Thursday, September 14, 2006

NB: 'At Risk' doesn't mean what people think

A thoroughly frustrating item on children's databases this morning on R4 'You and Yours', which you can listen to again. Unfortunately none of us involved in the Information Commissioner's report (due out soon) can comment to the media on the subject at the moment, and so couldn't take part in the programme. The net effect is that a glaring inaccuracy has been perpetuated.

Both within ARCH and elsewhere, several of us have done our best to get important messages across, but this morning took us backwards again. Hmm, maybe we should hire an aeroplane and smoke-write slogans across the skies:

  • The Information Sharing Index has not been designed as a 'child protection' measure
  • The information-sharing idea pre-dated the Laming report into Victoria Climbie's death
  • 'At risk' no longer means 'at risk of significant harm from abuse or neglect'
It is this last point that is so crucial, and yet the programme chuntered on with all participants bandying the term around as if the definition hadn't been changed. The Children's Minister was neatly let off the hook of explaining just how the Index fits in with the other components of the 'Integrated Children's System'.

'At risk' now means at risk of not receiving services that arguably might prevent a child from:
  • becoming a criminal
  • failing at school
  • becoming pregnant in her teens
  • becoming 'socially excluded'
The Government estimates that 3-4 million children (one-third of the child population) will need 'additional services' to avoid these outcomes.

As for child protection and Victoria Climbie, the poor child who has become a logo for the information-sharing agenda, see our post on Monday

And please, if you can think of a way of getting the message over to people that this system means every child and that detecting abuse is only one, small sub-category, we'd love to know. We're obviously getting something terribly wrong.


At Saturday, September 16, 2006 7:15:00 PM, Blogger Carlotta said...

At one point in the programme, someone mentioned that a teacher might look at the database to check up on a child who was looking mopey at the back of the classroom.

Really does make me feel as if the thought police are closing in and for what purpose...most likely none at all for the many children who look miserable because they HATE SCHOOL!

At Sunday, September 17, 2006 8:06:00 AM, Blogger archrights said...

That's at the heart of the problem with the whole agenda: it's assumed that practitioners are infallible and the systems that children must fit are unfailingly right. On that logic, any 'fault' lies with the child and/or family and must be remediated.

When childhood becomes a conveyor-belt process of targets, assessments and 'quality control', where is the space for the unconventional?


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