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very important thing you can do to protect your family

(92 Posts)
ommmward Sat 04-Jul-09 16:36:36

write to your MP and ask them to sign Early Day Motion 1785

Mr Ed Balls wants to give LA officials the power to enter private homes without any reason to think anything is amiss and to force children to submit to an interview on their own with LA staff. These are powers that even the police and social services don't have!!!!

He wants to do it because he is concerned that not having your child in an institutional setting (that's school now, but he could easily extend these plans to those who don't use nurseries or child minders) might be a cover for abuse. His planned legislation is a sledgehammer to crack a nut- he doesn't have evidence that HE is being used as a cover for abuse and it will cost a great deal of our tax money to have LA staff coming to do welfare checks - but he hasn't even done an impact assessment!

So please write to your MP, tell them the planned EHE legislation is disproportionate, uncosted, and has no evidentiary basis, and please would they sign the EDM 1785 or, failing that, 1784 (less good wording IMO)

If you don't HE you probably think this has nothing to do with you. But those with children not in child care are next in line for such heavy-handed state intrusion. We will support you when that time comes. Will you take 5 minures writing an email to support us HEers now?

dilemma456 Sun 05-Jul-09 11:59:47

Message withdrawn

ommmward Sun 05-Jul-09 15:37:57

acksherly... it'd be truly wonderful if you could drop a short message to your MP saying "this is awful" - we are trying to get it so every MP has lots and lots of letters so they are all aware of the problem. Even more worth doing if the MP is a Labour one with a smallish majority!

AvengingGerbil Sun 05-Jul-09 15:54:36

No, sorry. I think checks are probably a good idea.

violethill Sun 05-Jul-09 16:05:25

Agree with gerbil - I can't see a problem with checks. If Home education is being delivered properly and there is no evidence of abuse/neglect or whatever, then what's the problem?

KingCanuteIAm Sun 05-Jul-09 16:15:37

I think that allowing children to be interviewed alone is decidedly fishy. This has always been a no-no, no matter what the situation - and rightly so.

Would it be ok if SS were awarded the power to enter peoples homes without even needing to suspect that there was a problem? I would say that most people would think that is a step to far for SS so I find it surprising that you would think it is ok for Local Authority staff to be able to enter homes!

janeite Sun 05-Jul-09 16:41:26

I guess this isn't really an attack of home-ed though but an attempt (albeit not well-considered and albeit like using a spade to open a boiled egg to continue with your food imagery) to avoid terrible events like the little girl whose mother stopped sending her to school and then starved her to death in Birmingham recently.

ommmward Sun 05-Jul-09 16:45:07

what Kingcanute said.

The problem is that the proposed legislation fundamentally changes the relationship between the state and the family.

If I have a 5 year old, then just minus one year, and this is the equivalent of an LA employee (not even a health visitor or a social worker) coming by law to do compulsory inspections of my non-nurseried pre-schooler.

The employee would make sure they are exactly on target for all of the EYFS goals [whether or not that is suitablefor my child, and whether or not I agree with the EYFS goals as the best way of interacting with a pre-schooler). If not, they could force me to send my cihld to full time nursery.

The employee would make sure the child wasn't being abused. Hard to tell how they'd judge this, what with being some ex-OFSTED inspector from the education department rather even than being a social worker. But they'd take my pre-schooler off into a room on their own, ask them God knows what questions and interpret the answers in God knows what ways (does anyone remember Orkney?). If they judge our family dynamic to be wanting (God help us if we are Gina Ford afficionados and the LA staffer is a Continuum Concept fanatic), they have the power not only to force me to send my child to full-time nursery, but also they will refer us to social services. We won't be happy - SS referrals are never anything but traumatic. SS won't be happy, because they have more than enough to do looking after the families who really need their help, and a wave of false positives coming from the LA department is not going to be accompanied by any extra funding in the current climate.

In case you are worried, there are already ways for the LA to check whether we are educating our children according to the law. But the current ways do not give them as much power over the way we live and the way we educate as they would like, which is why they are pushing for this intrusive regime.

Remember. There is NO LOGICAL DIFFERENCE between my HEing family and a family with a SAHM. Ed Balls is trying to sneak this legislation in thinking that HEers are a minority community and noone will hear us. He has engaged in a smear campaign in the national press (oh what a surprise from Mr "gosh, Damian McBride, I hardly knew him") which brands Home Ed as probably being a cover for child abuse (complete smear and the SS stats actually show that abuse is less than half as likely in HEing families as in the general population. But oddly enough, the government aren't shouting an waving that about).

Families with a SAHP are next. Please support us now. We are sleep walking into a future where the State owns our children and we are allowed to care for them on the terms of the State officials. I know it sounds paranoid, but that's what this proposed legislation is after.

ommmward Sun 05-Jul-09 16:48:38

Yes, janeite, that's exactly what they are trying to do.

The problem is that Kyra Ishaq was ALREADY KNOWN to SS, there were already safeguarding concerns about her, before she left school. But SS did not act on those concerns. The proposed changes to the law would not have saved her. The current law, plus social workers who did their jobs, could have done.

Ed Balls is using those headline cases, hiding the fact that there are already powers and responsibilities to intervene in such situations, and using them to control how home educators raise and educate their children. We will become hostages to the LA numpties (yes, maybe that's unfair - but I'd guess there are as many trustworthy and competent employees in LA education departments as there are clued up and competent health visitors...).

Kayteee Sun 05-Jul-09 16:52:36

The thing is they already have these powers if abuse is suspected. They always have had. They've just messed up, big time. All these poor kids were known to the relevant depts and they were sadly let down but forcing entry into innocent peoples' homes and interviewing their kids without parents present is unacceptable to me. I thought we were all supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, not the other way round?

This whole thing is very dodgy, imo, and it won't stop at home educators. It will be pre-schoolers under 5s next.

I really think this needs to be seriously addressed because the state should be the parent of last resort...not the first angry

janeite Sun 05-Jul-09 16:54:54

Yes - fair points both of you. And the questioning of young children by staff who are not unlikely to be properly trained (and may well ask leading questions) is a huge no, no.

ommmward Sun 05-Jul-09 17:00:11

grin now write to your MP and tell him/her so wink

ABetaDad Sun 05-Jul-09 17:14:09

My concern is how the powers will be used against you if you make a complaint about your LA education department.

What would happen if, say you made a complaint about bullying at the school your DC is at? Does the LA send an interviewer round to 'make sure the home environment is not the real source of the problem'?

What is to stop that happening? Does anyone have right of appeal? What if mistakes are made?

Not enough checks and balances in my view. They already have the powers they need but do not use them well as we know.

ommmward Sun 05-Jul-09 18:00:44

"What is to stop that happening? Does anyone have right of appeal? What if mistakes are made?"

1. nothing as far as I can see

2. I hope so, otherwise we're emigrating. I jest not.

3. No mistakes will be made. Ed Balls is in charge.

3. (alternative answer) isn't it in the Laming report where it says that it is MUCH better for children to be removed from their families in error than for an abused child to be missed and left in the care of their family? We are all waaaaay up the proverbial creek here.

I would not want to be a social worker.

ScummyMummy Sun 05-Jul-09 18:09:35

I think the checks are a great idea. There are is one set of HEing parents round here whom I wouldn't trust with my cat, let alone a child. And I'm sure there are some lovely HEing parents too and a quick visit from an LA official to confirm that nothing's obviously amiss that won't kill them.

ScummyMummy Sun 05-Jul-09 18:13:09

Social workers are supposed to talk to children without their parents being present too. Tis a key Laming recommendation.

hatwoman Sun 05-Jul-09 18:25:15

but scummy mummy - a "quick visit" from an LA official actually means huge use of resources - with no evidence that it would be a remotely effective way to prevent child abuse. ie a complete waste of our council tax, when it could be spent on other forms of intervention. eg reducing the ridiculously large caseload that social workers have - an easy non-structural change that I would have a lot more confidence in than this completely random targetting of a group, based on zero evidence.

(and that's the purely pragmatic argument - not to mention the deeper ideological ones that others have mentioned)

ScummyMummy Sun 05-Jul-09 18:37:22

I think it's very hard to prevent child abuse, hat. Really difficult. No one's that good at it. But if things are very bad and a child is in school, well, that's a massive source of extra eyes and ears and chances that someone will notice that something is awful for that child. God knows schools, health and child protection services screw up often enough but at least the chance is there for that child to be helped. If the child isn't in school and things are very bad (rare, I know, most HEers are loving parents but it does happen) then who picks up on it? Who notices? A compulsory check is better than nothing, imo.

chegirl Sun 05-Jul-09 18:39:22

I have used www.faxyourmp.org.uk a few times with great effect (affect?).

They publish ratings of MPs who do and do not respond.

Its free too.

I wish this new bill would work but I dont think it will. IF I thought it would get my great niece to a safe place i would push for it with all my might. But it wont. It will still be a lottery.

campion Sun 05-Jul-09 19:42:52

Agree with ScummyMummy. And all those services quite often get it right but that's not news.

ommmward Sun 05-Jul-09 19:50:25

"if things are very bad and a child is in school, well, that's a massive source of extra eyes and ears and chances that someone will notice that something is awful for that child. God knows schools, health and child protection services screw up often enough but at least the chance is there for that child to be helped. If the child isn't in school and things are very bad (rare, I know, most HEers are loving parents but it does happen) then who picks up on it? Who notices? A compulsory check is better than nothing, imo."

Before legislating, it would be important to establish whether it is likely that annual spot checks would catch abuse (I read a story via Blogdial of a woman who, as a child, was indeed home educated for a while by a horribly abusive mother, who beat the children soundly the night before the LA inspection to ensure that they would say they were happy to be learning at home with Mum... if there was the silghtest chance of the plans catching abuse, they'd have a better chance of eliciting my sympathy.

So we have the minimal chances of a child opening up to a complete stranger on a once a year check with Mum in the next room

to weigh up against the parents of approx 80,000 children being subjected to the stress of having their home and family life invaded by some ex-OFSTED inspector with the power to decide whether the children would be better off in school, the horrific fall-out of false positives (I keep saying "remember Orkney"), loss for those families of the presumption of innocence.

finance: current estimates are that there are about 3 HE children unknown to the LAs for every one who is. And there is currently no requirement for LAs to visit. If they are happy that allis hunky dory they leave the family alone - as they should - not only because the parents are, after all, responsible for educating their children, but also because the EHE bit of the LA education department is strapped for cash. So this more than quadruples the workload. Oh, plus this requirement to "register" with subjecting detailed plans for the next year, quite apart from perhaps being a v. useful thing for a teacher with 30 children to juggle, but totally pointless for a responsive parent and even counterproductive, will also require someone to evaluate all those plans. And the lovely Mr Balls is going to pay for all this how exactly?

"Social workers are supposed to talk to children without their parents being present too. Tis a key Laming recommendation."

Why yes, scummymummy, but that would just be children in families where there is reason to believe that abuse is taking place. This suggests non-social worker LA numpties having that power over any family whose child is not in school. Surely if the LA education dept suspect abuse, they shouldn't be taking children off into rooms alone, they should be referring to SS pronto, because social workers are properly trained to communicate with children in such situations?? Oh, but that's the current law isn't it, and without his 15 new laws a day, how would Ed Balls sustain himself?

"There are is one set of HEing parents round here whom I wouldn't trust with my cat, let alone a child." If you think there is a family maltreating a child, you should, surely, be reporting them to social services rather than suggesting that ALL HE parents should be treated as if under suspicion? How about if you'd written "There are is one set of muslim parents round here whom I wouldn't trust with my cat, let alone a child." and then suggested that all Muslim families should be subjected to annual safe and well checks, just in case?

FiveGoMadInDorset Sun 05-Jul-09 19:51:58

No thank you.

campion Sun 05-Jul-09 19:55:54

Is HEing a religion now, ommmward?

Kayteee Sun 05-Jul-09 20:05:49

Campion,

I don't think Ommward was saying that HE is a religion, merely suggesting that any other minority group being treated as "guilty until proven innocent" would not be tolerated in general.

Imo though, HE is a kind of belief system if you want to look at it that way. Why should home educators beliefs about their kids' education/lives, come under such scrutiny, just because we choose a different way to bring our children up?

What about SAHMs with children under 5 who don't go to nursery? Should they have to put up with their children being taken away for questioning too??

ommmward Sun 05-Jul-09 20:13:02

No campion - the parallel with muslims would just be the singling out of a random minority group which doesn't conform to the societal norm.

the really important question is:

If you were/are a SAHP, not using OFSTEDed child care, do you think it would be right for the State to therefore regard you as under suspicion of child abuse and of not helping your child develop according to some State-approved guidelines (like EYFS, maybe)? And to come and test you according to their own personal prejudices and without proper training either in social work or in non-EYFS-compliant forms of child development?

Because that, right now in the coming months, is what the parents of about 80,000 children are facing.

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