Online conference, 29/05/12: Dealing with Highly Intrusive Parasitic Public Servants

Admin

Administrator
10. Additional case studies and personal experiences of intrusive public servants

An extra section to include personal experiences and anecdotes. :)

10. Additional case studies and personal experiences of intrusive public servants

pendlewitch: A family contacted social services for help when the father suffered a brief period of depression. Instead of being offered practical help, the family had to deal with police officers turning up on the door step every day for a two week period to make sure that the young children hadn't been harmed. The mother in question had misguidedly been under the impression that the best thing to do in such circumstances was to ask for help. Thankfully the outcome for the family was a good one, with the father recovering without the children being removed. This was quite some years ago however and now one might reasonably wonder if the outcome would have been as good today.

Dawn (Facebook): We had a visit from a third party - (non government) organisation...within weeks we had a letter from the LEA stating they were coming for a visit within 2 weeks at our home. Actually they were not...we wrote back stating that the time and date was not convenient (we were out anyway) and reminded them of the law quoting the necessary paragraphs...The letters went back and forth, always quoting the law and then they moved up to quoting the Donaldson law ruling...so we asked them to state their concern.....they didn't. The only thing we ever stated and did not do was fill in their "Registration Form".
Our son had a scalding accident at the end of November and within 7 days of that we had a letter from Social Services stating they were visiting in 2 days...after a number of phone calls her main draw for the visit was.....because we home educate!
As conversations were had - it was stated we were failing to engage with the professionals????? We take them to the doctors, dentist, library, sure start centers and weigh the babies very frequently....parks, picnics, classes and socials....how do they consider this not engaging. In fact, when pressed it was hard for the social worker to keep repeating the same reason for her involvement...
On the other end, the report was positive and obviously there was no case to answer but the stress it cause because the third party sat in our lounge and said they didn't agree with our choice to home educate, then we have the letter from the LEA, then Social Services because we wouldn't fill in a registration form....all this in the space of 6 months and then finally with the SS at 9 months pregnant ... I am still resentful and still pursuing information pending several complaints.
BTW - this is West Berkshire area local government.
Oh, I forgot to mention the report whilst good to get in my maulers....was a shambles....all the reports were factually inaccurate, all had spelling and layout and grammatical errors. The standard form itself had a spelling error. One report was written, signed and dated 7th December....he wasn't born until 12th December. These 4 reports were also signed off by her manager. There were also things in the report which she only knew following her visit 7 weeks after the report was written! What I find horrifying is that the seem to be able to operate outside their own guidelines without any recourse.
Response from Carol (Facebook): I don't know if SS can be fended off where there has been an injury, perhaps someone here may know? If you have an LA that insists on "safe and well checks" following a family declining a HE visit or accepting one without the child present, at the point when an SS referral is imminent, it's possible that a third party can be used to provide assurance to them that the child is alive and breathing. It's not ideal but maybe less stressful for the child than a complete stranger in their home.​

Becky (via Facebook): Lisa Dockery (not her real name), a home educating mother based in one of the London Boroughs, received a visit from Andrea Deknis (again, this is not her real name) - a community nurse. The visit related to Lisa's own health, and was nothing to do with home education. Lisa's 4 children, aged 10, 8, 6 and 2 were in the house.
In an attempt to make polite conversation (or so Lisa thought), Andrea asked why the children were not in school on that particular day. Lisa explained that they are home educated. Andrea seemed very interested in this, and expressed enthusiasm for the enormous amount of children's artwork on display in Lisa's house (and the big piles of books!)
At some stage during the conversation, Andrea asked whether anybody from the LA ever visited Lisa to inspect the quality of education she was providing for the children. Lisa gently explained what the law said - section 7 of the 1996 Education Act - and suggested that Andrea could look on the Education Otherwise website for more information, should she be interested.
A few days later, Lisa received a letter from an Education Welfare Officer, which contained the names and dates of birth of the three older children, and stated that the EWO would be visiting the following week as she had been made aware that these children were being educated at home.
Of course Lisa realised that Andrea must have been the person who informed the Education Welfare Service of her children's personal details, so in the interests of honesty and openness she telephoned Andrea to see what had happened. Andrea admitted to passing the details on - she said that after leaving Lisa's house she had telephoned an EWO at the same LA to ask whether Lisa's explanation of the law had been correct - ie that home educating families do not need to register with the local authority. Unfortunately, the public servant on the other end of the phone (who has remained anonymous) told Andrea that Lisa was wrong - all home educating families MUST register. Naturally, Andrea believed the LA's interpretation of the law, rather than what Lisa had said.
Lisa was concerned that the LA had been giving out incorrect legal information - this could leave them wide open to legal action from anyone adversely affected. So putting aside her own feelings, out of the compassion of her heart she telephoned Harrow's legal department and asked to speak to a solicitor who deals with education law. Lisa explained her concerns to this solicitor - who explained that she was not able to advise Lisa, or to comment - but to leave it with her.
Within a couple of hours, Lisa received a phone call from a senior manager in the Home Education department at Harrow - this person profusely apologised for what had happened, and promised to retrain all staff so that they would know the correct legal information for the future. It was agreed that the whole situation was the fault of the local authority, as it was not unreasonable for Andrea to check what Lisa had said.
Lisa then asked whether her family could be removed from the list of "known" home educators - as had the LA given correct legal advice in the first place, Lisa would never have become "known" in the first place. This reasonable request was denied - because the LA's policy was that regardless of how a family came to their attention, once they were on the list, that was it.
As Lisa was about to move house in any case - this didn't matter. But it just goes to show that however well a parent believes they are getting on with a public servant, that person is likely to CHECK what you say with the local authority - rather than with the source you suggested. This should not be a problem of course - provided that LA staffare fully aware of the relevant sections of the law, and how to apply them. But while some staff feel they can make the law up as they go along, it can create a lot of extra work for the parents, in educating the relevant people within the LA, and putting in formal complaints if they feel this to be necessary.
Response from Natasha (Facebook): I took my son to see a paediatrician and she reported us to the LA without my consent and after having praised how articulate and knowledgeable my 7 year old was! The misinformation is rife and amounts to no more than bullying by those with perceived authority. I too asked to be removed from the list and was told that was not possible.​
Response by Jayne (Facebook): Families have been removed from list in our LA (Cumbria). A family took legal advice from Christian Legal Centre and had their names removed.​
 

mirky

HE
Comments (random):

I have knowledge of a parent support worker (PSA) who lost their job because it was felt that they 'empathised too much with the client'. Relates to some of the comments posted above that talk about the culture within these services, the hierarchy etc. If a worker appears to want to do the right thing by a client, but this goes against the PTB, the worker risks losing their job. PSAs were invented suddenly and recruited under the last lot to staff Children's Centres and perform surveillance and safeguarding. Magical funding & pop up centres were astounding, they opened tens in our county alone on the same day! Many of the staff have been got rid of now though, but the culture they created has remained.

[Note about PSAs: They were trained and operational within weeks. They did not need to have any child related qualifications whatsoever.]

A long time ago, Elaine Kirk (I think) shared an observation sheet that health workers were to use (secretly, I suspect) when they entered homes. I wonder if you still have that Elaine? It was highly suspect and has some intriguing things that they considered as 'at risk' factors. It might help to share this with the conference.
 

Sheila Struthers

Well-known member
disguised support

Agenda item No 3 I think...

I'd like to put it on record here that I've had direct knowledge of two instances where erroneous/spiteful referrals to the Children's Panel have resulted in attempts to threaten the parent (on the phone)into having ongoing "voluntary" social work support ie accept the "support" or "it will go to the Children's Panel".

This is after these families have gone through the pretty thorough investigation that a panel referral requires and nothing of concern has been identified.

When asked to put what was said on the phone in writing, nothing materialised in both cases.

Both families (I put the first in contact with the second) refused to be blackmailed and wrote to the SWs involved informing them that a reputable lawyer and education law expert had said that "voluntary meant voluntary". The SWs backed off but it was a very stressful time for all involved.

The "modus operandi" in both cases was scarily similar - there must be more?
 

b_staffs

HEdups
10. Additional case studies and personal experiences of intrusive public servants
Found some 'info' through WDTK (not from the council obviously x.x) The council in question is notoriously bad.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/newborn_babies_taken_by_social_s#incoming-285441

and then

http://www.ukauthority.com/NewsArticle/tabid/64/Default.aspx?id=3591

and

http://staffordshiresocialservices....livery-suite-by-staffordshire-county-council/ (there are also links to a facebook account on there with lots more info, including pre-emptive letters before an agreement has been made in court and then ignoring the order.)
 

Admin

Administrator
Closing Remarks

Closing Remarks

What a privilege it has been to host this online conference and receive submissions from so many experts! Thank you to everyone who has taken part on HEF and on the Facebook event page, and to those who have commented elsewhere. We seem to have achieved quite a wide ‘reach’!

What started out as a spoof reaction to the agenda of an offensive parent-bashing conference being held elsewhere today (at great public expense) generated so much interest that we decided to run with the idea of an alternative conference, not knowing quite what to expect. It has certainly surpassed our expectations! :D

Although the conference has now officially closed (it’s been a long day but hey, we’re used to those!), any ‘late’ submissions will be included in the conference report which we’ll be putting together over the next few days and posting on the HEF community blog.

Thank you all again for being the home ed biz! xxx
 

Gill

HEdups
Coming in at the end of what was obviously a highly productive and certainly instructive day, just to express thanks for all the hard work and focus that’s gone into this conference. Hope I’m not too late!

I think parents are often caught off-guard by intrusions from public servants into their homes, going about their peaceful day to day lives, blissfully unaware of the full extent of the vast machine that’s been constructed to keep us all in line.

It seems like outcomes are often predetermined and agendas pre-set in this system, which is manned by human beings with all too human failings such as prejudice and cowardice, leading to any amount of back-covering at the expense of personal integrity.

The juggernaut is then engaged, and moves slowly and inexorably towards its target, behind a screen of bright smiles and cups of tea. It’s such a very British way to turn someone’s world upside-down, because even if a case is closed without further action taken, I imagine the family in question will never feel as safe and secure as they were before the intrusion occurred.

Yes, some children do need to be rescued but that Eileen Munroe quote in post #2 here: “It doesn’t get easier to find a needle in a haystack if you make the haystack bigger,” should surely mark the boundary of constraint for the impact of a parasitic industry on the unmolested functioning of a healthy, happy family.

Parenting ain’t broke – except by being repeatedly undermined by the underlying approach of some of those trying to fix it. And I know it suits the economy to have every parent in the workplace, even if half of them have to be policing the other parents or ‘caring’ for each other’s children, but we’re already starting to see the results of that kind of strategy in UK town centres every night of the week. And those are just the easily visible outcomes – the tips of the iceberg.

Sadly, along with the parenting manuals and the baby slingmeets, we now need to wise up on this whole other, murky sphere of information to keep our children safe and happy, and the title of this conference sums that up neatly. Many thanks to Ali, Sheila and everyone else involved for holding the torch.
 
Both families (I put the first in contact with the second) refused to be blackmailed and wrote to the SWs involved informing them that a reputable lawyer and education law expert had said that "voluntary meant voluntary". The SWs backed off but it was a very stressful time for all involved.
I believe this highlights the modus operandi of the machine - push and push and push until you've steamrollered the parents into doing exactly what you want, but if they show knowledge of the true limits of power early enough in the process, back right off and go find someone else who isn't as knowledgeable about the law. I suspect that in this case, the mention of consulting a lawyer was enough.

It all comes down to the fact that if the home ed community can get to a family before they deregister or otherwise come to the notice of the LA, the family is much better informed and able to deal with the LA from a position of strength and it works much better. The LA will test the resolve but ultimately, with support from the EHE community, a family can resist the ultra vires demands. I think most LAs eventually learn that if they discover a family who is already in contact with the local EHE group, the family will know the rules and the LA won't even bother to try more than their basic minimum box-ticking exercise.
 

pendlewitch

Well-known member
Many years ago there was a document from Leeds council in which they stated that they preferred it when *their* home ed families were unaware of the law as once they were in touch with he orgs they stopped agreeing to visits.
 

Sheila Struthers

Well-known member
I think most LAs eventually learn that if they discover a family who is already in contact with the local EHE group, the family will know the rules and the LA won't even bother to try more than their basic minimum box-ticking exercise.
For now anyway. However the new global system of governance and economics we are entering requires vast amounts of personal information right down to individual and household level.

The information being gathered by the universal services of health and education is a very big part of this and I can't see them leaving the service resistant (even the awkward ones) alone for much longer:the system requires a whole population approach.

A few recent links:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41952&Cr=ban+ki-moon&Cr1=

http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=6044

http://www.neweconomics.org/

See this article and my comment:

http://4liberty.org.uk/2012/02/21/the-digital-serf/

A bit more detail here (from a Scottish point of view but of much wider relevance):

http://subrosa-blonde.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/tales-from-small-country-yes-first.html
 

Sheila Struthers

Well-known member
Vote of thanks

Thanks you Ali for organising this - although you should be an old hand at running conferences by now...

Full of admiration for the way you've managed to bring it all together :humble:

Cue applause:

:clap2::clap2::clap2::clap2::clap2::clap2::clap2:
 
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Sooooo sorry I was not able to attend - but it seems to have been a roaring success! Not that I should have expected anything less from Ali 'I am never going to run another conference again' P!

I shall try and catch up with what's posted over the next whilie...
 
We would like to say big thank you to Ali for running the conference and for giving everyone here a platform to share their experiences and thoughts on all things family and HE. Without this platform our own transition to this educational lifestyle would have been a very different and lonely place I reckon.

Thank you also to all you wonderful home educators out there who take the time out of your busy lives to share your experiences and accumulated knowledge with people who are just starting out on this journey. Without your continued contributions and support it would be so much easier for the state to bully families into submission. You are all doing great things for the future chances of so many children.

We hope that this wonderful community can continue to grow and flourish through the coming months and years.
 

Admin

Administrator
Thank you all again for your support of our first (and possibly last :lol:) online conference.

I have just posted the 'report' on the HEF community blog.

Dealing with Highly Intrusive Parasitic Public Servants

The formatting (and commenting sequence) may be a bit off in places, but hopefully it will be an accurate enough collation and merger of the forum and Facebook threads as well as being relatively easy to follow.
 
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