No surprises on Contactpoint

The government has published its predictable reply to the Contactpoint petition, containing all the usual mantras (mantrae?). They sound so reasonable until one actually considers what they mean:

ContactPoint will provide a quick way for practitioners to find out who else is working with the same child or young person to make it easier for them to deliver better coordinated support to children and families.

That seems straightforward enough, but hang on a minute: why can’t they ask families directly for the contact details? We’re not talking about child protection here. This is about children wanting services. Do children and their parents not already have contact details for the practitioners working with them? If not, why not? It’s pretty shoddy professional practice not to make sure that one’s clients can’t get in touch.

If it’s really a problem, how about providing each family with a card on which each practitioner writes his/her name and contact details? That way, the family gets to decide whether they want a speech therapist to know about the child’s involvement with the Youth Offending Team, or whether the person dealing with their housing problems should talk to their GP. The ‘basic details’ on Contactpoint are in fact highly sensitive information – not to mention a gateway to the highly intrusive eCAF system – and that such basic decisions about family privacy are being taken out of families’ hands can only lead to the conclusion that the government intends agencies to become uber-parents.

It’s not reassuring to read that:

Practitioners must use their professional judgement, as they do now, to decide whether it is appropriate to share any information with any other practitioner who contacts them. Obtaining consent to share information is good practice – ContactPoint does not change that.

Nonsense! It’s not a matter of good practice! It’s a matter of law! Whatever government or an individual practitioner may choose to believe, they are subject to the law. Unless there are solid child protection grounds for sharing information, or there is good cause to believe that a child is going to run amok in the shopping centre with an AK47, a practitioner must obtain consent first.

As for this:

ContactPoint will cover all children in England because it is not possible to predict accurately, in advance, which children will need additional services. Any child or young person could require the support of additional services at any time in their childhood.

Then why not wait until a family requests services and, if they prefer, give them the option at that point of being on a small index held at local authority level?

The arguments for Contactpoint simply don’t stack up. It is for parents to bring their children up – and there are compelling, historical reasons for human rights instruments to make that abundantly clear. It is for the State to offer the support and services that families need in bringing up their children, preferably in a form that doesn’t result in their feeling infantilised, exposed and disempowered.

As Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis, said:

“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”


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