The NO2NP Inverness roadshow on 1 October 2014 attracted a lively audience concerned about the implications of the Children and Young People Act for every family in Scotland. The NO2NP campaign has now uploaded Alison Preuss’s presentation to its YouTube channel.
NO2NP presentation, Inverness – Alison Preuss
Home educators tend to have highly sensitive ‘early identification’ antennae to detect threats to our existence because we are a bit of a misunderstood and misrepresented minority. 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 since the Children & Young People Bill was still just a twinkle in the present government’s eye.
But we are just one among many square peg minorities who don’t fit the round holes prepared for us by the state for dispensing its ‘wellbeing’ prescriptions. I expect several here tonight are also ‘square pegs’ who are being regularly hammered into unnatural shapes by ‘services’ for reasons of disability, chronic illness, cultural difference, or even just for making independent parenting choices.
Having said that, I am probably the saddest square peg here tonight (perhaps with the exception of my colleague Sheila) on two counts:
- Firstly, we have been at this for such a long time, since about 2001 when home educators were tipped off (by a teacher, ironically) to the systematic data collection that was going on. Once we started digging, we just couldn’t stop, realising that children’s rights to privacy were being routinely breached and information was also being gathered about every associated adult without their knowledge (all in the run up to the planned introduction of ID cards). Action on Rights for Children (ARCH) was founded by a small group of us to focus on children’s rights in education as nobody else was bothering to uphold the UNCRC as a whole, just picking and mixing the Articles to suit an adult orchestrated agenda. We quickly became a thorn in the government’s side, producing well researched evidence of the illegal databasing of children across the UK and delivering a Big Brother Award on behalf of Privacy International to Margaret Hodge, the then UK children’s minister. It is still the case that children’s rights are being selectively applied and ‘children’s rights champions’ are doing pretty good impressions of chocolate fireguards. Playing the ‘children’s rights’ card as an excuse to intrude into their lives, database their families’ sensitive personal information and force them into doing something against their will, where they are not ‘at 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 if you don’t have the right to refuse, like forcing a Named Person on every child without opt out.
- Secondly in the sadness stakes, we failed to wake up the population in time (or even the politicians who screamed blue murder about ID cards) to the creeping surveillance agenda, but it’s not for the want of trying. Politicians have no excuse, but people just didn’t believe it was happening, or could happen, or even that it had already happened in Scotland, with only a judicial review between us and the loss of family autonomy.
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 has effectively consigned most parents and children to the ‘criminals in waiting’ class. Tony Benn famously described it as “the sort of thing Hitler talked about”, and as we have heard on earlier roadshows from 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.
GIRFEC (Getting Information Recorded For Every Citizen) is actually the evil Scottish twin of England’s ECM (Every Citizen Monitored), and the Named Person scheme is the equivalent of England’s Contact Point which had become known as ‘the paedophiles’ address book’ before it was scrapped. Both schemes involve the routine gathering and sharing of children and associated adults’ personal data on a universal basis without consent, i.e. data rape (a term cited in a Westminster parliamentary motion condemning the database state). Both schemes use illegally obtained data to profile citizens and force interventions based on a bunch of so-called risk indicators. In Scotland these are known by the acronym SHANARRI and have gained cult status among professionals who have been missold GIRFEC as a child protection scheme. Their heads must all button up the back.
As a real child protection expert, Eileen Munro, famously asked “How does making the haystack bigger help identify the most vulnerable children?” State snoopers covertly recording every child’s pet bereavements, lunch box contents, pocket money rates and mummy and daddy’s failure to buy the latest trainers isn’t exactly going to help the children who are already known to be at risk of something far worse than missing out on their five a day. Professional social workers (like Maggie Mellon and Hilary Searing) agree, and it’s social workers who could improve outcomes for children at serious risk if there were more of them on the ground with adequate support and resources. Lowering the child protection threshold from ‘at risk of significant harm’ to ‘at risk of not meeting state dictated wellbeing outcomes’ based on a risk assessment framework that includes being under 5, an only child, having a disabled parent or one who is ‘non engaging’ is a recipe for disaster. In fact it was a complete disaster in the Isle of Man which had to scrap a similar scheme when children’s services melted down due to over-referral.
GIRFEC may have been ‘piloted’ here in Highland, but it’s not a Scottish idea. It’s part of the same outcomes based policy that is being pursued relentlessly throughout the EU and relies heavily on accumulating every bit of data about every one of us to allow the government to cross reference information and control the citizenry through proactive ‘nudging’ and intervention. E-profiling is 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 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 know I don’t score highly according to their round hole criteria, but by my own lights I reckon I’m doing just fine without interference!
To put the dangers of e-profiling into context, let me quote from a 2010 research paper by Ian Dent of the University of Cambridge entitled ‘Beyond Broadband: the true cost of digital Britain’. This might sound familiar to those who have listened to Scottish Ministers justifying their ‘need’ to know everything about us to provide the ‘services’ they decide we need for our wellbeing.
“The EU has spent almost £470bn creating a system that enables it to monitor the impact of citizens within the economy, and allocate public spending budgets according to the credit score a citizen receives in this e-system.”
“The EU believes that technology can create a utopia whereby all the information they have on the population can be cross-referenced to provide in-depth data that helps them make financial decisions in the most logical way.”
(That’s GIRFEC for you)
The author gave this example to show how data can be used to ‘credit score’ a human being’s ‘worth’:
“ In a world of e-profiling, a woman whose mother had died of breast cancer and was unemployed for 10 years would have difficulty gaining access to expensive drugs or treatments on the future e-controlled NHS because her “worth-to-the-economy profile” would be low.”
(‘Getting It Right For Every Child Citizen & Community’, which is already well under way in Inverclyde, starts to look a bit sinister in that context)
So it’s all about the data – your children’s data and your own – and they are closing in. We keep having to catch up with hasty rebranding exercises (which we feel we may be partly responsible for, along with Kenneth Roy at the Scottish Review and bloggers who have been banging the same drum). Take the Evidence2Success school survey which caused a stooshie in Perth and Kinross due to its notorious questioning of pupils on their sexual and drug taking habits. It has just been quietly rebranded as ChildrenCount so that it could be rolled out in fluffy new sheep’s wellbeing clothing to the school children of Dundee, Angus and North Ayrshire where parental consent has been deemed unnecessary as some of them might make a fuss. Unfortunately for those conducting the N Ayrshire supplementary household survey, the ‘Saltcoats Solution’ was deployed by parents who collectively rebuffed the advances of strange blokes asking dodgy questions about young children. They’ll be back, of course.
What is currently happening on the ground isn’t pretty. As a national charity Schoolhouse takes a large number of enquiries from families looking into home education. Traditionally it has been a 50/50 split between parents making a positive choice and those who have reached the end of the school road (often due to special needs or bullying). Since we set up our online petition to raise awareness of the agenda behind GIRFEC, we have been fielding significantly more enquiries from families who have no interest in home ed per se but who report they are being bullied, threatened and victimised by Named Persons assuming the role of state sponsored dictators.
Since Holyrood passed the legislation in February, we have been inundated as more families are experiencing unwanted interference by Named Persons up to and including referrals to the children’s reporter on spurious grounds. This is happening a full two years before the Named Person provision is scheduled to come into force, but families are already having their personal data stolen and assessed by multi-agency box tickers who may not personally approve of particular parenting choices 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 resulted in 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 evidence, supposedly gleaned from the Highland pilot, for imposing a data collector on every child in Scotland?
- For starters, it was predicated on a lie – Danielle Reid, the five year old who was murdered, despite multiple concerns being raised about her safety, was the original poster child for GIRFEC, but she was quietly dropped when we revealed the dates didn’t add up and the project was already far advanced, just waiting for a suitable grave to rob. Victoria Climbie was the ECM equivalent who was also failed by multiple services, most notably the NSPCC.
- Secondly it was selective – GIRFEC was not a universally imposed ‘service’, but one in which parents whose children had additional needs were over-represented and likely to welcome a single point of contact, having been serially fobbed off in the past.
The social engineers have of course been busy defending the indefensible.
- The chief cheerleader for Highland hailed it as a success while being economical with the aforementioned facts. It is well documented that targeted multi agency working is effective if properly resourced. It usually isn’t, and compulsory, as opposed to invitational, universal inclusion is bound to fail, just as it did in the Isle of Man, but not before causing lasting damage to services and families alike.
- It was publicly claimed there were no complaints from parents, but the press has carried stories of parents who did complain and were ignored. Some of them are here tonight and others are still complaining. We know because we have been hearing from them on a regular basis.
- The ‘evidence’ is purely policy based, having been commissioned from vested interests who need to justify their own existence for the next funding round. The so called ‘children’s workforce’ is big business and the public sector and big state funded charities have all fallen into line, drowning out smaller grass roots groups who have witnessed the pitfalls at first hand. All attempts to obtain raw data have so far failed.
- Finally, our favourite claim is that the 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 have we heard that one before?) If it’s really so great and service users are all asking for it, it surely begs the question, why make it compulsory?
These cheerleaders’ arguments are well rehearsed and often repeated by those who haven’t bothered to think for themselves, so here are some ripostes we prepared earlier.
- “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear.” Tell that to Ashya King’s parents. Personally, I am happier hiding my cellulite from public view, thank you very much, although it isn’t a crime to eat too many cakes (yet!). Also remember that “privacy is a necessary condition of mental health”, which is why it is specifically protected in human rights legislation.
- “If it saves just one child…” Well it didn’t save Mikaeel Kular, who was known to children’s services in Fife where the GIRFEC Named Person is already operational and already causing problems for home educating families who have been subject to 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 predetermined wellbeing outcomes. Why not actually address the needs of parents and children who are already queuing up to ask for support they have identified as necessary but are being turned away through lack of resources or disagreement 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 safe from state intervention. The bar has now been set so low that we’re all deemed a risk to our children’s ‘wellbeing’.
Fortunately the judicial review is in progress, but who would have thought that ordinary parents would need to go to court to protect their children from the government’s assault on their human rights? Given the Haringey case precedent, where Article 8 was upheld and data processing without consent deemed unlawful below the established ‘at risk’ threshold, and given that the entire legal establishment in Scotland has come out against the anti-family provisions in the CHYP Act, they are digging themselves an enormous hole and won’t even share their legal advice (no doubt still on the back of Kenny MacAskill’s fag packet and carrying a health warning). For the sake of every child, we can’t afford for the legal challenge to fail.
In the meantime we have a few tactics to keep the wolves from the door.
- 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. Go figure!
- Avoid providing personal information to service providers 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 claim they need to prove they have met their outcomes, to get their next grant and provide future services (you get the drift).
- Submit subject access requests under the Data Protection Act to obtain your own and your children’s records. 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 she was emigrating to Egypt, 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? The Assistant Info Commissioner seems remarkably complacent and is even quoted in Perth and Kinross Council’s training manual that encourages staff to break the law, but his lay ‘opinion’ looks very shoogly in the context of the Haringey judgement and when compared to the opinion of leading counsel.
- Make formal complaints about every concern you have as a parent about the actions of your child’s NP – whether a health visitor, nursery worker, teacher or ‘other’. Consider asking for access to their police, health and social work records so that you can satisfy yourself as to their suitability to work with your child. On the Home Ed Forums website you’ll find a 50 page thread listing professionals convicted of abusing children. Rotherham hasn’t inspired confidence and Scotland has plenty of its own embarrassing skeletons rattling their way out of the closet. The ‘paedophiles’ address book’ label still applies.
- Finally, when you find government agents at your door announcing they’re there to help you, employ the Saltcoats Solution and send them away with a NO2NP leaflet!