Perth & Kinross Council: Getting It Wrong Again

Following on from our recent post, Hidden from whom? The ongoing stigmatisation of home educators, we have received a breathtakingly arrogant response to our FOI request from Perth and Kinross Council, whose Child Protection Committee has sunk to NSPCC levels in disseminating deliberate falsehoods about home education. We are angry on behalf of home educators, whose lives these Pinocchio people seek to disrupt, and, in particular, on behalf of home educated children who have already suffered abuse in the community as a result of  deliberate demonisation by irresponsible ‘protection’ racketeers.

Before we fisk the spin, it’s worth taking a look at Perth and Kinross’s  recent  track record in undermining and bypassing parents when they presumed consent from schoolchildren as young as nine who were expected to complete an intrusive ‘wellbeing’ survey seeking details of  their private lives, including drug taking, alcohol consumption and sexual activity.

As reported in The Courier:

“Despite council denials, parents claim their children were forced to take part in the survey, were weighed in front of their classmates and proper consent was not given. There are also concerns over anonymity because youngsters had to input a unique ID number before starting.”

Judging by comments on various articles and blogs, the vast majority of parents were not at all happy (and remember, the council allegedly works for them, not the other way round); taxpayers have expressed further concerns about the £225,000 cost of the exercise, part funded by NHS Tayside (so much for waiting lists); and searching questions are being asked about the Evidence2Success ‘profiling’ programme.

We note that at least one parent is pursuing the matter with the Information Commissioner, but what’s the betting there will be some convenient get-out clause for the council? A chocolate fireguard doesn’t offer much protection from the ‘wellbeing’ wonks, after all, and concerns have been expressed in many quarters about the ICO condoning data sharing under something known as the ‘Scottish Accord for Sharing Personal Information’. This handy wee protocol was filched from the Welsh Accord for Sharing Personal Information and seems to be in vogue across Scottish councils and any other body which signs on the dotted line.  Some would argue it’s just a handy circumvention of the Data Protection Act for the benefit of state-sponsored agencies who have a nasty habit of losing and/or abusing personal information and receiving no more than a slap on the wrist when their security breaches come to light.

Take a look at this Fife information sharing report and make up your own mind about the presumption of consent by individuals to the gathering and sharing of their personal data. How do you effectively refuse your consent, supposing you actually know they are gathering and sharing your information in the first place? While you’re at it, you may wish to read this Scottish Review exposé of  how the innocuous sounding Young Scot card is used to gather and share information about young people by default, offering discounts as sweeteners to sign up and/or denying access to school meals and facilities to those without one.

But we digress.

Here is the long awaited FOI response from Perth and Kinross who still haven’t sent the presentation on home education that was requested at the same time (but they are apparently trying to find it). Hopefully it isn’t being deliberately hidden from view to evade public scrutiny( since they work for us, don’t they?)

[Their text in bold italics]

Freedom of Information Request –Hidden Children –Our Reference ATI 2013 01 30 002

Background

Perth and Kinross Child Protection Committee (CPC) is the local inter-agency strategic partnership, responsible for the development of child protection policy and practice within the public, private and third sector services and agencies across Perth and Kinross.

Most children and young people get all the help and support they need from their parents, carers and families, in addition to the universal services of education and health. However, on some occasions, some children and young people may need further help and support to ensure their needs and rights are met, to ensure their health, development and well-being is secured and to ensure they keep themselves safe from, harm and / or abuse.

All very laudable until you consider how state agencies routinely fail to protect the “needs and rights” of children in schools, some of whom are bullied to the point of self harm, running away and attempted  (or actual) suicide and others whose special needs are ignored or otherwise unmet. Deflecting blame on to parents or children themselves is par for the course in the experience of many families.

National Consultation and Submission

On 4 July 2012 the Scottish Government published “A Scotland for Children: A Consultation on the Children and Young People Bill”. The consultation period ran from 4 July 2012 until 25 September 2012. Perth and Kinross CPC made a submission to this national consultation, noting that the proposed, wide ranging Bill, was both ambitious and challenging.

Schoolhouse also made a submission, noting the government’s intention to proceed with its ‘data rape’ proposals which have nothing to do with protecting children and everything to do with universal surveillance and interference in private family life. While Schoolhouse members and others have been tracing and documenting the history of this misguided policy, with all of its obvious pitfalls, for more than a decade, public and third sector  ‘professionals’ (with the notable exception of some NHS staff and a few teachers and social workers) have been swallowing the trojan horsemeat spin quicker than a Tesco Value ready meal.  Being paid with ‘public’ money to think what the state dictates and ‘follow orders’ undoubtedly makes for a comfortable existence (although the foot soldiers should remember that their chidren won’t be exempt, unlike the children of politicians, celebrities and the wealthy whose information is too precious to put at risk) . History suggests that this is a dangerous state of affairs (but let’s not mention the war).

Within Chapter 2 of the Consultation document at paragraphs 105 to 120 inclusive, the Scottish Government set out their legislative proposals for the Named Person to be supplemented by further detailed guidance. These proposals are aimed at ensuring all children and young people in Scotland, from birth to 18 have a Named Person, whom they or their carers can approach regarding support and who will have a responsibility to ensure if needs are identified, they are responded to.

Schoolhouse doesn’t think much of the idea of imposing a Nosy Parker on all children and families who may not want interference in their private lives without demonstrable good reason if they have not requested specific ‘services’.  We have made our views clear in our formal response and predict it could all turn into a very expensive game of hide and seek, with already scant resources being diverted from children in real need of protection (those in schools, for example).

Consultation paragraph 118 specifically stated that “there will be circumstances when the above arrangements would not work. For certain groups of children and young people whose pattern of involvement with education services would make the above arrangements difficult to implement, the Bill would set out alternative arrangements, to be supplemented in guidance issued by Scottish Ministers”.

This will provide the perfect excuse for tick box tyrants to hound those who have no interest in availing themselves of ‘universal services’ and those whose lifestyles do not fit the state dictated ‘norm’. Such totalitarian “arrangements” have no place in a free society.

Home Educated Children

Perth and Kinross CPC recognises the right for children and young people to be educated at home and acknowledges that in the majority of such cases parents do so very effectively. The CPC also recognises that the vast majority of children and young people educated at home are successful learners and are safe, health, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.

Unadulterated Newspeak.  We don’t think much of GIRFEC (Getting Information Recorded For Every Citizen) or SHANARRI ‘wellbeing’ soundbite indicators either.

However, Perth and Kinross CPC also recognises that the current Scottish Government legislation, regulations and guidance for home educated children has some limitations in respect of children’s rights which are more widely proposed in the Children and Young People’s Bill.

That sounds like the old familiar double standards again, just what home educators have come to expect of vested interest local authorities (who work for us?) and allied busybodies who inhabit glass houses. Who exactly is championing the rights of schoolchildren who are being bullied, abused and poorly educated in schools which are paid for with the taxes of those who choose to use them and those who don’t? When we say “choose”, we do so deliberately to underline the fact that home education is the default model, whereas council schools are only provided for the use of those parents who decide to delegate their direct responsibility for various reasons, not all of them educational. Schools are inspected on behalf of parents and taxpayers who are entitled to receive a satisfactory service (but so often don’t) and value for money.

The Scottish Government itself acknowledge that there will be a need for alternative arrangements and guidance, if certain aspects and provisions of the Bill are to be equally applied to all Scotland’s children and young people.

Looks like we’ll have to ask the Scottish Government for all its correspondence with Perth and Kinross Council relating to home education to see exactly what is being plotted by these self-serving upholders of children’s rights (except those who go to their council schools). And another thing: Scotland doesn’t own any children, and neither does Perth and Kinross Council – unless they plan to reintroduce slavery? Children are sovereign human beings who belong to themselves.

And finally, we get to the three questions we asked for under the FOI Act:

Response

1. To which “recent SCRs” in relation to electively home educated (EHE) children (the appropriate definition being “children of compulsory education age whose parents elect to fulfil their direct legal responsibility, not the council’s, to educate their children outside school”) is the CPC submission referring? Please provide links to all of the SCRs, recent or otherwise, which (according to the CPC submission) provide “evidence” of the (already disproved) claim that EHE children are at disproportionate risk.

Three recent cases in the UK and Scotland (where children and young people have either never been involved with education services and / or have subsequently been withdrawn from education services, to be educated at home), have identified situations where the vulnerabilities and risks posed to children were not evident because they were being educated at home.

The above statement is a malicious falsehood deigned to smear home educators. Has Perth and Kinross CPC received special training from the London Fantasy Safeguarding Network or the NSPCC ? The latter certainly did a good job of infecting the Metropolitan Police with their poison, so it would appear to be a bit of a pandemic.

Cue here the sick, but oh so predictable, graverobbing and ‘cascading’ of misinformation (aka blatant lies) in an effort to discredit home educators, falling not very far short of incitement to hatred. They may not have read all the SCRs from cover to cover, but we have and, what’s more, we understood their contents.

These cases include the three Riggi Children (Died) Edinburgh 2010;

This is a blatant attempt to misrepresent the true facts of this case. Schoolhouse has previously made a formal complaint about an MSP who sought to score political points out of this tragedy by attributing the deaths of the Riggi children directly to their home educated status when there was clearly no such causal link.  We would therefore expect Perth and Kinross CPC to apologise for making similar unsubstantiated statements based on their failure to understand the difference between correlation and causation. If we were to apply the same faulty logic, we would be blaming schools for the deaths of schooled children involved in custody battles or other circumstances and we could safely assume that divorcing parents are a risk to their children. Perhaps all schooled children should be expected to report for inspection by a state appointed stranger every weekend and during the school holidays (which is when the  Riggi children died)? And who is going to inspect all the inspectors, some of whom are most probably going to be Jimmy Savile sorts?

Khyra Ishaq (Birmingham SCR 2010);

They can’t get away with this one either as the SCR placed the blame firmly on multi-agency failure, and so did the Victoria Climbié Foundation who stated at the time: “Home Education did not kill Khyra; Agency Failings did”. But don’t just take our word for it, take a look at the evidence set out in this Bursting Bubbles article which effectively demolishes the  claims and points to a highly organised and politically motivated smear campaign. Further detailed analysis can be found in this comprehensive article: Systems, people and the death of Khyra Ishaq.  Another apology is owed to home educators.

Sion D (Flintshire SCR 2012).

Wrong again. This child was known to multiple agencies who failed to intervene. As AHEd has pointed out: The content of this serious case review shows that the child sadly died of an infection that could have killed any child. Various agencies had concerns about the family but did not act or use the powers available to them. All they are able to say about this case is that it might have been suspicious but they cannot show that it was suspicious; that the child could have been at risk, but they cannot show that the child was not a loved and cared for child. They were concerned because the child was electively home educated but they were known to the council and no educational issue was raised.”

As an aside, a similar smear was perpetrated in another disturbing case, in which “the reputation of a home educating family, whose child had tragically died from natural causes, was deliberately sullied  by the general secretary of the Association of Education Welfare Managers in England. In a letter to the then Children’s Minister Margaret Hodge, it was erroneously claimed that the child had been removed from school “then subjected to child abuse”. A retraction was duly made and a full apology issued, but the episode marked a new low in the mud slinging stakes by an opportunist who hadn’t bothered to check her facts in a desperate bid to smear a minority community on the basis of one case twisted to suit her own purposes.” [Excerpt from Open season on home educators, but we aren’t all game]

Two previous cases include Danielle Reid (Died Inverness 2002)

They really haven’t done their homework here, having simply swallowed and regurgitated another Big Lie. Danielle was never home educated, but was murdered while she was enrolled as a pupil at a Scottish primary school, despite serious concerns having been raised about her extreme vulnerability. Her mother then claimed she had moved to England and nobody bothered to check, despite multiple indicators that she was at risk of significant harm. To add insult to the injury of multi-agency failure, Danielle’s tragic death was subsequently used to hard sell a universal surveillance policy (GIRFEC) that was already in the pipeline and just waiting for a convenient ‘vehicle’ to happen along to con the public. It’s about time these so-called Child Protection Committees caught up with the rest of us.

and Victoria Climbie (Died London 2000).

Obviously Perth and Kinross’s tabloid-based ‘research’ failed to find that the Victoria Climbié Foundation categorically demolished this one too, deploring the fact that Victoria’s name should be cynically abused by, among others, the NSPCC  in order to take the heat off their own failings and cowardly cover up attempts. The following statement was published on the Foundation’s website in February 2009:

“The Victoria Climbié Foundation UK is genuinely concerned about the link being made between Victoria Climbié and home education, and Victoria as a hidden child. Victoria was neither home-educated nor hidden. The reality is that there is no such thing as a ‘hidden’ child, only children who are allowed to fall through the gaps. The key issue here is how statutory services interact with children that are known within the child protection system.”

The Foundation should probably be alerted to Perth and Kinross CPC”s perpetuation of the myth that Victoria was home educated and hidden. This series of articles (containing 100% real evidence) and a potted history of Laming’s legacy of failure might help them craft the unreserved apologies that home educators surely deserve.

The Perth and Kinross CPC submission did not suggest that any children and young people educated at home within Perth and Kinross were the subject of any previous SCR and did not suggest that children and young people educated at home were at a ‘disproportionate risk’.

A clear inference to that effect could be drawn from the content and tenor of the submission. It’s all about perception when you are the target of sustained bullying and harassment while going about your lawful business.

The Perth and Kinross CPC submission did set children and young people educated at home within a much wider policy and / or practice environment commonly defined nationally as ‘Hidden Children’.

The insults just keep on coming, and the intent to smear a minority group that wants little or nothing to do with ‘universal services’ (that serve themselves before anyone else) is clear.

The Scottish Government term “Hidden Children” refers to all those who may not be visible, rather than implying a deliberate attempt to obscure them from view. However the lower level of oversight does allow for this where there is an intention to do so.

Invisible chldren? Have home educated children really vanished into thin air, never to be seen within their communities? Or is it that some home educating families simply prefer to have nothing to do with state agents who are neither use nor ornament but still want fill in their ‘wellbeing’ wheels of misfortune and use dodgy indicators to justify interfering with children.

It should be noted that the above-mentioned dead children, whose graves have once again been so shamelessly robbed, were neither invisible nor obscured from view. In those cases where (often multiple) referrals were made to agencies which failed to intervene, these same failing agencies routinely sought to shift the blame on to a convenient scapegoat. They needed no encouragement to fit up home educators, going as far as  fabricating and misrepresenting schoolboy statistics to back up their Big Lie in the face of direct evidence to the contrary.

And while we’re talking about ‘invisibility’, information about home education is often hidden and/or deliberately obscured from view (or else outdated and inaccurate) on LA websites. We don’t really have to wonder why.

2. In relation to the “research into this entire area of hidden children” which was cited as “nearing completion” in September 2012, please provide a list of all the consultees who participate in this research and a copy of the document which was to be shared by the CPC with the Scottish Government.

Perth and Kinross CPC is currently reviewing and evaluating the single and inter-agency child protection policy and practice guidance where a child or young person could become hidden and / or unseen. A Short Life Working Group of local child protection managers / practitioners continues to carry out this work. This did not require external consultation, participation or engagement, as it is a process of updating our guidance in line with National Policy and Guidance. Therefore, in terms of section 17(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, this is formal notice that this information is not held.

The report in question is still being compiled and therefore a copy cannot be provided at this time. In terms of section 17(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, this is formal notice that this information is not held.

I have been advised that it is expected that the report will be presented to the CPC on 5th March 2013.

Convenient get-out clause to prevent proper scrutiny. Why bother consulting those affected by a policy when you already know what’s best for them?  We’ll be asking again for this hidden information. Could be a long project to get to the bottom of it.

3. Given that EHE children were specifically referred to as “Hidden Children” in the above submission, which home education organisations and home educating families did Perth & Kinross Council’s CPC consult with before coming to this inaccurate, misleading, discriminatory and deeply insulting conclusion in relation to a minority group of children and young people who are educated “by other means” in accordance with the Education (Scotland) Act 1980?

I have been advised that no home education organisations or home educating families were consulted in the CPC response, as this was, in effect a review of local practice and guidance. There was no requirement for external engagement. In terms of section 17(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, this is formal notice that this information is not held.

So there was no “requirement” for transparency in the form of external engagement which might have challenged their one-world view and questioned their predetermined conclusion. Talking behind the backs you are getting ready to stab is obviously much less ‘risky’.

The findings put forward by the CPC in its response to the Children and Young People’s Bill consultation are an update to previous extensive national consultation and academic research and relate to the national context and not, as outlined in the response to Q2, to Perth and Kinross specifically.

We don’t remember any such national consultation or academc research, although the Scottish Government published a document about Children Missing from Education by a ‘consultant’ they couldn’t remember anything about (who used to work for them but must have been easily forgettable) who claimed she had consulted with “home education bodies”. These bodies must surely have been invisible (or dead?) as we (and other groups) could find no trace of any such consultation.

It would have been remiss for the CPC not to make a collective response in terms of the issue of Hidden Children taking into account the wide ranging proposals contained within the Children and Young People’s Bill, the limited illustrative examples at Consultation paragraph 118, the previously mentioned SCRs, the evidence base and the review and evaluation work the CPC is currently engaged in.

It would be remiss of Schoolhouse not to point out, in the interests of balance, a couple of local examples of our own relating to the ‘wellbeing’ and safety (or otherwise) of children in Perth and Kinrosss’s ‘professional’ care. Here are two for starters: Education official struck off for downloading child porn and Children’s home worker in Scotland struck off for stalking boy.  And since Perth and Kinross CPC chose to trawl widely for examples to fit their dodgy hypothesis about home education, we thought we might as well throw in a mention of the Eight Scots convicted of child abuse charges (whose number included the chief executive of a publicly funded ‘rights’ group, an ex-teacher, a babysitter, a youth worker and a church elder). We should probably also flag up the prevalence of the professional abuse of children in care settings across the UK by teachers, social  workers, police officers, nursery workers, foster carers and others with access to children. Staying hidden from people like that seems an eminently sensible option.

It would also be remiss of Schoolhouse not to publicise this fulsome riposte to Perth and Kinross Council’s insulting response to our FOIA questions, given the deliberate smearing of the home education community by a public body which is expected to promote equality and not to discriminate against minorities.

Meanwhile, home educators (and all families, for they are coming for your children too) who are concerned about intrusion by, and ongoing harassment from, those “just following orders” from people of this ilk, may wish to peruse this online conference report: Dealing with highly intrusive parasitic public servants.