Saturday, 27 November 2010

Significant risk? Video from superpower of the Third Sector

No, it's not ASH Scotland (but what an apt description!). It's the NSPCC. The Third Estate writes a spirited criticism of their video below:

The Musicians' Union issued advice to music teachers advising them against touching children two years ago, in order to protect them from malicious or mistaken allegations. Clearly, contact with children by teachers attempting to correct posture and technique can cut down on hours of explanation, the drawing of diagrams, etc. and music teachers have naturally resented any suggestion that most contact with children is intended as anything other than helpful.

The video and others in a series entitled Keeping Children Safe in Music are produced by the Musicians' Union and the NSPCC. The Musicians' Union seems to be clear that 'a cello teacher should have a cello to show a pupil what to do. There should be no need to touch.' It insists 'the best advice' is to avoid any physical contact, and this should avoid any misunderstanding. The videos also touch on other issues including discipline and suspected abuse. They are to some extent useful but only hope to show a teacher how to avoid handling a situation 'inappropriately' , without addressing the power relations at work in the music teacher–pupil relationship.

The vetting and barring scheme proposed in late 2009 (now being reviewed by the Coalition government) also came under the Third Estate's fire. The NSPCC supported this system when it came out last year, and still hopes that it will be implemented. Instructions to case workers made under this proposal are described here. The authorities are required to reach decisions using evidence about prospective carers and teachers that is verified only 'on the balance of probabilities', rather than 'beyond reasonable doubt'.  Third Estate correctly concludes:
If it can be show (sic), from any particular source of information, that somebody may or may not have done anything in particular, then a faceless caseworker can exclude them from a vast range of jobs and social activities. It goes without saying that the basic principle of a free society is that the government cannot severely punish or sanction its citizens without due process. The reason that we insist that a man or woman’s guilt is proven is not simply to stop bad things happening to good people (although this is important). It is also to stop government from victimising anybody who it happens to find troublesome.
James Underwood commenting in The Telegraph (first comment) adds:
The ISA justify the difference between their standards and those of a court (or even the [General Teaching Council]) by claiming that inclusion on the list is not a punitive sanction. Considering to a teacher inclusion means loss of job and future career it is hard to agree with this: '3.8.3 The decision to include in the list is not a punitive sanction but is a protective measure to safeguard children and vulnerable adults.' 
How far will these quangos go to avoid having their actions tested in law? Denying that a sanction that involves a teacher being labelled unsuitable to work with children or vulnerable adults is punitive? Instructing that an absolute standard of proof is not required in order to reach such a conclusion?

It is hoped that the current review will restore some perspective.

Third Estate's description of the NSPCC  resonates!
they are, in fact, a superpower of the third sector, whose (arguably warped) perspective is highly influential on government policy. Nothing is done in the world of child protection without speaking to them ... 
We have our own body in the anti-smoking world that government finds similarly persuasive, and with the same conviction that a series of harmless acts leads to something deadly. Case workers working with vetting and barring are instructed (with NSPCC approval) : 'You must look out for instances of behaviour which, although not “relevant conduct” or otherwise in themselves determinative of the potential for risk, give rise to concerns when looked at cumulatively that someone may pose a risk of harm to children or vulnerable adults.' Anti-smoking logic to a tee, right down to the use of the word 'may'.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tobacco Control set the scene,
Fear and Hatred cry and scream,
Control Control, new laws abound,
Question them then your unsound.

When does it all stop!