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September 02, 2006



Probably repeating myself (again), but from an old post :

"Thirty years ago I read Anthony Burgess’ novel The Wanting Seed, about an overpopulated globe where homosexuality was privileged in an attempt to reduce the birthrate. Governments only fell into two categories, Pelagian and Augustinian, and swung between the two forms.

Augustinian governments believe in Original Sin, that man is naturally given to vices which need to be checked. Tend to be hierarchical and militaristic.

Pelagian governments believe in Man’s perfectibility and innate goodness.

As this fails to produce the perfect society, so do initially liberal Pelagians tend to turn towards coercion, more laws and greater police powers. Remind you of anything ?

‘Pelagius is fond of police,
Augustine loves an army’"

Andrew Zalotocky

Chris, this issue is related to those raised by your post about "A Hereditary Ruling Class" from August 20th. The idea that "leadership skills" come from belonging to the right class depends on a more general assumption that class determines character. It follows that criminality must result from being born into a particular class. To the managerialist, preventing crime thus becomes a simple matter of using technology to identify the criminal class, and the power of the state to overcome its baleful influence. Shades of the panopticon begin to close upon the growing boy...

Andrew Brown

Most of the "Part 8" reviews that I had the misfortune to read in my 9 years as a local councillor made the same point in one form or another: that where the children were "known" the communication between professions that care for children was poor.

This report - http://www.dh.gov.uk/assetRoot/04/05/94/68/04059468.pdf - is probably the most complete knowledge we have about how the state intervenes when things have gone very wrong. The authors make the point that it is very difficult to protect children, and that most cases where something has seriously gone wrong aren't done under the unwatchful eye of the state.

Whether a database will make any difference to that I don't honestly know. I suspect that it only works if there is more capacity and trust amongst those that will have to make it work.


The Information-Sharing index (aka Child Database, Children's Index etc) wasn't in fact a reponse to Lord Laming's inquiry into Victoria's death. The policy, initially called 'Identification, Referral and Tracking' was already under way before the Laming Report.

It's important to bear in mind, too, that the index is not simply about child protection because the definition of 'at risk' has been changed.

Until the publication of the green paper 'Every Child Matters'(ECM), the phrase 'at risk' had been used to describe children at risk of significant harm from abuse or neglect. ECM changed this to mean 'at risk' of failing to achieve the 'five outcomes' that it specified: being healthy; staying safe; enjoying and achieving; making a positive contribution; achieving economic wellbeing.

The breadth of issues with which practitioners are now expected to concern themselves creates a potentially serious child protection problem because child protection has become just one sub-category of a far larger project that tracks educational failure, propensity to commit crime, ill-health etc etc.

Given that social services - and many other public services - are already over-stretched financially and suffering from serious staff shortages, the likelihood is that the small number of children who really need to be noticed (because they are at risk of harm) will in reality be more easily overlooked in a welter of information about thousands of children presenting low-level concerns that are unrelated to abuse or neglect.

Hence the Information Commissioner's statement that "you don't find a needle in a haystack by building a bigger haystack".

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