Police track hundreds of ‘invisible’ home-schoolers


If we are invisible, how will they be able to see us? And why are they using the wrong terminology to describe a parental duty?

Police track hundreds of ‘invisible’ home-schoolers

Hundreds of “invisible” home-schooled children at risk of neglect and abuse could be tracked down as police embark on a radical approach.

For the first time officers have begun conducting welfare checks on homeschooled children amid concerns they are slipping off the authorities’ radar.

The project, which is being pioneered in Co Durham, will identify children who have not been in contact with police, doctors or local authorities in 18 months. Under the pilot scheme, which began in the Darlington borough last year, the police will pay home visits to those families to check on the child. Simon Bailey, the national police spokesman for child protection, is urging other forces to try a similar approach.

Detective Superintendent Victoria Fuller, of Durham police, who hasresponsibility for safeguarding, devised theproject. She said that when she visited one family home in Darlington she wasshocked to find a 13-year-old girl “living in really neglectful conditions”.Her home was dirty and there was insufficient food. The girl had been removedfrom mainstream education after being badly bullied, but her mother was unableto cope.

However, after the home visit by police and the local authority, the girlunderwent a self-esteem course and her mother, who wished to remain anonymous,is now working with the force to highlight the possible pitfalls of homeeducation.

“What concerns me the most is that because it’s so easy to get children outof school, the responsibility goes straight away,” she said. “Anything could behappening to these children. There is no protection for them at all. Nothing.”

About 50,000 children are home-educated, many of whom have special needs,have suffered severe bullying or been expelled. For many parents, the right tochoose how their children are educated is an independent choice they fiercelyguard. However, a lack of regulation for home-educated children has led toconcerns that many are vulnerable to radicalisation, abuse or neglect.

In 2011 Dylan Seabridge, eight, who was home-educated, died of scurvy at hishome in southwest Wales. A review of his case said he was “all but invisible”to the health and education authorities.

A private member’s bill put forward by Lord Soley that would requirecouncils to register and monitor home-educated children, passed its committeestage yesterday. Lord Soley told The Times that the Durham force’sscheme was “extremely good”. He added: “Let it spread.”

He said that although there were many good reasons for parents tohome-educate their children, “anything can happen” in that environment withoutregulation. “They can end up being neglected or working in their family’s shopor worse still, and there’s certainly a worrying number who get trafficked,abused or radicalised.”

Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons education committee, said thathundreds of children had slipped off the radar. “We have got 35 children beingexcluded from schools every day. Countless children are going intopoor-quality, alternative provision. The Durham project sounds ground-breakingand it’s the sort of thing that should be replicated across the country.”

Simon Hart, independent chairman of the Darlington safeguarding children’s board, said that his group was: “alert to the potential risk to safeguarding,when children or young people may become less visible. It is important that services are vigilant and proactive in those cases where cause for concern may arise.”
This is not journalism as it lacks any balancing comment. It is a hatchet job masquerading as reporting - advertorial for authoritarians - which the Times should be ashamed of publishing.

If anyone believes it is acceptable or proportionate for the police to target and abuse the human rights of home educating families who do not require (or have been damaged by) state services, just think about who will be next subset of parents singled out for licensing after a suitably orchestrated campaign of demonisation by ermine-clad unelected coffin dodgers, morally bankrupt academics punting policy-based evidence, authoritarian state agents on power trips, and other useful idiots noised up by the media. Vegetarians? Travellers? Disabled people? Foreigners?

This is an outrageous abuse of human rights and data protection legislation, full stop.

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