Gareth Myatt verdict

June 30, 2007

The inquest into the death of Gareth Myatt has returned a verdict of accidental death.

The answers (pdf) to the questions that the jury was asked to consider are worth reading: they make it quite clear that the Youth Justice Board and Rebound, the company running the prison, bear heavy responsibility.

We can only wonder what would happen to any parent who ‘restrained’ a child (no matter how delinquent) to a point where he died and just how the government can even consider extending the use of restraint on children in prison. This isn’t about youth justice. It’s about child protection and the fundamental right to life.

The Childminder has more to say.


More London NHS

June 30, 2007

Following on from yesterday’s blog, Ideal Government has received a reply from the London NHS Programme Director.

Apparently the purpose of the consultation:

is about agreeing what is the minimum information needed to help those staff providing care to vulnerable people within London, while protecting patients’ care and privacy. This initiative is to improve the methods used to access that information which is already shared between Health and Social Services.

London NHS merging Health and Social Care Records

June 29, 2007

Extraordinary news this morning: London NHS has been consulting on the requirements to merge everyone’s health and local authority records into a single system. The closing date for the consultation is today, and it has to be the best-kept secret we’ve ever seen.

Amongst other things, the system is to be compatible with NHS Care Records and ContactPoint. it must allow personal information to be shared and:

“should display details of a person’s family members or carers who may also be receiving services”

It should be capable of:

receiving information from external sources (e.g. Police, Education)


sending information to external sources (e.g. Police, Education)

It should display the latest Patient Record Summary from the GP system and

The referral detail should be able to contain the following, including:
a) Local person demographics (see 5.3)
b) Local service and national IDs
c) Case History
d) Reason for referral
e) Service referred to
f) presenting problem
g) diagnosis
h) free text field

There’s plenty more. The document isn’t available online, but Ideal Government has posted up a complete copy. Read it and weep for your vanishing privacy.

ContactPoint again

June 28, 2007

On Tuesday, Beverley Hughes wrote to the Guardian insisting that ContactPoint is secure, and citing Victoria Climbie (yet again) as the rationale for the database.

There’s a blistering reply in today’s letters page.

The government that understands confidentiality

June 27, 2007

Those of us on FIPR council have been gobsmacked to find that private emails exchanged between us have been read out in both Houses of Parliament, all in an attempt to smear Ross Anderson, FIPR’s Chair and a highly-informed critic of the NHS database plans.

It’s an extraordinary demonstration of the government’s inability to justify this £multi-billion scheme that it has to resort to such desperate, underhand tactics to try and silence any opposition. It also provides a powerful insight into their utter disregard for confidentiality.

There’s more on UK Liberty, Spyblog and Blogzilla.

Funnily enough…

June 27, 2007

Since I had to go to a conference in Stoke on Trent on Monday and one of my sons was also running a workshop there, we thought we’d return to London at a leisurely pace, taking in a bit of the Peak District and Lincoln Cathedral on our way.

An eventful 24 hours followed. Both hotels where we were going to stay (in Sheffield and Retford) are currently under water, and I now know that my driving skills extend to driving what seemed like miles along a river. Yesterday, the Southbound M1 looked wonderful (once we finally reached it).

I got home to find that the government is bringing out the regulations to bring ‘ContactPoint’ into being – presumably no coincidence that the Blair/Brown handover happened today.

The Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments has issued an urgent call for evidence on the ContactPoint database. Ian has more on this.

ContactPoint security

June 22, 2007

A letter we co-authored about ContactPoint is in the Guardian this morning together with a report here:

Misuse of an electronic database holding sensitive information on 11 million children in England could lead to millions of breaches of security each year, it is claimed today. Privacy campaigners and independent schools have warned of the “enormous” potential for abuse of the huge IT system to be launched next year.


June 19, 2007

From the BBC:

An investigation has begun into alleged misuse of the North Wales Police computer system.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said a police officer had been arrested and suspended while the inquiry is carried out.


June 19, 2007

An unusually thought-provoking piece on eGov Monitor about government plans to intervene in ‘high-cost high-harm’ families:

It is unfair to single out the poor for intervention deeming their choices unacceptable. The parenting of much of our society produces materially successful yet unhappy adults. Some of the parenting decisions of all sections of society cause costs and social problems for everyone.

Continuing busy

June 19, 2007

With fingerprints, DNA and ‘Contactpoint’ all keeping us pretty busy at the moment, our sporadic blogging continues.

Time for a quick yell of outrage about another issue close to our hearts, though. Regular readers will know that we’ve talked about the inquests into the deaths in custody of Adam Rickwood and Gareth Myatt before. In Adam’s case, the coroner recommended an urgent review of the use of restraint in the juvenile secure estate.

This is the government’s two-fingered response:

The rules governing the use of restraint techniques based on inflicting pain in privately-run children’s jails are to be widened to allow staff to use them to enforce everyday discipline, the Ministry of Justice confirmed yesterday.

…The use of restraint to secure compliance with staff instructions, such as getting a teenage boy to go to bed or clean his room, or as a punishment, has not been permitted in child jails until this change in the rules.

Don’t try this one at home. Punching children on the nose because they won’t obey instructions is called abuse, and the courts rightly take a very dim view of it.

Dangerous practice

June 15, 2007

From the head of Capita’s children’s services comes this deeply worrying piece in Children Now:

It is Monday morning. A primary school teacher glances around the groups of children waiting to file in. A child with a black eye and other bruises raises her concern. The immediate dilemma is to decide what to do now. Are the bruises the result of boisterous play or something more worrying?

From the end of 2008, teachers and other key workers, such as police and health workers, will be able to raise an eCAF – the online version of the Common Assessment Framework.

Any child at risk can be highlighted through the completion of a standardised electronic form, and then prioritised for follow up. The aim is that all services in contact with a child can access information on them and contribute to the assessment of their needs.

A practitioner who suspects abuse shouldn’t be completing an eCAF at all! The procedures are clear that a practitioner should be talking urgently to the child protection lead in their own school or agency witha view to referring onwards for social care investigation under s47 of the Children Act 1989.

It’s yet more evidence that assessment of children’s welfare needs is becoming dangerously confused with child protection investigation , which is something entirely different. Abuse involves a possible crime committed against a child and is nothing at all to do with ‘needs’ – the only need is that the situation is dealt with by a specialist.

Potter’s wheel

June 9, 2007

Sorry for the blog silence – a bit hectic at the moment.

By way of interlude, I recommend a trip to Bookdrunk’s blog to go all gooey over pictures of baby monkeys. They’re wonderful. If you like this sample, click on the tag to see even more.

4 months and counting…

June 5, 2007

Pippa on the continuing non-appearance of school fingerprint guidance:

1. Either the guidelines are going to be issued in the form of a trilogy, due to length of time taken to write, and will appear not just on BECTA’s website but also on Amazon.

2. There are no guidelines being written.

3. There were guidelines but Jim Knight’s dog chewed them up, honest.

4. It’s a legal nightmare and the Department of Education, the ICO and BECTA are simply not issuing them yet due to legal complications.

No room for slackers

June 5, 2007

I can’t help shuddering when I hear the over-used expression “the voice of the child”, implying that the opinions, needs and ideas of 11m+ individuals can be comprehensively represented by a focus group or three. Frankly, I’d take a pretty dim view of anyone who thought that they might glean what I wanted from a “voice of the woman” panel.

It’s the turn of young people now. Parmjit Dhanda is touring the country to listen to “the voice of youth”. He mentions:

“…a misapprehension about Government’s relationship with young people. We don’t just want to slap ASBOs on them – we want to give them a chance to release their potential and help them get involved in positive activities in their community. Overwhelmingly we find if you give young people the chance, they’ll exceed your expectations.”

Which seems to leave no room at all for young people to have their own expectations of not-particularly-worthy fun with their friends. Ed Miliband wants to:

“…engage them in a lasting dialogue and together improve the services available to help them unleash their potential”

And there’s more of the ‘future capital’ approach to children elsewhere in DfES, where £9m has been set aside for ‘early learning’:

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) is trialling a new scheme to encourage parents to take a more active role in the education of their offspring by introducing learning diaries.

Currently being rolled-out across 41 councils in the poorer areas of England, the initiative will ask parents to record every example of their baby learning to do something, whether it’s toddling, stacking bricks or beginning to speak.

These learning diaries are designed for the parents of children aged between nought and five years old “so they can discuss progress with professionals”

Can’t the poor little devils just play? I realise my views may be rather extreme, having spent my children’s ‘early years’ refusing to buy any toy that so much as mentioned the word ‘educational’, but this dreary emphasis on learning and potential is so darned oppressive. It encourages four-fifths of the population to value the remaining one-fifth in terms of what can be squeezed out of them.

Is there any chance that adults might learn to share their power nicely? Maybe Whitney Houston could have a go at recording “Children are the Present”….OK, fair enough…perhaps not.


June 5, 2007

It’s very flattering that Carlotta has tagged us for a ‘Thinking Blogger’ award.

This presents a problem, though: how to choose just five? All of the links in our blogroll are there because they are informative and thought-provoking. They’re chosen because it’s a useful shortcut – we visit most at least once every day for sustenance – and it’s impossible to select ‘the best’.

At the risk of being a party-pooping meme-wrecker, rather than picking out five I’m going to suggest that everyone visits the blogs on our sidebar. They’re worth it, I promise.