Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Who`s behind government policy ?

"We suffer the consequences, but who makes the policy?" asks Brian Gerrish on UK Column News, Wednesday 18 July 2018.

"And as we`ve just heard at the start of our news today the British government is descending into chaos. But somebody behind the scenes is still pulling the strings and making the decisions." 


"Let`s have a look at this organisation which was flagged up to us a couple of days ago: the Horizon Scanning Programme team.  `Horizon Scanning is about exploring what the future might look like to understand uncertainties better`. And the UK government is crowing about this in quite a number of places. So apparently it`s not about making predictions, but systematically investigating evidence about future trends. Horizon scanning apparently helps government to `analyse whether it`s adequately prepared for potential opportunities and threats, and this helps ensure that policies are resilient to different future environments`."

"So we`ve got a Horizon Scanning Programme team `coordinating strategic horizon scanning work across departments, drawing on insights from experts in and outside government to challenge our thinking`. So note there that we`re bringing in experts from outside government. Who are these experts? It`s not easy to see but we`re going to work on this and see whether we can pin some of them down at least."

"But here`s the Horizon Programme team responsible for `coordinating work between departments and input from those experts outside the Civil Service; creating communities of interest around specific topics; improving cross-government horizon scanning; developing networks to gather and share information; bringing emerging issues to a senior-level audience`."

"So this is really incredible stuff. It`s working on government policy but they say `well it isn`t really`. Let`s have a look at the detail. How does this thing come about? Well prior to 2014 we had a Cabinet Office Horizon Scanning Secretariat and we had a Government Office of Science`s Horizon Scanning Centre. They merged March. That produced the Horizon Scanning Programme Team."

"We`ve got a Steering Group which is the Cabinet Secretary`s Advisory Group. And if you don`t know what these organisations are, I`m going to say we didn`t until recently. Research it yourself because there`s a lot of questions to be asked here."


"So here`s the overall chair. It`s our old friend Jeremy Heywood, immensely powerful individual within government and the Civil Service; and the overall minister the Rt Hon David Lidington CBE MP. Now he`s the Duchy of Lancaster, treasurer, so that`s a very important role. Previously he was [with] BP and another pretty high profile global company. So what takes place in these organisations? Well we`re hopefully now starting to get a glimpse. But what we can say with certainty is that they are closely tied in with what was the government`s Behavioural Insights team and this was the British government using applied psychology in order to change the way people.... think and behave."

"And apparently this organisation has had its own ten commandments and so we`ve got a Dr John Carney here, the Principal Scientist within the Systems Thinking and Consulting Group of the Defence Science and Technology lab but he`s previously been Team Leader for Horizon Scanning."

"He had this to say: `Don`t think that Horizon Scanning is about predicting the future - this is a common misconception. The value of Horizon Scanning is using it to change mind-sets.`  So that`s a pretty powerful statement there that. These people, not all of them are in government, certainly not put in positions of power by a democratic process, but they`re working to change our mind-sets. We`re not actually told how those mind-sets are going to be changed..."
"But this is the sort of stuff they`re getting up to. And the bottom one here caught my attention. `Social attitudes of young people`. We can find one of their papers here. The interesting thing about this paper is that there`s no authors mentioned on it. So they don`t seem to want to say who actually put the thing together in any detail but down at the bottom it says in capitals: `THIS IS NOT STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT POLICY`. Now this is a very interesting claim because of course this material is clearly being used as the basis of government policy ."

"So what sort of thing are they saying? They say `In some areas, we see little change in young people`s attitudes, behaviours and experiences compared to older generations. For instance, when we ask people of different ages what is important in life, we find remarkably little difference between generations. Similarly, we see little evidence of generational shifts in willingness to justify selfish behaviour, such as tax and benefit fraud`. What an amazing label to stamp on a future generation. `Or appetite for being involved in community engagement. These areas where there are few, if any, changes between generations remind us that we should not overstate the possible changes over the next 10 years in young people`s attitudes, behaviours and experiences`." 

"So clearly the government [is] working behind the scenes to change the way that young people think."

"And it goes on here. I found this staggering. `As well as shaping evolving attitudes, we would expect to see continued changes in the behaviours and experiences of young people in the next 10 years. One way that this could occur would be through an intensification of the trend towards longer routes and more complex routes to full adulthood and independence`."

Mike Robinson interjects. "What does that mean?"

"Well I`ve read it several times Mike. What I pick up from this is that they`re talking about delaying people becoming adult."

"But how can they delay people becoming adult when they sexualise them at ever younger ages and push more and more adult themes on to ever younger children?"

"Well that`s occurring at one end of the spectrum. Of course the other thing that`s actually happening is you`re seeing, for example, in social services documents that even when somebody`s got to the age of twenty one or twenty six they are still deemed to be under the control of the state. What I picked up from this is it`s almost like the state is expecting us to be children in the eyes of the state and anything they can do to increase the childish behaviour will continue." 

"If we go to the other extreme we could say that years ago we had people at the age of sixteen doing some really important work within apprenticeship. They had to turn up at work; they had to have the right tools, the right skills to do a skilful job. Many youngsters now at the age of sixteen are still effectively playing games."

"But who knows who devised the policy?"

"And on the back of that I`m going to thank this viewer for getting in contact with us. The email was this: `Dear Brian, Don`t know if this is of any interest ... The summer reading challenge in libraries this year is based on The Beano ... you know, Denis the Menace and Beryl the Peril ... but the staff have been told not to use the words PERIL or MENACE when speaking to the children! This disturbed me so I started to look into it`."

"It is all the work of The Reading Agency; and their partners include the British Council and the BBC. Funders include the Cabinet Offices` Social Action Fund and the Wellcome Trust .... There are evaluation forms and a family survey that staff seem to complete but details only available to staff`."

"Trawling around this site I found `The Public Library Universal Health Offer` from the SCL ... all very creepy ... SCL organise the `shelf help` books training young children in anxiety, depression, self harm, body image, eating disorders and bullying`."

"And so it goes on. This is sort of part of the material this lady was looking at and I can see why she`s concerned about it. And let`s bring in the `Vision` of the Reading Agency."

"`Reading for pleasure enhances people`s literacy, life chances and quality of life. It is vital for our prosperity`. And number 2 here. `Libraries aim to be a force for social change through reading. They bring people recreation and pleasure, learning and literacy, health and wellbeing`. So we know this is linked up with the Cabinet Office and here we can now see that libraries themselves are aiming to be a force for social change."

Mike Robinson. "And they`re using childish material to do that."

"And they`re using childish material. And this was the second part of this presentation. I`ve just shown that first slide. And I couldn`t help but see this. `Libraries` reading work helps local authorities achieve key outcomes`. So this is nothing about assisting the individual. This is about assisting a local authority to achieve its outcomes and those outcomes have been set by the Cabinet Office and central government."

"And I`ll just end on this one, which was also sent to us. This is Rhonda Borough Council which is looking for somebody to fulfil a contract. They want a wellbeing game and the wellbeing game will be for 6 to 14 years. `This project will support school pupils to reflect on wellbeing. It will involve pupils reflecting upon their wellbeing profile and completing `real world` activities to help them develop within a wellbeing context. The main aim of the Wellbeing Game is through gamification to enable pupils to reflect on their personal wellbeing profile and to engage in the world of challenges that will help them build personal strengths and character. Pupils wellbeing challenges will then be linked to the virtual world to promote engagement. "

"With many young children committing suicide in South Wales I don`t get a warm feeling about that contract which is being offered particularly when we can see, or we`re getting closer to seeing, the real detail of the links back into the Cabinet Office itself and outside agencies that are helping the British government form policy."

See UK Column News HERE

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