story that hit the headlines last year demonstrates just precisely how the cultural language differences cause huge problems for families who find themselves under scrutiny.
“Warned that the children must slim or be placed in care, the family spent two years living in a council-funded ‘Big Brother’ house in which they were constantly supervised and the food they ate monitored.
But despite subjecting them to intense scrutiny, social workers did not impose rules on what food the children should eat, and there was apparently little or no improvement”
Whilst one ought to take articles that appear in the Daily Mail with a pinch of salt, it is rather hard to dismiss such stories when one has heard several stories of a similar nature from personal contacts, one such example is given below in the case study.
Parents and members of the general public must remember that public servants are human beings too, and as with most humans beings, self interest is generally foremost in their minds. This was demonstrated very clearly by Peter Traves, Director of Staffordshire Children’s Services when he appeared before the Select Committee in 2009:
“We have seen recently what happens recently [sic] to directors of children’ services when things go seriously wrong – it is not only sacking, it is public humiliation and it is a very serious matter.”
Recommended Further Reading:
AP: As parents living in a multicultural, multi faceted society, it is clear from a myriad of forum posts and other networks that the public servants we come into contact with may not share the values of liberty, equality and fraternity, or belief in the principles of autonomy, personal sovereignty and self determination, that we hold so dear. Cultural differences are bound to exist in relation to the perceived role of the state in providing ‘services’ to citizens, but they are no excuse for seeking to curb others’ freedom of choice, peddle prejudices, exacerbate discrimination against minority groups and promote an illiberal culture by interfering in families’ private lives and forcing acceptance of so called ‘support’.
8a Understanding how best to relate to public servants from an alien, predominantly statist culture
Becky (via Facebook): It is important to remember, I think, that public servants are used to working within an authoritarian environment, where they are in authority over each parent they visit. They believe that they have a greater knowledge and understanding of the issues that parents face – and can easily feel threatened when they meet a parent who has a good knowledge of the law.
Remember that the public servant you are speaking to may never have come across the relevant part of home education law – or more likely they may have been given a faulty interpretation of this law by their superiors. At the same time, they are trained to question everything parents tell them. So when we tell them what the law actually says, and point out that they are acting beyond the law (ultra vires), they can find this very threatening, and this may trigger all sorts of defence mechanisms. So it is important to provide them with written evidence of what the law actually says – or relevant websites so that they can check this out for themselves. This can be done in a non-judgmental way, which treats them as intelligent adults who are able to understand the law. In my personal experience, this strategy has been effective in nearly every case – actually there has only been one exception, and I will comment about that elsewhere.
General comment by Becky (via Facebook): We need to remember that it is not only home educating families who are on the receiving end of threatening and bullying behaviour disguised as “support”. In many ways those whose children go to school are even more vulnerable – especially when a child has a long-term illness, disability or SEN. Often these parents do not have the same online support that we take for granted – and they can end up with a much larger number of “professionals” involved at any given time.
Of course, the “professionals” are happy enough to close ranks against the parent, and to copy one another’s reports without forming their own independent opinions. This gives the impression that any evidence against the family is much stronger than it actually is.
It is good practice to keep the number of “professionals” to an absolute minimum – this makes best use of everybody’s time. Otherwise far more time is spent dealing with the “professionals” as they decide who is responsible for what, and/or argue about money. It is also good practice to refuse permission for them to share information with one another – of course if they suspect abuse then they do not need any permission.
8b Recognising where value judgements can get in the way of your ability to accurately assess public servants’ motives and agendas
AP: You may think they want to help you but remember that they mostly want to help themselves.
8c Avoiding judging public servants based on your own cultural norms and assumptions
AP: This is a challenging one when we are unlikely to be singing from the same song sheet, except in rare cases of actual or evidence of significant harm to another person.
8d Knowing when it is appropriate for public servants to intervene in specific situations, and where statutory intervention should be respected
AP: Where significant harm is being caused, or is highly likely to be caused, to a child or otherwise vulnerable person, statutory and /or community intervention is reasonable. However, parents should never be fooled into believing that such harm is never perpetrated by public servants in their professional or private lives, or that it is confined to the so called ‘underclass’.
9. Best practice case studies
This session lists real-life case studies where parents have encountered intrusive and manipulative public servants, but through the application of best practice and effective networking, families have successfully resolved the issues and improved outcomes for the children concerned.
CASE STUDY 1 (Scotland): Doorstepping by social workers (link only available to signed in members of HEF private forums) A home educating family was doorstepped by two social workers on the basis that their children were not attending school. The public servants were refused entry on the grounds that it was inconvenient. On the doorstep they alleged the family should have informed the LA they were home educating when they moved to the area (untrue). The parent’s response was that there is zero information on the council’s website regarding home education (failure by the LA to adhere to the Scottish statutory guidance).
CASE STUDY 2 (Lincs): Lincolnshire County Council Home Education Monitoring (link publicly available) A home educating family was incensed when their LA unilaterally ‘revised’ its home education ‘monitoring’ policy without legal basis.
9a The nature of the public servants’ lack of adherence to the law and prejudiced practice
CASE STUDY 1 (Scotland): Letter received by a home educating family following doorstepping incident: “In relation to the visit by the two Social Workers, the Social Work Service received a referral from Health expressing concerns: as a family you had moved from Glasgow at short notice; that school aged children in your family had not attended school since February 2011 as a result of your decision to home educate; that effectively no one had seen the children since then; that your two year old child was not up-to-date with immunisations; that as a family you had not registered with a GP in the area.”
HEF comment: Parental exercise of lawful choices in health / education is being flagged as a ‘risk’ by public servants who have demonstrated ignorance of the law and prejudice specifically relating to elective home education. Why would home educated children attend school? Why are parents designated ‘effectively’ as nobodies by public servant strangers / nobodies? Why is there no information about home education on the council’s website? Why did a range of public servants make up the law and/or lie to suit their own prejudices?
CASE STUDY 2 (Lincs): The LA claimed (wrongly) that they had every right to ‘monitor’ home educators and had changed its policy unilterally to insist on acting beyond its powers as it considered the law to be ‘unsustainable’.
HEF comment: This LA admission took our breath away when it was posted on our forums.
9b How relevant communities worked together to counter the intrusive and threatening behaviour
CASE STUDY 1 (Scotland): The above scenario was brought to the HEF public forums for peer support and clarification of the relevant legislation. Sections of the statutory guidance on home education were cited and suggestions from forum members included contacting MSPs and the Education Minister directly since the family had been told blatant lies and were alleged to be failing in their parenting by dint of making lawful choices in their own children’s best interests.
CASE STUDY 2 (Lincs): This family started a formal complaints procedure calling into question the LA’s ultra vires policy revision and recorded all the details on their blog, on the HEF public forums, Facebook groups and various home ed mailing lists. They were subsequently invited to submit an article to the Hugffington Post which was linked to by all of the above: Ultra Vires Home Education Monitoring: Badman By the Back Door?
9c What the outcomes were for the children and families concerned
CASE STUDY 1 (Scotland): The family contacted MSPs and the Education Minister as suggested by forum members and were referred to their local councillor who immediately took the matter up with the LA. The LA responded with backside-covering predictability but essentially backed off and suggested they were only offering ‘support’ (something that is never forthcoming when asked for!) The family have followed up with a request for a copy of the original referral and further clarification. Meanwhile the council’s website still has no information about elective home education, like so many others across the UK.
CASE STUDY 2 (Lincs): This family have well and truly demonstrated to their LA that they are “not criminals in waiting, who need to prove our innocence on a regular basis.” They have also demostrated publicly that their local authority has “broken the law with impunity, simply because it disagrees with it – because it finds the current law on home education ‘unsustainable’.” It has taken time and energy and may still proceed to judicial review, but it has been a valuable learning experience for themselves, their home educated children and the entire community.
10. Additional case studies and personal experiences of intrusive public servants
pendlewitch: A family contacted social services for help when the father suffered a brief period of depression. Instead of being offered practical help, the family had to deal with police officers turning up on the door step every day for a two week period to make sure that the young children hadn’t been harmed. The mother in question had misguidedly been under the impression that the best thing to do in such circumstances was to ask for help. Thankfully the outcome for the family was a good one, with the father recovering without the children being removed. This was quite some years ago however and now one might reasonably wonder if the outcome would have been as good today.
Dawn (Facebook): We had a visit from a third party – (non government) organisation…within weeks we had a letter from the LEA stating they were coming for a visit within 2 weeks at our home. Actually they were not…we wrote back stating that the time and date was not convenient (we were out anyway) and reminded them of the law quoting the necessary paragraphs…The letters went back and forth, always quoting the law and then they moved up to quoting the Donaldson law ruling…so we asked them to state their concern…..they didn’t. The only thing we ever stated and did not do was fill in their “Registration Form”.
Our son had a scalding accident at the end of November and within 7 days of that we had a letter from Social Services stating they were visiting in 2 days…after a number of phone calls her main draw for the visit was…..because we home educate!
As conversations were had – it was stated we were failing to engage with the professionals????? We take them to the doctors, dentist, library, sure start centers and weigh the babies very frequently….parks, picnics, classes and socials….how do they consider this not engaging. In fact, when pressed it was hard for the social worker to keep repeating the same reason for her involvement…
On the other end, the report was positive and obviously there was no case to answer but the stress it cause because the third party sat in our lounge and said they didn’t agree with our choice to home educate, then we have the letter from the LEA, then Social Services because we wouldn’t fill in a registration form….all this in the space of 6 months and then finally with the SS at 9 months pregnant … I am still resentful and still pursuing information pending several complaints.
BTW – this is West Berkshire area local government.
Oh, I forgot to mention the report whilst good to get in my maulers….was a shambles….all the reports were factually inaccurate, all had spelling and layout and grammatical errors. The standard form itself had a spelling error. One report was written, signed and dated 7th December….he wasn’t born until 12th December. These 4 reports were also signed off by her manager. There were also things in the report which she only knew following her visit 7 weeks after the report was written! What I find horrifying is that the seem to be able to operate outside their own guidelines without any recourse.
Carol (Facebook): I don’t know if SS can be fended off where there has been an injury, perhaps someone here may know? If you have an LA that insists on “safe and well checks” following a family declining a HE visit or accepting one without the child present, at the point when an SS referral is imminent, it’s possible that a third party can be used to provide assurance to them that the child is alive and breathing. It’s not ideal but maybe less stressful for the child than a complete stranger in their home.
Becky (via Facebook): Lisa Dockery (not her real name), a home educating mother based in one of the London Boroughs, received a visit from Andrea Deknis (again, this is not her real name) – a community nurse. The visit related to Lisa’s own health, and was nothing to do with home education. Lisa’s 4 children, aged 10, 8, 6 and 2 were in the house.
In an attempt to make polite conversation (or so Lisa thought), Andrea asked why the children were not in school on that particular day. Lisa explained that they are home educated. Andrea seemed very interested in this, and expressed enthusiasm for the enormous amount of children’s artwork on display in Lisa’s house (and the big piles of books!)
At some stage during the conversation, Andrea asked whether anybody from the LA ever visited Lisa to inspect the quality of education she was providing for the children. Lisa gently explained what the law said – section 7 of the 1996 Education Act – and suggested that Andrea could look on the Education Otherwise website for more information, should she be interested.
A few days later, Lisa received a letter from an Education Welfare Officer, which contained the names and dates of birth of the three older children, and stated that the EWO would be visiting the following week as she had been made aware that these children were being educated at home.
Of course Lisa realised that Andrea must have been the person who informed the Education Welfare Service of her children’s personal details, so in the interests of honesty and openness she telephoned Andrea to see what had happened. Andrea admitted to passing the details on – she said that after leaving Lisa’s house she had telephoned an EWO at the same LA to ask whether Lisa’s explanation of the law had been correct – ie that home educating families do not need to register with the local authority. Unfortunately, the public servant on the other end of the phone (who has remained anonymous) told Andrea that Lisa was wrong – all home educating families MUST register. Naturally, Andrea believed the LA’s interpretation of the law, rather than what Lisa had said.
Lisa was concerned that the LA had been giving out incorrect legal information – this could leave them wide open to legal action from anyone adversely affected. So putting aside her own feelings, out of the compassion of her heart she telephoned Harrow’s legal department and asked to speak to a solicitor who deals with education law. Lisa explained her concerns to this solicitor – who explained that she was not able to advise Lisa, or to comment – but to leave it with her.
Within a couple of hours, Lisa received a phone call from a senior manager in the Home Education department at Harrow – this person profusely apologised for what had happened, and promised to retrain all staff so that they would know the correct legal information for the future. It was agreed that the whole situation was the fault of the local authority, as it was not unreasonable for Andrea to check what Lisa had said.
Lisa then asked whether her family could be removed from the list of “known”home educators – as had the LA given correct legal advice in the first place, Lisa would never have become “known” in the first place. This reasonable request was denied – because the LA’s policy was that regardless of how a family came to their attention, once they were on the list, that was it.
As Lisa was about to move house in any case – this didn’t matter. But it just goes to show that however well a parent believes they are getting on with a public servant, that person is likely to CHECK what you say with the local authority – rather than with the source you suggested. This should not be a problem of course – provided that LA staffare fully aware of the relevant sections of the law, and how to apply them. But while some staff feel they can make the law up as they go along, it can create a lot of extra work for the parents, in educating the relevant people within the LA, and putting in formal complaints if they feel this to be necessary.
Natasha (Facebook): I took my son to see a paediatrician and she reported us to the LA without my consent and after having praised how articulate and knowledgeable my 7 year old was! The misinformation is rife and amounts to no more than bullying by those with perceived authority. I too asked to be removed from the list and was told that was not possible.
Jayne (Facebook): Families have been removed from list in our LA (Cumbria). A family took legal advice from Christian Legal Centre and had their names removed.
Natasha (Facebook): Wow! Excellent news. I will do a follow up with a local legal adviser then, thank you.
Nicky (Facebook): If they didn’t tell you that info was being collected to be kept on a list of home educators then they can’t keep it if you object – they either your consent or legislation (exists for risk of abuse, but not for home ed!). Also, there is a draft EU data protection directive which includes the ‘right to be forgotten’ which should help with this. You may want to lobby your MEP to support that part of the directive (not the whole thing, some of that directive would stop good use of data. It is a bit of a curate’s egg!)
Becky (Facebook): Thanks Nicky – that is very interesting indeed – and ties in nicely with my studies in EU law (what I was supposed to be doing today)…
Lisa (Facebook): I have been reported by a health visitor, CPN, housing assoc officer, neighbour and doctor, not only to LA but to social services, no problems ever found. I was recently called paranoid (housing officer), I wonder why ?
Dawn (Facebook): I have just been looking at the West Berkshire Policy on access to information and it is so out of date by their own prescription it is tantamount to worthless….the document was approved in March 2007. The document states it will be reviewed biennially. The review date on the cover is January 2008. With other statements made earlier and reviewing documents related to that, plus the shambolic statement of yet another document from West Berkshire council…not to mention the appalling documents relating to home education (they even provide a Headteacher guidance document), all of which are available on line via their website, why would we want to engage or take seriously and have someone “check or monitor” us when they can not get their own house in order…? But how to tackle this where although known you are not inviting more trouble to your own door – frankly I’ve had my fair share!
Carol (Facebook): I’ve asked for the HE policy from the LA, guess what, they wouldn’t provide them as they are under review!:-) That’s LA speak for we make it up as we go along.
Maire (Facebook): FOI it!
b_staffs: Found some ‘info’ through WDTK (not from the council obviously). The council in question is notoriously bad.
There are also links to a facebook account on there with lots more info, including pre-emptive letters before an agreement has been made in court and then ignoring the order.
Lucy (Facebook): I have just applied to attend the first carer’s conference in the Scottish Parliament in Oct — two delegates going from each constituency to consider a topic chosen by carers over Scotland — services and support. So I will try to rattle some cages if I am chosen to attend in the July ballot! Wish me luck. I am a full time carer and home educator and I have practically zero support from the state for anything. All I want is help with my cleaning to allow me to do the rest. But no, that is non standard and I can’t have that paid for. I expect a proper society to pay me to care and to educate my children! Sorry wee bit OT from home-ed!
Barbara (Facebook): Two Case Studies from Notts.
Things had been quiet for a while; people were generally satisfied with the LA for the most part. At least, nothing dramatic was disturbing folk before the new broom arrived. The new “EHE programme manager” clearly understood the legalities of home education and the role of local officials, however he declared his disagreement with the law when he posted on an online forum about his distress and disbelief that there was no compulsory monitoring arrangement for home educated children. His arrival caused alarm and distress in the network with around half a dozen folk raising issues immediately about changes in practice and actual misuse of a public office to carry out ultra vires practices and harass families.
Family one – Mum was alarmed when the visitor from the local authority spent hours in her home on the appointed day, inspecting rooms including bedrooms and putting her child through extensive testing of her capabilities to date as well as questioning the mother in detail about her plans and setting out a timetable and exercises for her child with skills she should achieve by the deadline of her next visit in three months for a review!
Before the three months were up Mum, very unhappy with what she had felt “can’t be right,” got in touch with the local home ed network and met up with other families. She was supported to learn that there are a range of options for responding to enquiries. Other families responded with a written report or refused to co-operate with continual, frequent or repeated enquiry and cited sections of law and government guidelines in support of this. A few accepted home visits from an advisor they felt understood home education.
Mum decided that she would not accept any more visits at all and that in due course, when sufficient time had passed for there to be anything to report, she would send some info to the local authority. Mum wrote to the authority with an outline of her educational philosophy telling them that she would prefer to keep things in writing and cancelling the proposed three month visit. This was accepted by the programme manager.
Family two – Mum had the same experience as family one with the same ex head-teacher advisor/inspector and was expecting a follow up visit quite soon which was causing distress and was not in the interest of her child.
She contacted a regional group on Facebook and learned that she had been as abused as she had felt and set about asking how to rid herself of this pestilence.
Other home educating parents offered suggestions and examples of letters and relevant legal information which this parent used to correspond with the programme manager in order to end unwanted visits. The response from the department accepted her choice after a couple of letters.
Michelle: Over a year ago I was asked to take part in a review of Nottingham City’s EHE Policy (a separate LA to Nottinghamshire County Council). It quickly became clear that the most vocal of the local HE community had been similarly engaged. We were invited to meeting on various dates, some with a woman, Pauline, who had worked tirelessly with children who looked in danger of going down, or had gone down the path of crime or drugs and alcohol. I chose to attend the meeting where the woman from outside of our LA, not known as a member of our EHE dept, would be present.
The attendees at our meeting were assured by Pauline that she was merely a sidekick, but it soon became apparent that Pauline was in fact controlling the meeting. She was, IMO, used to being deferred to as an oracle, however, with all the home educators present at the meeting knowing the law and LA guidelines, she was soon out of her depth and being pulled up, by us, for misconceptions, untruths and misinformation. Then they produced the questionnaire,which had been sent out to “all known home educating families in the city”. Bizarrely (or not so bizarrely), none of the attendees at this meeting or at other similar meetings has received the questionnaire. When we read it at the meeting, it was quickly realised that the questionnaire over-stated LA powers and also perpetuated misinformation. We asserted that it should not be sent out until it was corrected and were told it had already gone and the deadline was imminent (this is when we learnt that none of us had received a copy – explained by saying we were to be given a copy at this meeting).
Nottingham EHE department is a one woman department, of course she has a line manager, but the line manager is in a different department. NCC home educators also received a letter a few years ago stating that due to funding cuts no monitoring visits would take place. Despite offers of help from a home educator at the meeting in drawing up the policy; declined, the policy has still not emerged in draft form.
At the close of the meeting I told the EHE advisor that I considered her annual requests for evidence of education to be regular monitoring for which there was no legal remit, would she stop sending them unless she felt there was an appearance of failure. She’s not asked for evidence since.
I found the EHE co-ordinator pleasant and apparently eager to get it right, however, a HE woman who also attended, pointed out the deference the co-ordinator showed to Pauline (the oracle who was obviously used to being deferred to) and told of how she was hounded by the same woman when she appeared less knowledgeable on the law. She had seen another side to her.
With hindsight of how the vocal members of the HE community had not received the questionnaires, its easy to see how we can be divided. Our comments might very well have skewed a well thought out questionnaire or maybe it was a case of keep your enemy close?
Still, after about 14 months, still no new policy, but on the up-side, I firmly requested that the threat of the EWO be removed from all correspondence with home educators and that Badman’s Report be removed from the NCC website. The EWO threat was removed immediately, Badman’s Report took one more email, but its now gone.
We await their next move.
Elaine: I am finding this conference really informative I haven’t contributed much, and not just because I am using a phone with sporadic connection, but because I was scared! It has helped me to see everything gathered, categorised and presented as it has been and if you run another conference I will be much more confident about contributing.
Thank you to everyone who has presented here , I am much more aware of my families rights now and how to deal with Parasitic Public Servants.
Gill: Coming in at the end of what was obviously a highly productive and certainly instructive day, just to express thanks for all the hard work and focus that’s gone into this conference. Hope I’m not too late!
I think parents are often caught off-guard by intrusions from public servants into their homes, going about their peaceful day to day lives, blissfully unaware of the full extent of the vast machine that’s been constructed to keep us all in line.
It seems like outcomes are often predetermined and agendas pre-set in this system, which is manned by human beings with all too human failings such as prejudice and cowardice, leading to any amount of back-covering at the expense of personal integrity.
The juggernaut is then engaged, and moves slowly and inexorably towards its target, behind a screen of bright smiles and cups of tea. It’s such a very British way to turn someone’s world upside-down, because even if a case is closed without further action taken, I imagine the family in question will never feel as safe and secure as they were before the intrusion occurred.
Yes, some children do need to be rescued but that Eileen Munroe quote in post #2: “It doesn’t get easier to find a needle in a haystack if you make the haystack bigger,” should surely mark the boundary of constraint for the impact of a parasitic industry on the unmolested functioning of a healthy, happy family.
Parenting ain’t broke – except by being repeatedly undermined by the underlying approach of some of those trying to fix it. And I know it suits the economy to have every parent in the workplace, even if half of them have to be policing the other parents or ‘caring’ for each other’s children, but we’re already starting to see the results of that kind of strategy in UK town centres every night of the week. And those are just the easily visible outcomes – the tips of the iceberg.
Sadly, along with the parenting manuals and the baby slingmeets, we now need to wise up on this whole other, murky sphere of information to keep our children safe and happy, and the title of this conference sums that up neatly. Many thanks to Ali, Sheila and everyone else involved for holding the torch.
What a privilege it has been to host this online conference and receive submissions from so many experts! Thank you to everyone who has taken part on HEF and on the Facebook event page, and to those who have commented elsewhere. We seem to have achieved quite a wide ‘reach’!
What started out as a spoof reaction to the agenda of an offensive parent-bashing conference being held elsewhere today (at great public expense) generated so much interest that we decided to run with the idea of an alternative conference, not knowing quite what to expect. It has certainly surpassed our expectations!
Thank you again to all those who took part.