Sunday, February 08, 2009

Boiling frogs, but making them achieve economic wellbeing first

No, we haven't been doing bizarre science experiments. I'm referring to this:

The boiling frog story states that a frog can be boiled alive if the water is heated slowly enough — it is said that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will never jump out.

The story is generally told in a figurative context, with the upshot being that people should make themselves aware of gradual change lest they suffer a catastrophic loss. Often it is used to illustrate a slippery-slope argument. For example, many civil libertarians argue that even minor increases in government authority, which may seem less noteworthy, make future increases in that authority more likely: what would once have seemed a huge power grab, the argument goes, now becomes seen as just another incremental increase, and thus appears more palatable. In the boiling-frog allegory, the frog represents the citizenry, whilst the gradual heating of the water represents the incremental encroachment of government.

So there. We are all frogs, being slowly boiled alive, without even noticing. Or at least, most of us aren't noticing. This water's getting nice and warm though, isn't it?

Back to the five outcomes. Do you have the stomach to look at another one, after yesterday? I'm not sure I do, but it needs to be done. Still, it should be quicker than yesterday now that we know something about how it all works.

Today I want to focus on the 5th one: Achieve economic wellbeing because I think it's probably one of the most dangerous of the five, if indeed any of them can be said to be less so. In yesterday's post, we saw that making a positive contribution means the compulsory attendance of 'diversionary activities' (in Extended Schools) as well as being on the 'path to success', which seems to mean the taking of specific exams. This is set out in a so-called 'Public Service Agreement' (I didn't agree - did you?) which makes it crystal clear that it means all children. No exceptions.

Hopefully we will be able to nail Achieve economic wellbeing down in the same way today, but isn't it strange that we're having to dig so deeply to find the real meanings of these outcomes? Wouldn't you think an honest government that had our best interests at heart (and didn't enjoy boiling frogs) would make it a bit easier for us to find out what was going on?

So to go back to the outcomes framework [opens pdf]. Take out your magnifying glasses, everyone...

ECM framework

The five Achieve economic wellbeing 'aims' are:

  • Engage in further education, employment or training on leaving school;
  • Ready for employment;
  • Live in decent homes and sustainable communities;
  • Access to transport and material goods; and
  • Live in households free from low income.

(If you're not starting to smell a rat - or a boiling frog - yet, you perhaps didn't read this yesterday.)

The PSAs and DSOs (see yesterday's post for definitions of those) are the same as for Make a positive contribution, which seems strange in itself given that every other outcome has its own set of them. I think PSA9 might be worth a look:

PSA 9 – Halve the number of children in poverty by 2010-11, on the way to eradicating child poverty by 2020 [opens pdf]

- though I bet it contains few surprises.

Yes, it's all about

tackling worklessness, by making work a sustainable route out poverty, and by addressing barriers to work such as availability of childcare.

It looks like it goes back to a slightly lower frog-pot temperature setting, before it was recently raised with the anti-poverty bill about which I blogged elsewhere yesterday.

Lone parents come in for a special mention:

For lone parents: the Government will continue to drive forward employment programmes to help lone parents enter and sustain employment.

- because of course it's well-established that their children do better when separated from their mothers at the earliest possible age - not. They use terms like 'drive forward' which make me think of a herdsman with his cattle.

3.7 To support parents into work, the Government will focus on: lone parents, couple parents and disabled parents.

Are there any other kind of parents? Oh yes: foster parents, who are exempt from it all - I don't know whether you're seeing an incentivization message in that or not.

3.12 Job Centre Plus is a key stakeholder in local strategic partnerships, providing a co-ordinated focus across childcare, child poverty and the Welfare to Work programme. Job Centre Plus also plays a vital co-ordinating role in the use of available funding streams to support the development of integrated Welfare to Work services tailored to the needs of the local community.

For 'Welfare to Work', read 'slave labour'. I sympathise with the argument that people shouldn't get money for nothing, but not if they're being given no alternative. Self-sufficiency, of the cash-free, 'Good Life' variety, is no longer an allowed option. And you might be disregarding all of this, thinking it doesn't apply to you because you're not a lone parent and your partner is in employment, but if you claim Child Tax Credits, then it does. If your gross income, without state help, is less than £29,000 (for a couple with two children - for other figures see here) then it does. If you are not working, then it does. ("The Government believes that every parent who could work, should do so.") If one of you is made redundant, it does and if your partner leaves you, it does. No family is immune from this, especially in the current economic climate.

Increasing take-up of formal childcare
3.13 To help parents enter and sustain work, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), DWP and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will work with delivery partners to continue implementing the National Childcare Strategy. Work will continue to stimulate demand for formal childcare by improving information for parents about the benefits, choices and financial help available. The Government will ensure that increased demand for childcare is met through new duties on local authorities and the roll out of Children’s Centres and Extended Schools. The Government will also invest £35m to improve the provision of childcare for families with disabled children.7 This will start in 10 pilot local authorities, with best practice rolled out in 2010-11.

Your child will attend a Children's Centre and/or Extended School programme. Remember from yesterday's post?

The Children’s Plan established a new goal that by 2020 all young people will be participating in positive activities.

Now we know what 'positive activities' are. Also known as 'diversionary' (in Extended Schools). All young people. No exceptions.

Job Centre Plus will be incentivised by new Job Outcome Targets to place parents into work.

3.19 The Government is determined to ensure that parents are able to choose childcare provision which best meets their needs and those of their children.

- but not if this choice entails them bringing up their children themselves.

Mr Graham Badman has been chosen to lead this review because of his deep understanding of the Every Child Matters programme. In his previous incarnation as Managing Director for Children, Families and Education at Kent County Council (*note: children and families need managing and directing..) he received a 'good to outstanding' Ofsted performance assessment [opens pdf] for compliance with the Framework [opens pdf].

His current remit is to ascertain whether and how home educating families can also be made to comply. I think that we might be the awkward frogs. ;-)


Blogger Elaine said...

Hi Gill what a timely post:)
I am stuck I wanted to link to your post re-childcare for over 8's being unregistered and unmonitored and I cannot find it can you help please.

11:22 am, February 08, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Elaine :-)

Wasn't it this one?

11:27 am, February 08, 2009  
Blogger Tech said...

Oh god I had such a lovely day yesterday, and now I have to catch up, and I feel sick to the pit of my stomach already.

12:26 pm, February 08, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh, sorry! :-/

Hope you're blogging your nice day, to cheer us all up ;-)

5:34 pm, February 08, 2009  
Blogger G said...

I laughed at the chart where it says "access to transport and material goods" I don't bring my kids up to be materialistic and unable to walk a couple of miles to get somewhere!

8:38 pm, February 08, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

'Material goods' is another one of those terms we're supposed to not really notice, I think, because it's code for something else.

This document probably contains the answer, if anyone feels like going exploring.

Even the 'transport thing' probably means something other than you and I would first think. Every word of this framework is there for a specific reason, I'm starting to realise.

5:49 am, February 09, 2009  
Blogger G said...

Give me material deprivation rather than maternal deprivation any day!

(this is Gina from FB by the way (waves).)

8:57 am, February 09, 2009  
Blogger Gill said...

Exactly. All this 'wraparound childrcare' is going to lead to nothing but maternal deprivation, isn't it?

Oh, hiya Gina! *Waves back!*

9:02 am, February 09, 2009  

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