Sunday, July 16, 2006

Antisocial lettuces

Hilary Armstrong, the Social Exclusion Minister, plans to target under-2s who may become antisocial. Yes, really:

She is studying a project which involves parents being visited regularly by nurses throughout the first two years of a child's life and coached on child rearing, as part of attempts to reach dysfunctional families who do not ask for help.

Nurses and health visitors will be asked to identify parents who are not coping or whose older children's behaviour raises concern and direct them to parenting classes, social services intervention or help with drink and drug problems...

Critics will argue the move is a dramatic extension of the state into the parent's home that will cause nurses to be seen as snooping, while stigmatising families who are singled out for such attention.

Apparently more details will follow in September.

Critics are in fact likely to say a great deal more than the report suggests: the evidence is stacking up against 'early intervention'. Far from being, at worst, ineffective, a growing body of research suggests that it can actively do harm. At the recent LSE conference, Jean Hine, a member of a 5-university
research team, gave a fascinating presentation on this very subject. Although necessarily brief, it does capture the simplistic nature of intervention in a child's life. Listen to it via this link - the sound quality is poor, but it's well worth the effort.

And in case you’re wondering what lettuce has to do with all this, see our footnote to this blog entry. What a comforting fantasy it is that everything can be discovered and controlled.

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