Independent Safeguarding Authority Attacked by its Founder

Sir Michael Bichard, whose enquiry into the Soham murders led to the creation of the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) has spoken out against what it’s fast becoming:

Sir Michael said there were a number of issues with the scheme which “need to be looked at again” and that “there will always be situations where you could argue that the line has been drawn in the wrong place”.

The Government estimates that 11.3 million people – almost 20 per cent of the population – will have to register within five years. Sir Michael said that the figure was “astonishing” and “surprising” but was irrelevant as long as children were protected. In 2004, his report into child protection made recommendations including that a registration scheme be introduced for those wishing to work with children or vulnerable adults.

Yesterday, he said the system he had examined in 2004 had been “a mess” and he believed the UK was moving towards a “much better” scheme under which tutors, sports coaches and other people with access to children would have to be registered. But he warned: “What I didn’t want was a disproportionate response. I made it very clear that I didn’t want parents to have to check relatives before they could put their children in their care for babysitting and things like that.

“We must have proportionate arrangements. We mustn’t over-react.”

I’ll repeat a comment I added to an earlier thread: why the Bichard enquiry and the child protection industry which embraced it’s findings so wholeheartedly afterwards weren’t required to read Foucault or Weber is beyond me. In a society dominated by rationalisation and increasingly ordered by bureaucracies in the misguided belief in the benefits they bring, the ISA was always destined to be a monster. ‘We mustn’t overreact?’ What exactly did he expect, when the starting point of the agency was to presume universal guilt until innocence could be proven?

He brings up the comparison with Roger Federer and drugs testing, that noone assumes Federer is a cheat because he has to undergo doping tests alongside his peers. But it’s a meaningless comparison and sadly displays the depth of his ignorance. It’s true that noone assumes he’s a cheat, but that’s sort of the point – drugs testing is not done with a starting presumption of universal guilt; the same cannot be said of the ISA. Through this ridiculous expectation of universal guilt (which ensures that the real abusers remain hidden – they don’t appear on tick boxes after all), the Independent Safeguarding Authority has already caused significant damage to many people’s lives, and hasn’t led to any demonstrable ‘safeguarding’ at all. Bichard though seems to think that’s fine ‘as long as children are protected’ – it strikes me that he’s the real monster here.

The Independent Safeguarding Authority must be abolished.

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11 responses to “Independent Safeguarding Authority Attacked by its Founder

  1. Agreed. ’nuff said. 🙂

  2. I gather Bichard may have been referring to the authors who have threatened to boycott visits to schools if they have to be checked? Well, I recall the lady who ran a village playscheme and who told me that they didn’t see the need to run checks on their helpers “we’re all very middle-class here, nice people” just before I felt the need to pass onto her that they had as one of their trusted volunteers a man with a schedule one conviction. He’d been with them for quite a few years. Had he offended during that time, had he gained access to children via the schemes? I don’t know, but he had ‘form’. Such schemes, as employers, will now HAVE to check if their volunteers and staff have such a record, ISA will have that guy on the children list. No brainer. No one has to worry whether to employ or not, they can’t and he can’t legally apply. No brainer.

    Sorry for the authors, they can scratch if they don’t like it. Ask parents after they find that an author has such a record or even there is soft intel and no one checked up and he was in a school with their kids. Then we’ll see who shouts why ISA didn’t do its job – maybe for fear of offending the authors ….?

    Bichard is back-peddling, he doesn’t like the idea that his recommendation may annoy some worthies when it’s put into practice. His own views are that there are deficiencies in the CRB scheme, or he would simply have said to tighten that scheme up, not recommend a new scheme to partner it.

    ISA is the answer, in part, to people not doing their job of sharing information which can save lives and avoid unspeakable misery for kids.

    Rather than tell us what will happen before it even starts work, perhaps you might care to wait and see how it progresses. One thing you don’t seem to say is what you would want to see if ISA was abolished as you wish?

    Do you want to return to:
    -List 99
    -POCAL
    -soft intel going to lead countersignatories of crb registered bodies only, and they have to use, no appeal for the prospective employee?

    One of your writers wanted a return to pre-CRB. Where do you stand?

  3. I wondered whether or not this would get your attention. There seems to be a complete lack of questioning about whether Bichard’s conclusions were even right in the moral panic which has endured since Soham. And you’re right – part of the reason for using his intervention here was to point out that he’s questioned the ISA largely because people such as Pullham have complained, which is significant but indeed not the heart of matter.

    Had he offended during that time, had he gained access to children via the schemes? I don’t know, but he had ‘form’. Such schemes, as employers, will now HAVE to check if their volunteers and staff have such a record, ISA will have that guy on the children list. No brainer.

    We have to look at this argument’s component parts. So the ISA will have him on their ‘list’ – surely the CRB would also have his conviction flagged, but the legislation covering the CRB would give the organisation the leeway on how to risk assess his continued employment. His employer should have risk-assessing and ameliorating procedures already in place and can then decide on what to do next (ie. implement some if they haven’t already). The ISA however says both he and the playgroup get fined for his being there at all – no leeway, no individual circumstances, no local judgment calls – what if they’re wrong? It’s a no brainer? For a central bureaucracy to dictate absolutes? I’d certainly say no brains were being used there…

    Sorry for the authors, they can scratch if they don’t like it. Ask parents after they find that an author has such a record or even there is soft intel and no one checked up and he was in a school with their kids.

    Sadly with this comment you reveal your part in the hysteria, as well as your lack of understanding about the effects and behaviour of such bureaucracies. The authors don’t like it and your answer is ‘tough’? Did you actually read Pullman’s argument? How can author in a group assembly or group work (one-on-one has never been advocated by any of those objecting) be a threat to anyone? And how can you dismiss their objections so readily? Because you’re in the child protection industry, which by definition makes you right? No, you have to have a better argument. I don’t think you have one.

    ISA is the answer, in part, to people not doing their job of sharing information which can save lives and avoid unspeakable misery for kids.

    Then it’s an appalling one, and you imply an unnecessary one. It’s not good enough to say agencies aren’t doing their job of sharing information properly, so we’ll start a mega bureaucracy instead which makes their job much harder. Bichard should have proposed how agencies should have reformed their internal procedures (Baby Peter anyone?) and collective behaviour, instead of undermining everyone’s work alongside the rule of law.

    Rather than tell us what will happen before it even starts work, perhaps you might care to wait and see how it progresses.

    Sadly we’ve discovered that a reliance on bureaucracies and government agencies with such absolute power not to abuse it is misguided. The ISA’s starting point assumes that everyone’s a paedophile unless they prove otherwise – fortunately most people are starting to realise quite how insane and unnecessary that is.

  4. Jan, I’m really perplexed as to how you’ve become so involved and seemily influential in all of this in the first place.

    Whilst I wouldn’t wish to deny anyone their point of view, no matter how absurd, I’m really interested in how you seem to have put yourself on this pedestal as a child protection expert and have been involved in influential groups on the matter ever since?

    Let’s get this straight. I’ve been reading copies of your letters to government departments and your applications under the Freedom of Information Act and the nub of your well documented concerns seem to date back to 1985 when you were Chairman of your local children’s mobile play project. During that time I understand you were send a Schedule 1 offender under a government job creation programme. They were eventually stopped from working with children.

    I understand you then became involved in the charity Fair Play for Children. An admirable things to do, but with the greatest of respect, neither of these positions elevate you to some special position of trust and authority in child protection matters do they?

    Amongst some of the things you’ve been involved in in this field include the fact that you were trying to bring in changes to ensure the thorough vetting (enhanced level CRB) for arcade owners because “reports from the street” suggested young people frequenting such establishments could be at risk. You suggested that arcade owners should have to monitor unaccompanied children and young people, and “adults behaving suspiciously and/or inappropriately”. Reports from the street brings new meaning to the phrase sort Intel!

    I’m also astonished to read that you’ve published a guide for play practitioners and you’ve even written ‘fact’ sheets on child protection! Furthermore you were invited to attend the CRB working party group of which your views were given serious consideration.

    Bearing all this in mind, I feel you really ought to publish another book or fact sheet… maybe something along the lines of –

    “How To Worm Your Way Into Becoming A Respected Child Protection Expert By Being on Self Appointed Committees”

    You see, as far as I can tell Jan, you have no expertise in the industry, in fact I think your views on the whole matter offer a vile disservice to our children who are now growing up with a culture of fear and paranoia, all thanks to people like you.

  5. Nice one James. Well, how DO you become an ‘expert’? I didn’t at any time make such a claim, and I disrespect you entirely for such a crude attack. If I’d heard you say that in a pub, I’d have ‘offered you out’. No joke, you are small.

    What I have been is one of those volunteers, over 30 years, who has seen experts come and go – and pundits. I don’t preface my articles “If you have read my latest book” etc as per Ferudi and others, nor did I seek to be invited to the CRB working party or the ISA working party. And I don’t think anyone on them was self-appointed. I may be wrong.

    I got invited in the wake of sending comments to Bichard. I didn’t even know such bodies existed. Let alone being invited to be on one. I prefer not to sit on committees unless it is going to be of some practical value to the committee or the appointing body. And do I find there are often willing candidates enough for the prestigious placements.

    Having to get CRB checks etc never put me off volunteering by the way. What we wanted to avoid at the Fun Bus (and we found that shared by others) was to be landed with another ‘CJB’, a dangerous gent (more so than the law knows, that I will say in public for the first time). An opportunist in a situation of no checks, but with a record. Barred then by statute, but no way of us knowing – it was ‘slipped’ to me after a meeting where the local child protection custodian was present who had the info which we did not – he worked for the same local authority as the people who sent ‘CJB’ to us.

    In those far-off innocent days, we simply asked people if they were nice, and anyway we assumed that as he was to work closely with kids, they’d have done the checks. They had access to police checks, voluntary bodies did not.

    But four years after ‘CJB’, I was perusing a charity directory that had come into my office and saw the name of a voluntary body that offered camping trips etc for disadvantaged children. It was the one, I suddenly recalled, which ‘CJB’ had told me with which he had done voluntary work.

    I debated with myself, as most people would at that stage, whether or not I should make contact with them. It would not have been a usual thing to do, but I felt, in the end (not being an expert) perhaps I just ought. I spoke on the phone to a lovely lady, and supposed that this gent was not still with them. But he was, and taking kids away to be with them in tents over weekends.

    4 years before, I got to see the statement ‘CJB’ made to the police on the case on which he was convicted. He gave permission because, he said, he was really innocent and he’d only confessed to save his wife strain as they had a disabled daughter. I was wanting to believe him, and said that if there had been a miscarriage of justice surely he could get it overturned etc.

    The statement he gave to the police was chilling. An opportunist. Funnily enough, I got a phone call out of the blue from his then-solicitor who had handled his case who was so concerned that he felt impelled to talk to me ahead of a non-committal letter. (I was gob-smacked at the breach of confidentiality, but this has happened since, e.g. with a doctor who knew his patient to be a paedophile but not convicted, so when we got permission for a medical reference, as the job of playworker can be be physically challenging and sometimes stressful, the doc phoned ‘off-the-record’. Real life, James.)

    ‘CJB’ had originally said not guilty but had changed his mind, against the solicitor’s advice not to plead guilty to something he said he had not done, and pleaded guilty – to a sex offence charge …. Factors troubled that solicitor and he wanted to warn me about his own client.

    Imagine how that nice lady reacted when I told her what I knew, and said she could tell him what I had told her. A deathly silence. I felt terrible, to have to pass that on. And not qualified indeed, no guide book, no rules

    So that is better than ISA is it, James? I need to be a bloody expert do I? It wouldn’t have been better for ‘CJB’ to have been on a list we had to consult by law before he was taken on? And which our County would have been breaking the law by knowingly sending him to us?

    ‘Knowledgeable’ is a better term, James. I have some knowledge and, as we all know, we should share that commodity. That, by the way, has been the basis of the operation of Fair Play for Children since Trevor Huddleston founded it. He was a nice guy.

    Let’s take the late Janet Dalglish – not a name you would know – but in Children’s Play almost revered and our President until she finally Went Upstairs to Play not long back. Another non-expert, only graced with years/decades of knowledge and experience gained solely by working with kids, and with those who work with them.

    What I and others did re our local Fun Bus project was to ignore our local authority 26 years back who said it was not necessary and founded a local project which we reckon has recorded at least 90,000 attendances and raised over £1.2 million to do it.

    I actually became a Fair Play trustee in 1979, just about the same time as becoming the half-a-day-a-week paid organiser of our local summer playschemes. The Fun Bus came about because we felt the summer schemes were not enough. Which our council took as criticism and also as likely to mean we’d press them for more grant-aid. They give us nothing now.

    I was Chair of the Fun Bus when it launched in 1983. I remain Chair in 2009. Proud to be so, and just about to relaunch for the umpteenth time as the money runs out but things for kids don’t seem to improve at the hands of our local authorities. (Recent FP FoI Survey of 50 local authorities showed most not spending fairly on kids recreation and culture as per the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 31.2 – now that’s a proper use of FoI, James.)

    My views are founded on direct experience of working in situations with substantial access to kids, and in hearing from across the UK from many similar projects and situations.

    Expert? ‘x’ = ‘unknown quantity’ ‘spurt’ = ‘drip under pressure’. No thanks. I’m a grass-roots practitioner. I have been told I’m worth £75 an hour by those who advise on regeneration funding and who want us to record in-kind value of voluntary work done, but, oh dear, no paper qualifications. I would scrape my NVQ level 2 on APEL I expect.

    Arcades – yep, put my hands up to that. Paedos Paradise in seaside areas. But that’s all just say-so isn’t it? Yes, I am convinced those working in such towns (e.g seaside) where kids have easier access under the self-regulation rules of that industry than they do in other towns need to be better regulated.

    The guide – it seemed to go down well. Based on practical concerns faced by operators. What degree do you want me to have, James? What qualification? Don’t you accept APEL?

    Freedom of Information – is that all you can use it for? To try to humiliate me in public? Sad case. Complete waste of time.

    So perhaps spend your time better by examining real issues. It suggests to me that, instead of answering the points I make, you descend to attempted character assassination. Sad.

    I am ‘astonished’ that anyone who professes a concern for civil liberties would stoop to your response.

    But this blog seems to me to be a place where the like-minded gather to reinforce one another -I’m sorry to intrude on the comfort zone. I was raised to listen to the other point of view and to not be afraid to make mine and also to learn from others. You have taught me nothing new, I have heard all that before. A very well-placed voluntary lady from Chelsea once told me “you are not humble Jan like our Lord Jesus Christ”. She wanted me to sack a woman for being pregnant. Too true I told her, and lost my job, but walked away thanks to the T&G with a year’s untaxed salary.

    Maybe I should have taken a different path in my life and become an expert and worked for – now let’s see – London Borough of Haringey maybe?

    Let’s see what else I’n not an expert in, James. Case of A minors, Appeal Court, acting as Mackenzie Friend, overturned custody case and where the High Court then made a statement of fact that abuse had happened in the mother’s home. We were amazed to be told that a self-represented father, with m.f., had never done this before. Or a claim for constructive dismissal by two care ladies at an IT where we were advised we had no chance and where by logic, evidence and eventual confession of a witness, we won the case and damages.

    Damn these non-experts, James, they don’t know jack shit do they?

  6. Jan, when you champion and grandstand legislation which is so poisonous, repugnant and society damaging, you should expect the “like-minded” to gather and vigorously rebuff your argument in all ways.

  7. James, I expected people who would consider other views. You seem to me only to want to listen to yourself and then to indulge in petty personal attacks when you run out of argument. This business deserves better – we’d all agree there are lives at stake – I think you dismiss what happens to kids too lightly. Somehow round here I got to be Mayor and one day a known ‘scion of the town’ accosted me in a pub and asked me if I was Lord Mayor of Bognor Regis. Straight bat I thought, wind-up coming, all in a day for a Mayor maybe. No said I, we don’t have a Lord Mayor, but yes I am the Mayor. “I think you’re a bloody disgrace”. “And I think you are a fat fuckwit”.

    Argue with me on logic, fact etc. But cut out the personal crap, I’ve been around too long to tolerate it. You say it’s poisonous, repugnant etc but where were you when all the abuses that were happening before CRB? When the old boy network and who you knew in the local nick was how this was done? I was asked once by someone should they go that route so I told them it was unlawful and unjust. CRB gave a route to soft intel. And I think it is not satisfactory in principle though I have seen it work to the good. That is, by the way, one case in 10,000 + VOCS and CRB disclosures since 1994. So hardly flooded with such instances. And it proved to be accurate, and Lawrence removed 2 years before conviction. What if we had had VOCS access some 10 or 15 years before when perhaps Lawrence first came to their attention? [I think I may well FoI that to see when he was first ‘noted’.]

  8. Jan said….

    “James, I expected people who would consider other views. You seem to me only to want to listen to yourself and then to indulge in petty personal attacks..”

    Jan, I’m sorry if you’ve interpreted my posts as being too personal. That wasn’t my intention and I hate to make other people feel uncomfortable, whatever their views.

    I also notice on another thread that you warned other contributors…

    ” you demean your position if you get personal and abusive. You talk about rights so I have the right not to be abused”

    I’m pretty sure people are abusing your viewpoint, not you personally – but I guess there is a fine line and I apologise if you felt I crossed it. However, I think people are really really passionate about this subject and feel that their human rights are being abused and run roughshod over by people like you who champion this vetting culture so vigorously.

    Henry Porter has written some interesting stuff about all of this and he mirrors my opinion wholeheartedly. If you’re not familiar with the name, Porter is an author but also a regular contributor to the Guardian, Observer, Evening Standard and Sunday Telegraph.

    He says…

    “Common sense has been replaced by officially sanctioned mistrust, mistrust that allows anyone invested with the tiniest bit of authority – often in the form of a high-visibility jacket – to throw their weight around”

    He goes on to say…

    “This is the regime that 12 years of New Labour have imposed on Britain, a place of unwavering suspicion, paranoia – and obsessive surveillance. Government policy is largely to blame. Labour has instilled an endemic culture of suspicion in Britain”

    I feel he hits the nail on the head.

    I certainly don’t “dismiss what happens to kids too lightly”. But I do feel we need to get things in perspective – for the sake of our up and coming generations – who are already growing up in a Britain desensitised, due to our obsession with vetting and databases.

    Jan, I’m sure we both share the same good intentions, but our views are considerably far apart on achievement. Indeed, I feel that your blueprint is more a disservice to our children that it is a safeguard

    At the end of the day, and the nub of my objection to this growing culture of vetting, is that the ISA cannot and will not stop the Baby Ps of this world being abused. It simply can’t stop people with ill-intentions having access to children.

  9. Jan I’ll post more later, but:

    – Why haven’t you answered a single point I’ve made?

    – How do you expect your point of view to be taken seriously when you outright threaten one of the contributors to this thread?

    • @ Cosmodaddy

      I must admit I was rather astounded that Jan interpreted me questioning his credentials in being part of influential committees which affect all our lives as a “crude attack”.

      And offering me out! That wouldn’t bode well as ‘soft intel’ for someone in the child protection industry would it. LOL

      Of course I’m being mischievous and playful there, but I guess it demonstrates what we’re all saying quite succinctly.

  10. Pingback: Child Protection Minister Justifies ISA With Propaganda | Cosmodaddy

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