Monday, August 04, 2008

Jersey and other institutional abuses

Congratulations to John Hemming for establishing that children in care from Birmingham were sent to Jersey. He writes about the subject on his own blog, but the Mail on Sunday has more details:

At least five children were illegally placed in care on Jersey by Birmingham social services, which then lost track of them.

Four of the youngsters - who are now adults - are still on the island and have been traced by local police. But the whereabouts of the fifth, a male born in the Fifties, remains unknown ...

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, who discovered that his local city council had sent children to Jersey, believes other children from the UK 'were also placed in care there'.

The MP for Birmingham Yardley added: 'The Government has refused to order councils to check properly because it does not want to open a can of worms, on the links between abusers in England and Jersey.'

The newspaper goes on to say that Birmingham council discovered it had placed five children in foster care on Jersey because, at John's request, it checked old accounts. It found it made payments to Jersey for child care between 1960 and 1990. Yet a social work file survived on only one child.

Kevin Brennan, the schools minister, had told the Commons that checks are unnecessary because children from the UK cannot be placed in care in Jersey without a court order. Yet the five Birmingham children were sent to Jersey without such orders.

This blunt denial of the truth reminded me of the BBC investigation last week that found that sane women who were typhoid carriers were detained in a mental hospital in Surrey until as recently as 1992.

The report was impeccably researched and obviously true, yet:

The Department of Health told the BBC that there is not, and never has been, "a policy of incarcerating" anyone, in this context.
I suppose we should not underestimate the instinct of government to lie when its darker dealings are exposed to the light, but the explanation may be simpler than that. The workings of the state are now so vast and so convoluted that no one knows what is going on.

Now read Heresy Corner on Michael Gove's speech about the Conservatives' social policies:

It shouldn't be forgotten how much of the target culture started under the last Conservative government, which did after all introduce the national curriculum in schools, with its apparatus of centrally-controlled testing, and which also began the catastrophic culture of managerialism in the NHS.

It was the Tories, too, which emasculated local government, removing powers and imposing rate-caps. But all these trends have gone further, much further, under Labour.

And while the Conservative forerunners of such policies were means to an end, whether increasing efficiency or consumer choice, with Labour the opposite seems to be the case. Claims about efficiency and choice often seem to be mere excuses for the true motivation of ministers, the extension of state supervision into every nook and cranny of personal life.

1 comment:

dreamingspire said...

"The workings of the state are now so vast and so convoluted that no one knows what is going on."
Disagree with you on the suggestion that we had a smaller state in earlier times, and that its inflation is the cause of the lack of knowledge at the top. The UK and in earlier times the Empire ran on the basis that the top didn't need or want to know detail of local implementation of policies and rules. Now that what we call the Information Society is here, that old and in its day very successful model (albeit by no means always fair to people at the bottom) is challenged by the wider availability of detail. Today's successful service delivery organisations are based on the very availability of masses of information, with every level of the hierarchy knowing that the truth will out and that it must be positive - but much of our civil service is still run from the top on the old model. Ministers thus increasingly look to be fools because they get fed duff info, which overall simply discredits politics in this country.