Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Early Years Collaborative

Eary intervention or a self fulfilling prophecy ?

The Children and Young People Bill stipulates that there should be a named person overseeing the wellbeing of each child in Scotland for the first 18 years of life, ready to spot concerns at an early stage. The role of the named person will be to mobilise services and instigate early interventions. The child plan will be preventative rather than reactionary. One of the ideas behind the proposal is that health issues and social problems such as criminality, substance abuse, unemployment and the like can be identified potentially in children as young as three, and therefore the most effective way of reducing the overall cost to society is to target the child and family early. No longer is the family to be seen as the lynchpin of society but rather the breeding ground for all social ills.

It is not difficult to see stereotyping at work in these ideas which tend to produce cultures of blame and oppress the poor.  Perhaps all totalitarian regimes begin by finding a scapegoat.  Be that as it may, this is social engineering on a massive scale and there is no evidence to show that surveillance of a whole country will produce the results claimed by the Scottish Government because nowhere has the experiment ever been done quite like this before. It is also rather simplistic because social problems tend to have social, cultural and economic causes.

Moreover, there are organisations such as AIMS (Association for Improvements in Maternity Services) who have experienced the devastating effects of child protection work on public health. HERE. Given the role of the named person to assess potential harm and the underlying philosophy of blame there is no doubt that many families will come to see the named person as a hostile agent of the state. As AIMS has noted when parents come under the scrutiny of critical health visitors and social workers there is a tendency for families to pull up the drawbridge and go on the defensive. Parents will not take the child to the doctor out of fear of being blamed for the accident. Mothers with the `baby blues` will hide it from the health visitor because mental health issues can result in removal of the baby. The stress caused to families and their children by child protection interventions can last for years even when children are not taken away.

There is another issue which is quite alarming when considering the targeting of young children as future extremists, benefit scroungers and criminals, and that is the phenomenon known as a `self-fulfilling prophecy`. For an example see the Association for Psychological Science  Make negative comments about a child often enough and the child will start to believe them. Produce those negative attributions from a number of sources and the effects are cumulative. Under the GIRFEC scheme there will be no escape, regardless of whether or not the assessment was fair; data will be collected by the named person. It matters little how sensitively the intervention is handled; the same data will be collated, shared and follow the child for the next eighteen years. The idea of making a fresh start,  turning a new leaf,  getting a break from it all, will be no more. I would not wish the enormous impact of that on any child.

Early Years Collaborative
The Early Years Collaborative involves social services, health, education, police and third sector professionals beginning to work together to improve Scotland`s wider society and economy by investing in child development from the start and preventing future problems. So says the Scottish Government following the European guidelines. That a whole country`s problems have been reduced to childcare in the early years is truly staggering. Isn`t Europe collapsing under the impact of corrupt banks?

So here are the distractors/collaborators: a Coalition of Community Planning Partners, all working together on this very ambitious project which starts with such humble beginnings: invest in child development. It is surprising that the police have anything to contribute towards reducing stillbirths or reaching targets for the developmental milestone of toddlers. Did they manage to achieve a shared vision with health and education?  

But where are the parents and grandparents? Ah! they are the ones who are going to be the recipients of the collaborators` expertise and their early interventions. Makes sense that they shouldn`t be involved I suppose. After all we live in a democracy, don`t we?

From the Scottish Government Website


Early Years Collaborative  HERE

More than 750 early years experts will - for the first time - gather in Glasgow today to help make Scotland the best place to grow up.
The Early Years Collaborative - a coalition of Community Planning Partners, including social services, health, education, police and third sector professionals - will start to work towards three ambitious aims to improve children’s start in life:
  • By end 2015, reduce the rate of stillbirths and infant mortality by 15 per cent;
  • By end 2016, ensure that 85 per cent of all children in each Community Planning Partnership meet all expected developmental milestones at the child’s 27-30 month child health review;
  • By end 2017, ensure that 90 per cent of all children in each Community Planning Partnership have reached all expected developmental milestones by the time the child starts primary school.
The new approach to better support children and families, has attracted interest from America and Europe and will enable experts to learn, share and work together to the benefit of local communities.

Children and Young People Minister Aileen Campbell said:
“I want to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up and give every child the best start in life. Today marks the start of a new and ambitious approach to early intervention and investment in our children and families.

“Getting it right in the early years is the right thing to do for children and parents. By investing in development from the start, and preventing problems later on, the benefits go beyond families to Scotland’s wider society and economy”... 

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