Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Empire Building – The Contractors Are Preparing Their Estimates…

As the pressure builds up on the child protection ‘experts’, the liberal pundits are quick to rush to their defence, lest their cozy nests of left wing orthodoxy are shaken from the branches of the State tree at last.

Over at ‘The Devil’s Kitchen’ the charmless ‘PDF’ has a ’Don't blame the social workers!’ post up, that’s drawing lots of comment (mostly unfavourable), while in the ‘Times’, David Aaronovitch argues for more state controls over parenting, which will cost massive amounts of taxpayer cash and probably deliver not much better results.

He seems quite happy to swallow obviously ginned-up ‘support’ as genuine too:
Somehow 60 head teachers from the borough, either lacking the detachment of The Sun from the situation, or else its keen sense of other people's responsibility, managed to call for Ms Shoesmith to stay in position. This is pretty remarkable, in my experience. It might genuinely be called a groundswell of support, and should give one pause.
Yup, 60 different people who all work to this woman independently decided to give her their support, unsolicited and not at all suggested by, oooh, say, their unions. And if he believes that, I’ve a bridge to sell him…
In this context, while mistakes will have been made and Lord Laming may find yet more ways in which communication could be improved, there is nothing to vindicate the politician's inevitable promise of “it cannot be allowed to happen again”. This is an impossible pledge, not least in a month where two other children were allegedly stabbed to death by their mother in Manchester (though this, for some reason, did not shock Britain).
Well, I think it did shock Britain, but in this case there appears to have been a sudden escalation of worrying signs and the police were actively searching for her as a result when she killed the kids.

We aren’t looking at months of visits leading to no action at all, or overriding of police concerns. And if this woman had any more children, it’s hard to see that social services would be fighting for her to keep them while on remand.

In other words, Davey boy, apples and oranges…
In mid-September the Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith and the Nottingham Labour MP Graham Allen published a document making the case for a system of early intervention to help families. I read it yesterday, and recommend it to you if you want to go on thinking beyond the “outrage” of the Baby P case.

Their first proposition is summed up in the words of a Professor David Farrington, that “antisocial children grow up to become antisocial adults who go on to raise antisocial children”. They noted 2003 Home Office estimates that 350,000 children had drug-addicted parents and a million had alcohol-addicted parents. They then detailed the “Dunedin study”, begun in New Zealand in 1972, where nurses observed three-year-olds at play and identified - from behaviour alone - those that might be at risk. Eighteen years later the outcomes were studied. The at-risk boys were 2 times more likely to have committed an offence and five times as likely to be abusing their partners. Thirty per cent of the at-risk girls had become teenage mothers, compared with none of those not at risk. Forty-three per cent of the at-risk girls were in violent or abusive relationships.
It’s impossible to argue that this isn’t true – feral kids grow up and breed more feral kids. So, what does he consider is the ideal solution?
When Tony Blair spoke of early intervention a few years ago he was derided for seeming to suggest “foetal ASBOs”. There are plenty of Britons who feel that state or agency intervention into the lives of citizens has gone far enough already.

But Duncan Smith and Allen not only commend some of the things the Government has done already (such as Sure Start and nurse family partnership pilot schemes) but argue for much more including, controversially, enhanced “data tracking” of at-risk individuals.

The two men want support and education to be offered prenatally, special primary school programmes focusing on parenting support and children's social competencies, and pre-parenting workshops in secondary schools.

The whole thing is aimed at breaking the cycle of chaotic parenting.
No, the whole thing is aimed at drastically increasing not only the State’s interference in family life, but the army of box-tickers and paper-shufflers that will be needed to manage and implement it.

And as 'Letters From A Tory' succinctly points out, that isn’t going to help anyone


Anonymous said...

Try this

Anonymous said...

He's every bit as good a speaker as he is a writer, isn't he...?

Letters From A Tory said...

Personally I think IDS is onto something important. He wants the government to fund but not deliver parenting programmes and early intervention schemes around the country.

I accept that working with the voluntary sector on this scale is going to be a complicated operation, but early intervention remains the best way to break the cycle that these children are caught in.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, I welcome columnists who can make a case against my take on any particular issue. It only serves to sharpen (and strengthen) my argument (or, in rare cases, change it).

Nevertheless, I find it bizarre that, for instance, the Telegraph gives house-room to Mary Riddell and the Times actually pays Aaronovitch for his contributions from Predictable Crap Central. If I wanted (let alone, valued) their opinions - and it is opinion rarely supported by all the available evidence - I would read the Guardian or listen to similar nonsense "learned" by the BBC.

As to the wonder of "Sure Start" this reports on how successful the NAO considers that money pit. Warm and cuddly the Conservatives may be [1] but they've caught the same policy disease as Labour, namely "if it fails, chuck more money at it: if it succeeds (eg grammar schools), stop it immediately".

[1] OK a bit less cuddly this morning - and about time too!

Anonymous said...

"I accept that working with the voluntary sector on this scale is going to be a complicated operation..."

Not to mention, expensive.

"As to the wonder of "Sure Start".."

Yeah, I did a bit of a double-take on reading that too...