Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: State -v- family: this week's battlegrounds - Nov 06

From Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I listened to Radio 4's Law in Action programme yesterday, in which they talked to the psychiatrist who 'has persuaded' Tony Blair that targeting parents of problem toddlers will cut crime. (I wonder how much persuading he needed.)

The programme consisted of a debate between Dr Stephen Scott of the Institute of Psychiatry, Observer journalist David Rose who has taken a special interest in the causes of crime, criminologist Professor Carol Hedderman from the University of Leicester, Ex-offenders Steve Wilkinson and Quince Garcia and Shaun Bailey, a community worker and research fellow of the Centre for Policy Studies.

Dr Scott talked with the fevered enthusiasm of a missionary zealot. He repeatedly made the point that, since it was so easy to detect ("with about a 70% success rate" - nobody asked what about the 30% you get wrong then? Assuming your success rate is even accurate.) which children were likely to grow up to be criminals, it was unjust NOT to intervene in their lives from as soon as they're conceived. When the others suggested there would be stigma attached to families targeted by his plan, he got quite angry. "What's that stigma, compared to the stigma of being a criminal?" he kept asking, with mounting hysteria.

Interesting point, the power of stigma. Tony Blair (clips of whose speeches about this were aired in and amongst), his psychiatrist - oops I mean the psychiatrist who advised him about this issue ;-) seem determined to assert that THEY determine who is stigmatised and who isn't. The other contributors to the programme debate were equally insistent that the general public sets social stigmas, not the experts and politicians. Dr Scott's upset about this made it clear they had indeed touched upon a raw nerve.

The two ex-convicts were very dismissive, indeed very worried, about the idea. They both made the point that targeted parents would definitely not engage with this plan if it were to be voluntary. And if it were forced, that it would do more harm than good. They kept asking, is it to be forced? What happens when people refuse to go along with it? Will their children be taken into care? At no time did anyone say NO, this would not happen. They just dodged the question and gave evasive answers.

The criminologist, who has been doing a lot of work on related issues in the Home Office for years, was realistic in a world-weary way. "These plans and strategies often do well in the pilot phase, where people are hand-picked and eager to be involved and it's all 100% voluntary and directly run by the inventor of the strategy, but when they get 'rolled out' nationwide, they rarely work."

The journalist and community worker held the centre ground of the debate but on the whole didn't seem very confident in its chances of success. They were also interested in the issue of whether intervention would be forced, if and when it was not taken up voluntarily.

Targeted people are to be primarily drug addicts, people with criminal records and alcoholics, but single parents got a mention, as did people living in poverty. Intervention, we were told, would take the form of extended health visitor programmes (more snooping), parenting classes and courses. It amused me (in a kind of desperate way) that not one person present raised the question of who would take care of the presumably very young children while their parents attended these classes? Strangers? Neighbours? Parents' presumably drug-addicted, criminal friends? A crèche? Nobody asked. Nobody cared. All experts and not a practical thought for the children themselves amongst them.

You can listen to the programme sometime before next Tuesday here: it's well-worth hearing. 30 mins long. Oh I forgot to say some of the targeting will be based on detection of a 'crime gene' they've found. Yes, really. I hope they test the Blair family first.

Then there's the nursery rhyme issue. I wasn't even going to bother blogging about this, it seems so utterly ridiculous. But hey, our lords and masters are deadly serious. Those parents who are guilty (or, presumably suspected guilty) of not singing nursery rhymes to their children will be forced to attend classes to learn how to do so. What if you know how to do so and choose not to? Then, presumably you'll be punished for disobedience of the Crown. Your children will be forfeited. Got a sore throat? No excuse. Tone deaf? Obviously genetically defective and should be forcibly sterilised. Probably will be, if they have their way. The Nazis had nothing on them. Is Beverly Hughes the same woman who said mothers who opted to stay out of full-time work created a problem for the economy? Or was that another Blair babe? I can't remember, but some of these politicians are apparently mothers themselves. Pity their children.

In other news, I see that another cuddly eminent expert David Southall apparently falsely accused a grieving mother of drugging and hanging her ten year old son, reporting his mistaken belief to Social Services, who then forcibly took her other remaining child into care. Professor Southall is the paediatrician who also accused the husband of solicitor Sally Clark of murdering their children, Christopher and Harry.

"A disciplinary hearing was told he had pointed the finger of blame at another parent whose ten-year-old son hanged himself with a belt at home after allegedly being bullied at school. Richard Tyson, QC, for the GMC said Professor Southall subjected the mother, an auxiliary nurse, to a barrage of "aggressive and intimidatory" questions during an interview in 1998. The paediatrician told her that if she did not answer his questions then she must be guilty of murdering her child, Mr Tyson said.

"He said Professor Southall had told the bereaved mother: "I will tell you how he died." "You drugged him after obtaining drugs from the operating theatre as he would not allow you to kill him." "You waited for him to go to sleep and you then wrapped the belt round the curtain pole, lifted him up and then buckled the belt around his neck and then waited until he had died."

After the interview, Mr Tyson said that the mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was "extremely distressed." Mr Tyson said: "In particular she was extremely upset by the accusation made to her face that she murdered her own child."

I once knew a psychiatric nurse of long standing, who told me that in her experience nobody who works in psychiatry is actually sane. This is why they're attracted to the profession in the first place. And the higher up the psychiatric ladder - i.e. the more fervent their beliefs, the madder they are. And yet these people are put in charge of deciding which of us should and shouldn't be allowed to keep our children. Worse - they're advising politicians which swathes of us should and shouldn't be allowed to keep our children. And worse than that, the politicians are taking them seriously.

Total, collective madness? Maybe not.

For an economy to not shrink, it has to be made to grow. Our economy in the UK (and probably most other Western countries) stopped growing naturally some decades ago, when everyone had produced and bought everything everyone really needed. So economies have to be artificially driven now, hence all the consumerism and advertising etc. Most things we actually do need are of course produced abroad by people paid much less than us. This sector of our economy is really quite tiny.

But where does all the money come from in the first place?

Here's what I think:

We have very few real, necessary jobs for people. So the government creates them, hence the fast-growing army of experts, officers, consultants, administrators and so on. These people are themselves all the products of a ballooning education sector which seeks to ensure that at least 50% of the population is university educated!

So where does the money come from to pay them all? Because they're not cheap to keep. How much will the likes of David Southall, Stephen Scott and the other experts who decide whether we can keep our children, be paid by the public purse? About £80k p.a. at the very minimum is my guess. Probably much more.

This obviously comes from taxes. Every time we buy anything, the government takes a cut. Every time anything or anyone is transported anywhere the government takes a HUGE cut. Council taxes are taking up to a quarter of some people's income. Everything most people earn is taxed, at between 20 and 40%. That's just the start. We have corporation taxes, university fees, licence and permit fees, parking and speeding fines. What percentage of what everyone earns actually goes to the government? 90% plus in the end is my guess, when they've finished with all the social and administrative charges and stealth taxes and everything else.

How can we pay so much in taxes? By being employed in mostly unnecessary jobs and being paid quite a lot of money for doing them. When it transpires the jobs might be unnecessary, more work is created. Children not doing well enough at school? Employ more teachers, assistants, administrators. Trainers of teachers, administrators and assistants. Course-developers for trainers of teachers, administrators and assistants. Some people still committing crime? Then we need more criminologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, health visitors. Police. People not committing enough crime to justify all this? Then we need to make more laws, requiring more government department staff, more court officials, judges, jailers, detectives, social workers, expert witnesses.

Some people still not got enough to do? They can foster children. We'll pay them. £100s per week per child. £110,000 a year to keep a child in residential care. Not enough children need fostering? We'll invent more and more reasons to take them into care.

Some people still opting to stay out of the rat race? Then we make 'poverty' a crime. The definition of poverty has changed remarkably over the years, according to what point and policies people want to make. Currently anyone in the UK whose income is below the national average is at risk of being defined to be living in poverty. By definition, that's up to half of the population. Certainly those of us who make the conscious choice to earn and spend only what we actually need are enemies of the economy and therefore the state and are considered to be fair targets for forced interventions, by the burgeoning highly-paid army of experts and professionals who all need to be constantly given something to do.

Prevent revolution and keep the economy ever growing at all costs. These are the two main - I would say the only - priorities of any Western government now.

What happens to the children, whose parents are unable to cope with their world's crazy demands so have to be 'off their heads' on drink or drugs? Nobody really cares. What happens to the children whose parents play the game and put them straight into full-time daycare while they relentlessly pursue their unnecessary careers and simply don't have time to sit around the fire and tell stories and sing nursery rhymes? Nobody really cares.

They pretend it's all about children but it isn't at all. It's all about money and power.

This goes beyond party politics, in my opinion. How you vote at the next election will make no difference at all. The only thing that will stop this madness is the eventual, inevitable failure of their bloody-minded determination to keep the economy artificially inflating forever. The bubble HAS to pop sometime, with all the chaos, panic and real suffering that will bring. Then after that, we might manage to achieve some kind of sanity and common sense for a while.

posted by Gill at 6:44 AM 13 comments ...

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As a child born in 1970 coming from a poorish family of working class background, I am suprised to find that I'm going to be a criminal. Did they say when this kicks in? Its just that I'm 36 now and I've not burgled/robbed/shot/stabbed/raped/murdered anyone yet. I have broke the speed limit several times (no doubt that will soon be a capital offence) but right now its a civil offence and not a criminal one.

I can't say I'm looking forward to my future life as a crack-addict fuelled binge drinking psychopathic menace to society - no wait, scrap that - they'll pay me £75,000 (maybe more!) to come off what I'm addicted to. That'll pay my debts when I come out of jail - and I'll be clean too! ....happy days are here again.....

I have a theory. The real people who need to be locked up are the ones who come out with this stuff. Let them diagnose each other.

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Posted by Baz to Sometimes It's Peaceful at 11/15/2006 10:19:48 AM

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Gill: you go girrrrl!

I presume my children are going to be criminals if the system keeps criminalising everyone. I hope they are not going to be petty thieves or crack addicts cos that is just so lame. I think they will be the sort of really dangerous criminals that the 'authorities' fear. Here I am doing the quiet revolution stuff (as in 'f*** you I won't do what you tell me') home birth etc ( home birth being a political move instead of a dreemy dolphin nu age control freakage thang) and taking full responsibility for my kids instead of delegating that responsibility to the brain washing programme..oops I meant schools. There's no way I have reared kids who could fit in to the system (I have just been informed of that at our latest 'assessment' by the education authority). My kids adore to hear stories of relatives gone by who were fighting against the bully power boys in power and they love to hear about the living revolutionary relative we have now who stands up for stuff in public displays of resistance. eek! I'm bandying this word revolution about and I don't really know what it means. Every thing is always about power struggles I reckon. I just know, that I was a stubborn mardy ass at school and wouldn't take the teachers shite as gospel nor put up with their crap and I feel the same way nowadays about other 'authority' figures and psychiatrists and all that mob. If you'd have met me at two you could maybe have predicted that it would be me who burnt down the school sports shed in a senseless act of teenage arson. And then what would be done with me?

What is a criminal anyway? I'm more frightened of the sort of 'criminal' power psychiatrists have than of muggers..and I've been mugged a couple of times and it wasn't nice.

*sigh* Oh where was I?..Gill..brilliant post:) Got me all in a lather.

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Posted by Elder Faery to Sometimes It's Peaceful at 11/15/2006 06:54:35 PM

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Gill, you usually make a lot of sense, but I don't see why in this one you decided to throw foster carers into your personal hell too.

None of the foster carers I have known have been doing it because they "didn't have enough to do" - that's just a crazy idea tbh. Yes, some of them do get £100s a week - that's fairly recent, because fostering is finally coming to be seen as a *job* rather than a glorified babysitting service. Would you look after a very disturbed child just for the cost of his/her food and clothing?

Fostering is still far, far cheaper than a residential care home - less than 20% if your quoted figure is accurate. And where would you rather a child be, in a care home or in a family? I'd choose the family, if possible.

And I can't agree with you on the inventing reasons to take them into care - I know it's far from a perfect system, and there have been a few well-publicised major cock-ups - but there is actually an awful lot of time and effort (and money) put into *keeping* children at home with their families.

Relatives or friends of the family are often considered first as emergency or permanent foster carers - I have seen such placements work really well, and I've seen them be really utterly shit. And sadly lots of families today don't *have* that kind of immediate support anwway.

Foster carers, for the main part, are picking up the crap that has filtered down through the system. I'm glad they're there. I know I couldn't do it.

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Posted by Alison to Sometimes It's Peaceful at 11/15/2006 07:07:43 PM

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I've got nothing against foster carers Alison and never said I did. My own sister does emergency fostering for families in desperate situations and I think she's wonderful for doing it. Search my blog if you like for an instance where I've said people should not offer to foster children. You won't find one.

I do, and shall continue to object to normal, happy, 'good-enough' parents (which I think includes the vast majority of the population), having the never-ending threat of care orders being held over them by our control-freak government, for a variety of extending, unnecessary and yes, frankly, made-up reasons.

I don't actually think many of us have much to fear, even though fear is apparently what these scare stories are meant to engender.

I'm not sure exactly why we're being hit by this barrage of 'anti-family', 'we don't trust you with your own children' government press releases, research papers and policy documents. But I suspect, as I explained in the post, it comes down to both keeping people easily controlled and keeping the economy growing.

My 'personal hell'? LOL, I'm one of the happiest people I know. Just because I like to point out and speculate what the goverment might be up to doesn't make anything hellish. I would even go so far as to say that shining a light into the dark scary places to try to see what's there is the best way to allay fears and help a person live happily, but I guess that approach isn't for everyone.

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Posted by Gill to Sometimes It's Peaceful at 11/15/2006 08:03:52 PM

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And yes, I'd look after children who really needed it for free, if asked, and have in the past. For as long as it was needed. Not because I'm some kind of angel, but just because if something needs doing then it needs doing, and I don't see why payment has to come into it as long as everyone has enough to pay for bills and food. But that's my own personal opinion and not one I'd expect everyone else to adhere to. But you did ask!

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Posted by Gill to Sometimes It's Peaceful at 11/15/2006 08:24:44 PM

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As ever an excellent post.

2nd time today I've read about foster carers... DfES are saying that there is a case about to go to trial involving HEing foster carers who are accused of the long term abuse of their foster children. No doubt this will be used as a stick to bash us all with. Seems ludicrous as foster carers presumably have to go through an awful lot of checks and monitoring. So again it seems as though it will be a case of using an unfortunate series of events in a totally skewed way to achieve abusive legislation.

Oh and watch out that you don't do anything that could be classed as anti social - Reid wants the police to have powers to evict home owners within 48 hours. I almost PMSL when I heard the news headlines tonight - what was it? The gov wants us all to feel that we live in a strong, safe and secure community? Hmm, sounds like prison to me. They want us to feel safe in our own homes, oh yes, the homes that are only *ours* so long as we abide by their definition of what *social* is.

I'm considering applying for my Irish passport again.

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Posted by Tech to Sometimes It's Peaceful at 11/15/2006 08:37:55 PM

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What's that paragraph about foster carers about then? "Some people still not got enough to do? They can foster children." - what's the point of saying that?

And "the vast majority of the population" have "the never-ending threat of care orders being held over them"? Really? I hadn't noticed. You don't think that's a trifle paranoid?

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Posted by Alison to Sometimes It's Peaceful at 11/15/2006 09:04:46 PM

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LOL Tech, I saw that too. Another political rant is brewing in my head!

Alison, does it really need saying that there's a world of difference between the kind of emergency, life-savingly necessary childcare any decent human being would undertake whenever the need arose, and the billboard-advertised highly paid 'service' being pushed on us by government?

I don't, and won't consider them both to be the same thing.

And yes, while ever social services have the right to forcibly remove children from households without an open court hearing and trial by jury, I think we're all under constant threat from care orders.

There aren't (quite) the resources available for significant numbers of us to be directly and personally threatened by them but I don't like the fact that the power is there in law and I don't think I'm being paranoid to say so.

In fact, according to the 1989 Children Act children's own views should be taken into account regarding decisions taken on their behalf but this is age-dependant, so we're safer when our children are old enough to state their views.

You think it's OK for women who are suspected by rogue professionals of having hurt or murdered their children, to lose their remaining children to the care system? That could happen to any one of us, any time. No fair trial, no open hearing. They just take the children. If it can happen to one of us, it can happen to any of us.

And the very concepts of 'suitable' education and 'good-enough' parenting change all the time, daily it seems.

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Posted by Gill to Sometimes It's Peaceful at 11/15/2006 09:25:54 PM

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I dunno what the 'personal hell' thing was all about - all a bit abrasive for my tastes - can't see that it was warranted. Still, we're all feisty women and things get said.

*whimper*

Anyway, are we all still on for a revolution then? Was wondering..would that be a full 360 or what?

P.P.S: Gill..you have some very valid points.

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Posted by Elder Faery to Sometimes It's Peaceful at 11/15/2006 10:40:54 PM

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LOL EF you'd get the full pirouette from me, if I could do one without falling over!

I guess it's easy to assume I must be somehow depressed or miserable to want to write posts like that.
I'm not, I love my life and my children and I'm happier than I ever thought it was possible to be.

But maybe that's doesn't always come across very well on my blog.

Oh well! I'll get practising the pirouettes anyway ;-)

Watching Flashdance atm, so it's very appropriate, LOL

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Posted by Gill to Sometimes It's Peaceful at 11/15/2006 11:04:43 PM

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