Sunday, February 15, 2009

For *all* parents

A relatively short post from me today. I waive all copyright on the following: you can alter it, adapt it, use it and post it anywhere you like. You don't have to attribute it to me or link it back to here: in fact it might be more powerful if you don't. It's just that various people have been commenting here and emailing me to the effect that the upcoming changes will affect all parents and families and that everyone needs to know about it quickly, before the net is completely closed. I don't know if I can do the situation justice, which is why I say please alter/rewrite it in whatever way you think fit, and it's probably already too late in many respects anyway - but we have to at least try to spread the word now, I think. Here goes..

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The time has come for all parents to wake up and become aware of the massive legal changes to UK law that are being rolled out and will affect us all. Even parents who live outside of the UK should look out for this coming to their country and try to stop it before it happens. Here, the new system is called Every Child Matters (http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/) and it seeks to monitor and control every aspect of every child's life.

The ECM regime is centred around five 'outcomes', with which every child is expected to comply, but the outcomes don't mean what they imply. "Be healthy," "Stay safe," "Enjoy and achieve," "Make a positive contribution," and "Achieve economic well-being," all sound quite harmless and beneficial, but when you scratch the surface they actually mean something quite different.

The five outcomes are all measured by a whole raft of indicators, and if your child is seen to be failing in any outcome, he or she will be put through an eCAF (http://tinyurl.com/ag6686) which is a long and extremely invasive questionnaire that collects information about every aspect of the child's life, and lodges the answers in the child's file on the new Contactpoint database. If you look at the end of the questions, you will see the requirement for an 'action plan', the progress of which is to be tracked, monitored and recorded on the child's file.

The thing is, the criteria for the outcomes is going to be so tight that it will be almost impossible for every child to reach them all the time. For example, the draft guidance for anyone coming into contact with children on 'When to suspect child maltreatment' (http://tinyurl.com/bv23r2) includes things like inappropriate, or ill-fitting clothes, not taking prescribed medicine, 'excessive clinginess', temper tantrums, or other 'inappropriate behaviour'. If you've got children, you will know that most can and will fall foul of at least one of those points in stressful circumstances. The 'Stay Safe' outcome is then breached and an eCAF carried out.

But the most worrying outcome is the last one. 'Achieve economic wellbeing' actually means that any child whose family on a lower than average income (which is actually quite high: http://tinyurl.com/b76f2r and is worked out *after* housing costs and tax) who is receiving Child Tax Credits, when both parents are not in full-time employment, will fail to meet the outcome and be made the subject of an eCAF and associated action plan. Causing a child to live in [relative] poverty is now seen as abusive and this may not affect you now, but hardly anyone's position is 100% safe in the current economic climate. To address the issue of lack of jobs, the government is working with corporate 'partners' to bring in a full-time compulsory workfare programme.

The 'Every Child Matters' and Anti-Child Poverty programmes are not designed only to help children in real need. Systems are already in place to help those children and our state welfare system ensures that nobody ever needs to go hungry in this country. The intention - and the result, if we do nothing - will be to completely change the nature of normal family life forever.

So what can we do? This is difficult. Most of the changes are happening by Statutory Instrument, which is not voted on in Parliament, so your MP is probably unable to make a difference although it might help to write to them with your concerns (http://www.writetothem.com/). Petitions are usually ignored in matters of major reform programmes such as these, and protest marches seem to have very little effect. Voting for a different political party will not help: all the main parties are committed to doing the same thing, or worse.

Perhaps the most powerful thing you can do just now is to talk to other parents. Pass this message around, post it on forums, send it in emails. If you know anyone who works with children or is likely to come into contact with them in a professional capacity, talk to them especially about it. Ask them if they realise the full extent of the planned changes and consequences, so that pressure can be put on the relevant trade unions to try to resist the process. As a parent, you would be wise to consider your family's position in the light of the changes, and possibly also to advise or warn your children accordingly.

But long-term, these new and invasive laws and systems need to be repealed. The political party system will not do it. We need independent MPs with the strength and integrity to work together in reversing all of the recent seismic legal attacks on our civil liberty. Do you know anyone who would be willing to stand as an independent MP on this issue? It might be the one thing that actually gets people out to vote.

21 Comments:

Blogger Gill said...

LOL, it wasn't all that short after all, was it?! Chop it down mercilessly, if needs be ;-)

8:33 am, February 15, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

The thing about these e-cafs, if I understand them correctly, is that they are prompted by the value judgments of practitioners. (I'm not saying that's a good or a bad thing - just an observation.) So, though I'm sure you're right about the govt. definition of poverty, this won't be being applied by the practitioner who decides to suggest an e-caf. They will be using a more nebulous criteria - something about the child being protected from the damaging effects of poverty, I think.

I'm not saying that your analysis is wrong but I do think it unlikely that the govt will be demanding e-cafs be done on every child living in a family with a below average income. What about teachers/health visitors/whoever working in an area where every child they meet is in this position? This would quickly overwhelm staff.

It is also true that an e-caf is not something that you can be forced to participate in, by law. Of course, I'm sure people will be put under pressure to do so and I don't like the role these things have in part of this whole mission creep towards enforcing orthodoxy, but we shouldn't overstate their legal position, or we play into their hands IMO.

3:42 pm, February 15, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Surely one of the reasons for bringing this in is job creation?

Also, what do you think the consequences will be of a parent refusing to allow their child to be eCAFed?

4:23 pm, February 15, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

I don't think this is about job creation. This is about choosing to spend money on technology not actually employing front-end staff. There will not be the staff to do the extra work - there never are. The story of working in the public sector (for at least the last ten years) is the endless announcements of new initiatives and never anyone new to do the extra work.

Of course there is every possibility that a parent who refuses to take part in an e-caf process will find themselves fast-tracked into child protection procedures. I don't doubt it. But, to be honest, this stuff happens already - to some people. It will happen under the new system - to some people.

4:51 pm, February 15, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

OK, well I hope you're right Allie. I suppose we don't have much choice but to wait and see, anyway.

4:53 pm, February 15, 2009  
Blogger Jax said...

Having already been on one of the courses that professionals who will be using both contactpoint and ecaf systems I have to say that the ECM doesn't feature highly and ppl are still looking for actual neglect and abuse rather than any nebulous government speak definition. It's probably that professionals who deal with families who are at risk (we do accept that some families are at risk of child abuse and neglect don't we?) will have more detailed training, but I'm guessing that a lot of it won't reach the actual front lines for a very long time if ever.

Also, ecafs aren't actually stored on contactpoint, they are two separate systems. And the ecaf is only a tool, and I don't think that you would necessarily raise all that much concern for declining some of the questions that are irrelevant to whatever reason the ecaf has been suggested. There are not going to be enough staff to ecaf every child who isn't close to an outcome - they are for children with real complex needs and multiple service requirements.

I do think that the government are scary, I do think they need to be fought back as the last thing we need are tools that some offensive Iballesque character could use against individuals, but I think that your worst case is somewhat far removed from mine.

Although I daresay there were some ppl saying that sort of thing in 1930's germany too, so I accept that I could be horribly wrong.

9:12 pm, February 15, 2009  
Blogger Jax said...

Apologies for the many typos and grammatical mistakes, I'm obviously more tired than I realised! Hope it's still understandable.

9:15 pm, February 15, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

As with Allie, I hope you're right Jax. I really hope I've got it wrong.

But my concern is that, even though things might not now be working in the way I've set out - and I don't think I said anywhere that they were, yet: it's a massive culture change that's going to take a lot of time to fully enact - the potential is now there for them to go that way. I take it you both accept there is deliberate mission creep taking place with this?

As I said in this post, we've gone from a Local Authority having a vague 'duty to promote the five outcomes' in the 2004 Children Act, to the terms of reference in this review including the apparent need to assess:

"Whether any changes to the current regime for monitoring the standard of home education are needed to support the work of parents, local authorities and other partners in ensuring all children achieve the Every Child Matters outcomes."

- in the space of five years. If the rate of change stays the same, where do you think we'll be with this in another five years?

12:39 am, February 16, 2009  
Blogger lotusbirther said...

I've ben reading the mumology link, blog etc, it is so very weird, like it can't actually be real but then it is!
http://rubble.heppell.net/learnometer/metric_feedback.html
Now these are supposedly measures that organisations make to see if their financial input to schools has worked, to know that "learning isn't leaking away" like a draught. My mind is totally boggled by the whole site but it seems somehow genuine, just incredulous.

2:39 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger lotusbirther said...

oops, posted it on the wrong post, you are so prolific! nevertheless, valid for all parents to read!

2:40 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

LOL, never mind!

Spot the syntax errors too..

"Here are some of the outputs that governments and policy makers have aspired too. It a much longer list that just "exam passes" or "% university entrance" isn't it?"

Obviously "working towards 100% literacy" ;-)

2:47 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger lotusbirther said...

surprise! the lead sponsor for "horizontTAL" - that's technology and learning
http://www.heppell.net/horizontal/

The DCSF...

It must be a joke, I can't take it seriously. oh
http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/pns/DisplayPN.cgi?pn_id=2008_0006

It isn't, though it isn't dressed as a threat...

3:02 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger lotusbirther said...

I should blog about this on my own I guess rather than fill your comments Gill but look at all this! And their six questions questionnaire on future society has just closed...

http://www.beyondcurrenthorizons.org.uk/powerleague/

3:05 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Yep, and 'powerleagues' etc, and links to Connexions..

It's an outfit, that's for sure.

3:09 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh sorry, you linked the 'powerleagues' thing first, didn't you?

Sounds like educational rugby to me. :-(

3:10 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

Hello again

You ask
"If the rate of change stays the same, where do you think we'll be with this in another five years?"

I must say that I don't know. It could be that it will become an ever more intrusive net around the lives of families. Equally it could have fallen from political favour for one reason or another. One reason perhaps being that they will probably not be anywhere near meeting their child poverty reduction targets and so will probably be wanting to avoid talk about economic well-being. If we're headed into the 1930s depression again then I reckon all sorts of govt priorities will change. I just don't know.

10:13 pm, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

..Unless the current financial upheavals were anticipated and planned for, for this and other purposes.

It is possible, and many people could see that the old financial system wasn't going to last forever - so I'd go so far as to say that it's quite likely.

6:34 am, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

Well, I don't believe that. As far as the economy goes, I think this is capitalism doing what capitalism does - boom and slump.

I am very wary of getting caught up in the idea that everything is connected and controlled by forces working against us. I do certainly believe in global forces working against the interests of the vast majority of people but not in a 'master plan' kind of way. We should remember that all kinds of forces exist in the world - operating against and in competition with each other. I find history helps - looking at how things can be developing in contradictory ways at the same time - and in different parts of the world. This is often both inspiring and depressing!

I am wary of predictions. I had a lovely sociology tutor who used to sing songs on sociological themes. His one about Marx went,
"pity his predictions turned out to be fictions." The fate of most predictions, I think.

In the end, I think it's a personal thing - I couldn't face life if I felt I was in some dystopian novel.

12:06 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Well I'm not sure - I'm just trying to keep an open mind.

The thing is, in trying to predict which way we think the ECM programme is going to go, we're kind of tying ourselves to.. well, predicting something, aren't we?

And obviously, the way it might go depends on whether or not there is a 'new global order' (to quote Gordon Brown) planned to deal with the aftermath of the turmoil.

12:12 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Allie said...

Well, yes, we do all predict things all the time and I expect I do it as much as anyone else. But when you say that a child "will be put through an e-caf" if they are not achieving any of the outcomes I think this is predicting something that is full of potential to be applied in many different ways. Forgive me if I've missed something that makes you so sure. I think they *could* be put through an e-caf and (if you reject the ethos behind the five outcomes) then that's a *bad* thing and people being alerted to that possibility is *good* thing. But being alerted to a possibility is a different thing to being told that such a thing will happen and that this could then lead to the removal of your children.

I suppose what I'm saying is that we should base our criticism on the actual content of the ECM and not on how it might, or might not, be applied.

Hope I'm not coming across as snidey here as I am full of admiration of the work you've put into digging into this stuff. :-)

1:01 pm, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

You're quite right. I should have said *could* instead of *will*. Thanks for pointing that out.

I was thinking *will* when I was typing it of course, but it isn't an absolute given.

1:17 pm, February 17, 2009  

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