Understanding the Hostile Environment in which we Live

Understanding the Hostile Environment in which we Live

Why many children’s professionals are suspicious of EHE

What’s been said?

Three short guest articles have been uploaded to the new Library section of the HE Byte. Here you will find items written by members of the HE community, shared for the benefit of all. It was not the team’s original intention to carry such material, but when these were offered it seemed a positive development, in the interests of furthering all our understanding.

The Rise of the Safeguarding Industry” examines the reach and effects of this comparatively new feature in our society by tracing the development of social work as a profession through the twentieth century.

Until the second world war, social work was thought of as “the provision of urgent aid in times of extreme distress.” But then came the welfare state, and as this developed, so too did the public’s expectations. “The public expected to be kept well and happy and the state to provide the basics of subsistence…. The more the public expected, the more the public invited the State into their homes.”

This trend is traced through the decades to the present day, along with the “increasing invasion of privacy in order to safeguard basic welfare rights.” The concluding paragraphs lament the effect upon law-abiding families of state control of children.

Child of the parent or child of the state?” is the second article. This explores the increasingly frequent assumption on the part of social workers that state oversight of children is essential “in order to ensure that parents comply with their legal duties toward their children.” Some very perceptive comments follow:

“This is something that older generations would not have tolerated.”

“The current approach appears to be that when a parent acts in conformity with expected norms they do not require investigation, but any divergence from the norm, no matter that it is a legal divergence, will require investigation. This… is most clearly demonstrated with families who home educate their children, particularly where some other form of state intervention is declined or not taken up.” [Emphasis added]

Climate of suspicion over home education is adding to workload of social workers” is an exploration of the media-fuelled increase in public and official interest in home education, leading to calls for monitoring and compulsory visits. One indirect consequence of this is that a disproportionate number of home educated children get referred to social services primarily because they are home educated.

There follows a careful comparison of the referral rate of children in various sectors, and the corresponding percentages of those who become subject to a Child Protection Plan as a result.

And the conclusion drawn from this brief statistical foray? “It seems clear that a significant number of referrals under the category of ‘child at risk’ are unnecessary.” Referrals that turn out to be unnecessary, however, still increase social workers’ workload and divert their attention away from genuine cases.

Why does it matter?

Most of us have a general awareness of major twentieth century events, but a careful consideration of the evolution of social work and the welfare state will join some dots and make certain trends and expectations more obvious. Readers will see more clearly the route by which we got to where we are today.

The rise of state intervention and safeguarding is a concern to many, both within and outside the HE community. The concluding paragraph of the second article emphasises the need to resist this:

“Diverse societies are thriving societies and we need to act to protect that diversity. Ordinary caring parents need to raise their voices to protest about this travesty, to stem the tide of public ownership of our children. 1984 is already establishing, do not dare blink, because if you take your eyes off the ball it will be here.”

This article addresses the rise of the “just in case” mentality regarding the frequently stated need to see all children. “There might be concerns if they [social workers] look hard enough…”

It also features comment on the covert nature of some Children’s Services investigations: “The illogicality of a situation where a parent is referred for being ‘unseen’ by public employees and yet the work of those employees within the safeguarding industry is unseen, should not be lost on that public.”

The corollary to the third article’s research into excessive referral of HE children to social services is important. “It is the social worker in the field who carries the weight of this problem.” This has serious knock-on effects for any HE family investigated needlessly, and for cases of genuine need that get shifted further down the waiting list.

One suggested way of addressing this problem also points up the discriminatory nature of many referrals in the first place: “The most obvious step is policy guidance for education officers, GPs, health visitors and NHS staff that home education is not of itself a safeguarding issue. If referrers are encouraged to recognise that fact and to apply the same criteria to home educated children as they do to other children, a reduction in unnecessary referrals should logically follow.” [Emphasis added]

What can I do?

None of these articles are long (1500 words approx). Read them carefully, bookmarking them for easy future reference. Together they help to explain why many children’s professionals consider EHE to be “a problem.”

You may recognise some of the issues which are raised. Think about these carefully, making a mental note of examples within your own experience or your locality.

If more is being demanded of you as a HE parent than you feel is reasonable in the light of current guidance, seek advice from experienced local HE parents, and speak up.

If you would like to contribute an article to our library, please get in touch.