Demise of child protection

February 28, 2007

The redoubtable child protection expert, Liz Davies, makes good reading at CiF. She’s talking about the ‘kick the cat’ politics that led to social worker Lisa Arthurworrey’s vilification following Victoria Climbie’s death, while those higher up the chain moved on to bigger and better things.

Liz also has plenty to say about the potentially disastrous effects of the database jamboree on child protection:

there was no child-protection conference in place for Victoria, and her name was not on the child-protection register. This tried and tested multi-agency tool is now being abolished on Lord Laming’s recommendation; this will severely affect the lives of vulnerable children. ContactPoint, the new database for every child in the country, is in effect a population-surveillance tool. It has nothing to do with protecting children: databases and other computerised processes will not replace the function of the register. The number of referrals to social services has been steady for five years, but the number of children on the child-protection register for physical and sexual abuse has halved. The system has been vanishing before our eyes.

Laming also recommended that the police should focus on crime. As a result, social workers are increasingly left to investigate much child abuse on their own, constricted by tight timescales, targets and data entry – which undermines the value of professional judgment and leaves little time to form meaningful relationships with children and families.

…If Lisa were employed today her chances of getting it right would be even less than in 2000.


…and another one bites the dust

February 28, 2007

Following the demise of the Connexions Card, plans for a youth opportunity card have also come unstuck:

The Government has pulled the plug on the youth opportunity card after admitting that the technology driving the scheme is not feasible

Funny how telephone-number figures can start to sound like small change… It’s only cost £2m:

PA Consulting, the firm behind the National Identity Card scheme, has been working on the opportunity card since last May. A DfES spokesman said PA was owed no compensation payments since it was on a Framework Agreement. About £2m is thought to have been spent on resourcing for the scheme.

Costs of the now-defunct Connexions Card, which has had a notoriously low uptake, have run to close to £100m including a contract termination fee to provider Capita of at least £11m (YPN, 18-24 October 2006, p2). It engaged just 3.7 per cent of the 16- to 19-year-old target audience, with 0.8 per cent redeeming five or more rewards.

ASBOs, the new mental health treatment

February 27, 2007

We’ve heard a lot of stories about children on the autistic spectrum ending up with ASBOs, and now the British Institute for Brain Injured Children has put some facts and figures together.

While ASB officers maintain that only 5% of ASBOed children had mental health issues, Youth Offending Team officers report that in fact 38% have a diagnosed mental health disorder or learning difficulty.

Respect for the law

February 26, 2007

Not Saussure is questioning whether the press should have identified a certain 17-year-old boy convicted of the possession of a small amount of cannabis.

Assuming he was dealt with in the youth court and the District Judge didn’t make any order lifting the automatic ban on publishing his details (imposed by s49(1) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933) then the fourth estate had better get its cheque books ready.

Run first, walk later

February 26, 2007

The Telegraph’s crime correspondent admits to increasing concern about government databases, and wonders whether efficiency has been a victim of unseemly haste:

Police, by and large, like databases and the collection of information on individuals. And they are pushing at an open door with this Government, which has some deeply authoritarian instincts. There’s also been a tendency in recent years to launch a new law or initiative or re-organisation before existing measures have been allowed to bed in and their strengths and weaknesses have been assessed.

It would be good to know, for example, that the national criminal DNA database is actually being used efficiently by police and the criminal justice system to catch criminals, just as it would be good to know that court records on convicted criminals are getting to those to whom they matter – ie schools.

LSE Workshop

February 24, 2007

The LSE Information Systems department hosts the annual ‘social study of IT’ conference next month. This year’s theme: ‘Identity in the Information Society: Security, Privacy, The Future’

It’s free, but early booking is advisable.

Bears in the woods

February 23, 2007

Advance advertising for the weekend Guardian:

British teenagers drink, smoke, take more drugs and lose their virginity earlier than many of their parents believe, according to a unique Guardian/ICM poll.

My, how times have changed. Astonishingly:

The survey, details of which are published in tomorrow’s Guardian, also reveals how few parents know when their children have lost their virginity.

As my 81-year-old mother advised me not so long ago, where one’s teenaged children are concerned, there are some questions it’s polite to leave unasked.