As we reported in our recent article, GIRFEC, data mining, consent and the Named Person: who’s misleading whom?, the legal challenge to the anti-family Part 4 of the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act has now been officially launched. A small crowd of supporters was in attendance on 9th July, along with an impressive media turn out, as the legal papers were hand delivered to the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Several tourists asked what was going on and were shocked to be told about the nature of the legislation. Even a gaggle of law lords en route to their hallowed benches seemed interested in the throng, while the home educated young people and their parents looked forward to embarking on what will be a steep, but compelling, legal learning curve as the judicial review proceeds.
Here’s what some of the NO2NP supporters had to say on the day:
Meanwhile our petition has now well exceeded 4000 signatures and is still attracting considerable interest from those who were previously unaware of the issues, or who were duped into believing that the Part 4 provisions are designed to improve child protection, as opposed to introducing a universal state surveillance scheme and imposing an unwanted state guardian on every child in Scotland.
In recent weeks we have been hearing some seriously worrying reports of malicious referrals and the deliberate undermining of parents by a variety of professionals acting as unwanted ‘named persons’, where their unwelcome interference has caused significant damage and distress to children and families. What was it Aileen Campbell said about there being no requirement to engage with a named person? Why are these people being allowed to get away with acting ultra vires?
Take the case of the parent who, out of courtesy, notified a primary school head teacher that her child would be home educated after the summer holidays, as had been discussed and agreed as the best course of action with medical professionals and a psychologist. Rather than accept the parent’s decision, this state appointed ‘named person’ saw fit to refer the child to the Reporter because she did not agree with it, resulting in extreme stress for the family and wasting valuable social work resources on an unnecessary and intrusive investigation. ‘No further action’ was the inevitable outcome, but at what cost to the family’s wellbeing?
Another parent who recently visited A&E after her child sustained a minor injury was informed that details would automatically be sent to the child’s GP and head teacher as the state appointed ‘named person’. The parent was not asked for consent to share the information outside the NHS and she is now so concerned about an outsider having access to her family’s health records that she will think twice before using the NHS or any other public ‘service’.
Given that the named person provision of the CHYP Act does not come into force until 2016 and is in any case subject to judicial review, we have to ask under what legislation or guidance are A&E doctors presuming to routinely share information outside the NHS about a child’s treatment without obtaining informed parental consent? If head teachers and other universal services now have carte blanche to access and trawl the medical records of children and all associated adults, current and historical (and we have had reports of this happening), it begs the question: whatever happened to the duty of confidentiality?
The tragic case of Mikaeel Kular demonstrates that the state can never guarantee to ‘get it right for every child’ and the findings of the SCR will no doubt uncover the usual multi-agency failures from which “lessons will be learned”. But while social work departments remain woefully under resourced, front line social workers will come under intolerable pressure to respond to a growing mountain of referrals generated by GIRFEC. As we have already seen here (and as was the disastrous experience of the misguided ECM in the Isle of Man), many such referrals will be based on ignorance and/or old fashioned prejudices, leading to the diversion of resources from – and potentially tragic consequences for – the most vulnerable children who are “at risk of significant harm”.
As one social worker commented on the Home Education Forums:
“It seems to me that while GIRFEC has widened the safety net it has unfortunately led to a loss of focus and clarity in child protection matters. It will be interesting to read the Significant Case Review into the death of Mikaeel Kular. Questions will certainly be asked about the effectiveness of information-sharing between social workers in Fife and Edinburgh. Obviously this was a serious case of child neglect but it was not recognised as such and was closed. Information-sharing is essential in cases where the child is at risk of ‘significant harm’ but social workers clearly need to improve their skills in this area of their work.”
Of course child protection is not an area the ‘wellbeing wonks’ can hope to have a clue about with only a B.Ed (Hons) in crowd control, but it would appear that even professional social work training has been infected by what has been described as the Cult of SHANARRI where tick box tyranny has replaced professional assessment skills. One social work student has told us that she dropped out of her course as she felt she was being “trained for the Stasi”, while others have abandoned teaching, nursery nurse and midwifery courses for similar reasons. Childminders have also expressed resentment at being expected to engage in daily data theft for the state without the knowledge of parents which they believe is a betrayal of trust. How on earth can the teaching unions have failed so spectacularly to spot the Trojan Horse that is the Curriculum for Excellence and ‘personalised learning’ (towards the same state dictated outcomes!)?
And while we’re on a roll, how can anyone seriously support the practice of universal data collection and sharing when the Scotsman has informed us that:
“Doctors, teachers and former police officers are among 660 suspected paedophiles arrested as part of a major UK-wide crackdown on those viewing child pornography online. The National Crime Agency (NCA) said its six-month operation – which involved 45 police forces – had led to the arrest of those who had access to children through their jobs and had no previous contact with the police. A total of 660 people were arrested, including 13 in Scotland.”
and the Express has reported that:
“Young runaways or children in care were lured in, drugged and then sexually abused. Many were then forced to work as ‘rent boys’ at a number of seedy secret flats across the Capital. The paedophile ring is thought to have operated over several decades and to have included, at one time or another, well-known TV personalities, lawyers and police officers. Victims were forced to stay quiet by a fear of reprisals, with at least one murder of a young man rumoured to have been carried out by the network. In a chilling echo of the abuse scandal currently rocking Westminster, it now appears that a dossier of Scottish paedophiles with links to Paton was prepared in 1982 – but never made public.”
Need we mention Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, both of whom fronted child safety campaigns? Or the catalogue of professional child abusers which we have been adding to our frighteningly long list on a frighteningly regular basis? Who is going to ‘fix it’ for the victims of data theft by unsavoury professionals using the handy ‘paedophiles’ address book’ by which GIRFEC has become known? Once an individual’s privacy has been violated, whether by brute force or via coerced ‘consent’, it can never be recovered. As yet, the government has failed to tell us what redress will be available when they ‘get it wrong’ for our child’.