Uses for £75m

March 31, 2007

Notice on Pippa’s blog that 9 schools in Bury are buying the ‘cashless catering’ systems at £25K a throw.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that just 20 schools in each local authority get the system. There are 150 local authorities. That’s £75m.

Presumably all our schools now so well-equipped that there’s nothing else to spend it on.

Peace at any price?

March 30, 2007

An excellent article from John Lettice at the Register, ‘Spotting tomorrow’s criminals in today’s pushchairs’.

The only thing I would add is that the increasing emphasis on ‘predicting’ criminals is in fact taking attention away from child protection work. Contrary to Hogarthian stereotypes, poverty and deprivation are not indicators for abuse and neglect: believe me, nasty things happen to the children of barristers, company directors and paediatricians, too.

Practitioners, especially Health Visitors, are already well-versed in possible indications of abuse. By giving them a completely different set of assessment criteria that emphasise factors such as deprivation, and by hijacking terms such as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘at risk’ to give them an entirely different meaning, the government is encouraging practitioners to take their eye off the one, small group of children scattered throughout the population in whom the state can rightly claim a legitimate interest.

It’s ironic that the whole ‘Every Child Matters’ initiative was launched on the back of a devastating case of child abuse, when child protection is rapidly becoming just another sub-category in a tracking project which, in turn, is subsumed into the higher purpose of the ‘antisocial behaviour’ agenda.

Child protection really does matter. It’s in a category of its own because it deals with the exceptional situations where parents are unable to perceive their children’s most basic needs or, even more rarely, where they are actively dangerous to their children. At its worst, it’s about serious crime.

To be sure, social workers can get it badly wrong by intervening too much or too little, but each day in the family courts there is a steady procession of cases involving children whose parents have substance-abuse or mental health problems to a degree where they are not able to parent even passably. Sometimes they involve children who have been physically assaulted or sexually abused.

Now that the initial phase of convincing the public of the need to share information about children is over, there is barely a mention of child protection from government, and no longer any attempt to disguise the dangerous re-definition of ‘at risk’.

Assuming even for one moment that it were a believable proposition, if identifying the children who are at risk of becoming a thorough nuisance to me carries the price-tag of reduced child protection, forget it. I just don’t want to know.

It’s a jungle out there

March 29, 2007

Good heavens!

Scores of worried parents are buying body armour for their children in a desperate attempt to keep them safe as street violence escalates.

HT: Bruce Schneier

Funnily enough

March 28, 2007

We’d just been having a discussion in the comments section of this, when I noticed this:

Children’s social workers will receive a £13 million boost to help pay for Information and Communication Technology (ICT), through funding announced today by Children’s Minister Parmjit Dhanda…this capital grant will help employers invest in the latest mobile ICT, including laptops and Personal Digital Assistants.

Let’s hope they get some grown-up security advice.

After looking at Dizzythinks, it seems that the DWP could do with that, too:

According to a very short response from the DWP Minister, Anne McGuire, in the last 12 months, the Independent Living Fund, the agency that provides help to the severly disabled has had one backup tape of personal data stolen.

Childhood by numbers

March 28, 2007

Tower Hamlets is about to launch its eCAF system. If you don’t know what eCAF is, and you are either under 18 or a parent, you really should find out. It’s an assessment system for all practitioners except social workers to use to determine how ‘at risk’ a child is of social exclusion, becoming criminal, getting pregnant, failing at school etc.

It will be carried out on any child needing services over and above routine education and health provision. Government estimates that this means 1 in 3 children will need to be e-caffed.

If you want to know how practitioners will work out a child’s degree of at-riskness, go here (pdf) and scroll down to Annex A (‘Definitions’) on page 26. There you will find 7 closely-typed pages of assessment criteria ranging from whether the child’s communication skills are excessively brusque to how well his family gets on with the neighbours. (And you thought you just wanted speech therapy?)

Apparently Tower Hamlets’ eCAF is about to go live, and they have even:

developed their own electronic version of the framework on a spreadsheet. It allows professionals to grade the level of risks and protective factors for each child by totalling up numerical scores for various categories of risk.

Just to reiterate: this assessment tool is not for use by social workers. It is for anyone else providing services to the child.

School for Mafia

March 28, 2007

A comment left on our recent ‘week in fingerprints’ led me to Tarique Naseem’s blog, and this gobsmacking (and funny) item.

Safe in their hands

March 27, 2007

This doesn’t really need any comment:

Health bosses in Nottinghamshire have issued a warning after a laptop containing information on about 11,000 young children was stolen. The laptop was one of three taken from an office at King’s Mill Hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield on 21 March.

It contained the names, addresses and dates of birth of children from the Newark, Mansfield and Ashfield areas.

Nottinghamshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) said the matter was being taken “extremely seriously”.

The information on the computer concerned children aged eight months to eight-years-old.

Apparently “the information on the device is protected by a password.”