This is a response to the questions posed by Ian Dowty here.
The NSPCC, after carrying out national research into people’s views is of the view that “Child abuse can take four forms, all of which can cause long term damage to a child: physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and child sexual abuse. Bullying and domestic violence are also forms of child abuse.” Do you agree? Are there any other forms of abuse, in your view?
First off, the NSPCC are a government sock-puppet, and should take a long walk off a short pier. And yes, I can think of another form of abuse – abuse of state power to destroy the privacy, dignity, and autonomy of every single child in the country. There are individual monsters out there who beat, rape, bully and starve children (and it is important to note that a fair proportion of this abuse occurs while those children are in the care of the state). This has always, sadly, been the case. But for the Government to claim ownership of our children, to determine ‘outcomes’ for them, to measure and monitor and herd them like cattle, until they are no more capable of deciding their fate than cattle; to steal, by increment, freedoms we have held dear since time immemorial – that is evil on an unimaginable scale, and the single biggest threat our children have ever faced.
There is concern that a child who is not registered at a school may suffer abuse from a carer. Is it accepted or not that might happen?
Of course it might happen. It would be utterly naïve to suppose that it couldn’t. Any child may suffer abuse, whether they are registered at school or not. Most children don’t, thankfully. You could argue that a carer who has chosen to remain responsible for their child, instead of packing them off for sometimes woefully inadequate state provision, would be by definition less likely to abuse their children. Certainly children who are not registered at a school are not, by definition, more likely to suffer abuse.
If it happens, is it accepted that the child should be able to disclose the abuse with a view to ensuring the abuse stops?
I don’t quite understand this question. Is it asking if abused children should be capable of disclosing abuse? Clearly, not all abused children will be, due to age, impairment, or for the reasons listed below. Is it asking if children should have the opportunity to disclose abuse? In which case the question is repeated, and answered, below.
If the child is abused, is it possible that the child is unable to tell anyone about this (eg. because the child does not realise the abuse exists, believes it is not abuse, believes no one can stop the abuse, is too ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone, fears the consequences (for the child or the carer) of disclosure of the abuse, fears that no-one will believe the disclosure, fears that the abuse will increase)?
Yes, of course.
Is it possible, if the child is being abused, that the child might be kept away from people when there is a risk of disclosure?
Yes, of course.
In either case, or both cases, should there be some provision of an opportunity for the child to be able to disclose the abuse? What would that opportunity be; how would it be arranged for there to be such an opportunity?
That’s what I’d like to know. Bearing in mind that we are talking about children where there has been no prior indication of abuse (otherwise they would, hopefully, be dealt with through child protection measures) how on earth could such an opportunity be arranged? If a child is not disclosing abuse (in the overwhelming majority that would be because there is no abuse to disclose) ,and is being kept away from people (I am not sure what is meant by people here; it would be difficult to keep a child away from all people, so I’m going to assume it means ‘professional’ people – and Lord knows there could a million perfectly innocent reasons for keeping a child away from them) what exactly can be done? Are we to periodically drag children off into a room, alone, and interrogate them? Ask them if they’re being abused? That would be ridiculous, not to mention abusive in itself – for an innocent family, it would be traumatic enough; for a child who is being abused and “does not realise the abuse exists, believes it is not abuse, believes no one can stop the abuse, is too ashamed or embarrassed to tell anyone, fears the consequences (for the child or the carer) of disclosure of the abuse, fears that no-one will believe the disclosure, fears that the abuse will increase” it is difficult to imagine that such an approach would not cause further damage to the child. Even if this happened, there is no guarantee that an abused child would choose to disclose. In the absence of a mind-reading machine (I hesitated before typing that, for fear of giving the powers that be any ideas) there is no way of ensuring that an abused child will tell anyone about their situation.
Is it sufficient that there be an opportunity for the child to disclose or should there be
some opportunity for the abuse to be discovered? What would that opportunity be; how would it be arranged for there to be such an opportunity?
Again how exactly could this be done? Are we to subject children to mandatory, random health checks? Remove them from their parents, strip them naked and check for suspicious bruising? This would no doubt reveal some cases of abuse; but it couldn’t reveal them all (nothing could) and would in itself be horrendously damaging.
Should there be someone outside the carers who can afford the possibility of disclosure or discovery of the abuse? Who could that be? How could that be provided?
See above. Also, although there are a few cases of children being locked in a room and deprived of all contact with the outside world ( and they really are extremely rare, and the neighbours tend to realise something is up) almost all children are in contact with other people other than their carers, providing ample opportunity to disclose abuse if the child is willing and able to do so. For the same reason, there is ample opportunity for abuse to be discovered. If there is a disclosure or a reasonable suspicion of abuse, those concerns should be dealt with through current child protection procedures. Many cases of abuse aren’t disclosed or discovered – that is the devious nature of child abuse. Short of something like the draconian measures described above; short of putting CCTV in every room in every house ( these measures, apart from being ethically unjustifiable, would be highly impractical and probably still couldn’t stop every instance of wrong-doing) there is no way of making sure abuse will be detected. It is a very sad fact, but fact it is. To assume that a child is being abused in the absence of any evidence, then put the onus on parents to prove otherwise, is in itself an abuse –against the child, against the family, and against justice.
Should someone ‘see’ that child to afford an opportunity for disclosure and/or discovery of the abuse?
No. The idea of someone looking for signs of abuse, where there has been no prior indication of wrong-doing, just in case, is utterly repugnant. It would constitute a gross invasion of privacy and an attack on the dignity of child and family, and would most likely be counter productive as it would draw resources away from children who are suffering abuse. It would also – and this is the really scary part – completely do away with the presumption of innocence. It would make every parent and carer a child abuser by default, until the government had done it’s checks (which in any case could not reveal every instance of child abuse) and deemed them innocent. This argument goes far beyond home education. It concerns the relationship between the citizen and the state; it concerns our most fundamental rights. To demand access to peoples’ children just in case those children are being abused is comparable to the police conducting random raids on peoples’ houses, just in case they are selling drugs. Such a move would be politically unacceptable; but seemingly all the government has to do is fund one of it’s ‘charities’ to put a greetin-faced child actress on the television, scream ‘child abuse!’ and it’s a done deal – we are living in a totalitarian state, and nobody dares complain because ‘it’s for the kiddies’.
Or, should the position be taken that as there is some evidence that a 2 or 3 children in every class in school are suffering or have suffered abuse at the hands of their carers which goes undetected at the moment, and b. local authority inspection of home education provision has failed to discover abuse (for instance in the case of Eunice Spry) that no system that can be devised of some sort of ‘seeing the child’ and that therefore nothing should be done as nothing effective can be done?
Although these examples prove that being in full view of the authorities will not necessarily result in abuse being exposed (indeed, in the Eunice Spry case, those children were placed in an abusive situation by the authorities, who then proceeded to ignore the poor souls when they did disclose the abuse), my objection is not because a system of ‘seeing the child’ would be ineffective; but because it would amount to subjecting our children, and our children’s children, to a dystopian nightmare of a future that they may never be able to escape in exchange for maybe (and probably not) protecting them from a statistically small risk of abuse in the present.
Or, if the child is abused, is there no need for something be done about it?
Who the hell is suggesting that? Although as the definition of abuse grows ever broader, there may well be some cases of ‘abuse’ (in certain agencies’ double-speak) where the cure is worse than the disease.
If there is a need for something to be done, is the current system perfectly OK, or sufficient or adequate? If it is not, should something else be done, and what should that be?
What is meant by “perfectly OK, or sufficient or adequate”? Does it mean a system which prevents all cases of child abuse? That would be impossible.
Where there is a reasonable suspicion that a child is at risk of serious harm, there are procedures in place. Whether those procedures are followed properly is another matter; sometimes, they aren’t. Even if the system is perfectly implemented (which is also impossible) there are always, sadly, going to be a few cases that slip through the net. This doesn’t necessarily show the system to be at fault; it just shows that there are some evil people out there, who do evil things, and are devious about it.
As it might be said that it cannot be known to people other than the carer whether the
child is suffering abuse, should any system developed to maximise the opportunity for disclosure or discovery of abuse, be offered to all children?
No. “Offered” is a poor choice of word; such a system would, by necessity, involve compulsion, and it would be utterly unacceptable to introduce such a system for the reasons stated above.
If it should be offered to all children, is the offer sufficient, in the case of children who attend at a school, simply by virtue of their attendance at school?
It shouldn’t be ‘offered’ in the first place.
If it should be offered to all children, should it be offered to children who do not attend at school?
If it can be said that children who attend at school are automatically ensured of such an offer, should there be some provision to ensure that the same quality of offer is provided to children who are not registered at a school? Should it be mandatory that every child have that opportunity? How would the opportunity be provided?
No, no, no. No child or family should be subjected to the unwelcome scrutiny of the state, unless there is a significant, specific concern that a child is being abused.
Rather than any compulsory system, should a voluntary system of ‘seeing’ or having
‘contact’ with every child be encouraged? Would that suffice? Or, would that not reach the child who needs to be reached?
A voluntary system of the child being “seen”? What, like stepping out the front door? I must assume that being “seen” means being checked by a government employee. If a family, or a child, wants to be seen in this sense of the word there is nothing stopping them. If they don’t want to be seen, that is their business. The danger is that a “voluntary” system would become a compulsory system, as those who didn’t want to be seen would regarded with suspicion – “I see you haven’t signed up for our voluntary system. What have you got to hide?”, or, “So-and-so up the road was quite happy to let us in. Why aren’t you? ”. Cue social services kicking the door down. And what exactly does “encouraged” mean? Encouraged by who?
“Would that suffice?” suggests that such a system is necessary in the first place. It isn’t.
If local authority staff were trained in and exhibited a full appreciation of the law and
practice of home education, would home educators be more or less likely to engage in
voluntary contact with their local authority?
I wouldn’t presume to speak for home educators, or anyone else for that matter. If a family wants to engage with their local authority, that should be up to them. If a family doesn’t want to engage, that should be up to them too. Certainly if local authorities are going to be sticking their nose in where it isn’t wanted they could at least have the decency to make sure they know what they’re talking about.
Is there a balance to be struck between offering the possibility of disclosure or discovery of abuse to a child and the sanctity of family life?
No. There is a balance to be struck when there is a specific concern that a child is at risk of serious harm, and no doubt it is not easy. However, if on the one hand you have the sanctity of family life and on the other a possibility of a disclosure of possible (and unlikely) abuse, the scales are so out of balance it would be laughable if it weren’t so terrifying.
Or is there an absolute right to family privacy? Is there an absolute right to raise children as a carer sees fit?
Yes, unless there is a reasonable suspicion of abuse, in which case child protection procedures should be followed.
If there is an absolute right to raise children as the carer sees fit, should nothing be
offered to a child who is suffering abuse at the hands of the carer?
If a child is found to be suffering abuse, child protection procedures should be followed.
Is it thought possible that a child might be being abused by someone other than a carer but that the child might not feel able to disclose this to the carer? Should this child be afforded the opportunity to disclose the abuse to another person? Should another person than the carer have an opportunity to discover the abuse? How could these opportunities be arranged?
Deja vu, anyone?
Do you consider that there is sufficient concern that a home educated child might be
abused by a carer to necessitate that all home educated children should be ‘seen’?
No – and no amount of concern would be sufficient to warrant such measures (again, in themselves abusive) in the absence of any evidence that home educated children are more likely to be abused than those in school. Nothing could justify such invasive, abusive procedures for any child where there is no specific concern that they are at risk of serious harm.
Or do you consider that any such action should only be taken when there has been a report of a suspicion that the child is at risk of significant harm?
If a ‘safe and well’ check for all home educated children was established to be completely separate from any educational assessment, would your view differ?
Neither “safe and well” checks nor “educational assessments” are necessary, and both could be extremely damaging if carried out under compulsion.
If such a check was formally introduced for all children, would your view differ?
No. That would be like a Jew on the way to a Nazi death camp saying, “Oh, it’s OK, the Commies are getting it too”.
Would your answers be any different if the concern of the local authority is not to
establish whether children are safe but whether the aims of the ECM agenda are being achieved?
As there are already procedures in place for dealing with children at risk of significant harm, it is patently obvious that pushing the ECM agenda is at the very heart of local authorities’ concerns. ECM ( and GIRFEC, it’s equally evil twin) is the most obnoxious piece of totalitarian dogma ever to be foisted upon this country and I am fundamentally opposed to it and all it’s aims.
Would you be more, or less, likely to ask your local authority for services to assist your children if by doing so, the local authority or service provider will complete a common assessment framework?
Unless it was absolutely necessary for my child’s welfare, I wouldn’t even consider asking for services if it meant filling in such an intrusive assessment.
How can the DCSF and its ministers be convinced that they will not be adversely
criticised in the press and by the general public if there is a child, who is of compulsory school age but who is not registered at a school, who is abused?
Are such delicate flowers fit to govern? However, we all know that in reality this review is not about detecting child abuse, nor is it about public opinion. It is about making sure nobody escapes surveillance and regulation by the state.
In this situation, are they more or less likely to be adversely criticised if there is a
compulsory system that ensures every child is ‘inspected’? Are they more or less likely to be criticised if the status quo persists?
They will be criticised regardless. If they have the inspection, they will be criticised for missing the abuse; if they don’t have the inspection, they will be criticised for not having the inspection. Government will always be open to criticism – or at least they should be. Welcome to politics. Again, this is not about detecting child abuse, nor is it about public opinion. Indeed, it is difficult to see how this government, or politicians in general, could make themselves any more unpopular at this point. This all about control.
If they believe that they are more likely than not to be adversely criticised if the status
quo exists, are they likely to accept that? Or are they likely to want to bring in greater
regulation of home education?
The government is intent on assessing and regulating the lives of all children through the ECM/GIFREC agenda and home educated children are no exception. The whole review of home education in England is a sham; the premise is flawed, and the outcome is predetermined. This is not about protecting children from possible abuse at the hands of their parents; it is a small part of a larger agenda, to pave the way for a totalitarian regime who will have complete ownership of it’s citizens, and complete control over their lives. It is an attack on our freedom, our privacy, our dignity, and our right to self-determination. There can be no compromise.