Recently, when I was looking for statistics for my post unwarranted government intrusion into family life I came across the RoSPA website, with the slogan “As safe as necessary, not as safe as possible.” This seemed to me to be a balanced attitude to risk and set me thinking, what does this mean in terms of child safety from neglect and abuse?
Is it even applicable in those circumstances, or do we really want as safe as possible? What would as safe as possible look like?
It would look like a world where no child could ever be left alone with anyone, especially not parents, as most child abuse takes place in the home. Where no adult could ever be trusted, regardless of who or what they were. Perhaps we’d have to live in communal accommodation, or have the children live apart from their families, something like the kibbutz model springs to mind. Wonder if they have lower rates of child neglect or abuse there?
This isn’t something we’re set up for as a species, or not any longer anyway. We are meant to live more communally than we do, I think, but not actually in each other’s pockets.
So, if we can’t go back to living in long halls, would mass screening achieve this level of safety? Mass screening how often? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? Daily? It would have to start from birth as most serious abuse cases where the children die involve children under mandatory education age so you couldn’t wait for school to protect them. What form would it have to take? An individual interview and a full body check? After all, it’s easy to hide bruises under clothes, or even chocolate.
But what would the negative effects be on children? They’d learn that no one could be trusted, especially their parents. They wouldn’t learn to form proper relationships, they wouldn’t learn how to judge risks as every aspect of their lives would be controlled externally. They’d have no concept of personal privacy, which seems to me to be a form of abuse in itself. What kind of world would we have as they grew up? Not a world I’d want to live in.
Is there enough abuse in society to justify mass screening? How much would that be? We sometimes hear the phrase “if it saves just one life” which in reality means it’s going to inconvenience a whole lot more, and the benefits will be hard to judge. It would save a whole lot more than just one life if we stopped everyone driving cars for example, but you don’t ever hear politicians campaigning on that one.
Child protection is a hot potato. It’s seen as a vote winner. Get a good strong headline about how you are going to make children safer and everyone will vote for you.
Except I think that this government has finally gone too far. The idea of the vetting and barring scheme has got a variety of ppl up in arms. Home educators are fighting back against the Badman home education review with picnics blowing bubbles and songs on Youtube. Signatories to the petition to stop reciprocal childcare counting as reward are rocketing up in number.
Don’t home educators believe in keeping children safe? Of course we do. But I think we believe in as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible, and our line in the sand is drawn in a different place to that of the government.