Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
Debased Meaning - "reduced in quality or value."
I always took big charities at face value until I came into contact with the communication teams of a number of them. They were suspiciously like any other communication team - skilled at getting messages across. Communication staff are effectively marketing teams and messages are often enhanced and simplified, in the interests of clarity and maximum impact.
At that time someone once explained to me that MP’s would not normally read more than two sides of A4 on any topic unless exceptionally interested. I’m all for succinctness but it explained a lot, particularly the fascination all policymakers seem to have with children’s brains often linked to adoption in the name of early intervention (fascinating and 'feel good' rescue narrative, might be cost effective too, keep reading) and how their eyes glaze over when you talk about neuro-disability for the most part (worthy but boring and autism is confusing - the 'developing brain people' never mention it so it must not matter).
Few charities will step on each other’s toes and most vie for proximity to power - this is lobbying in the same way as all big commercial interests lobby those in power. All the charities have their own patch – they rarely stray off it so while the NSPCC say their interest is protecting children, it is not – it is about protecting children from abuse and neglect by the adults in their lives. This is their 'unique selling point' - their brand and this has brand value that needs to be protected. This leaves huge gaps including protecting children from abuse and neglect in institutional settings. For the most part the children’s charities have difficulties in challenging this type of abuse and sometimes are even implicated in it as both Mencapand the National Autistic Society have been. The big charities have business plans like any business and set their business objectives about 1-2 years in advance - this means there is little flexibility in terms of responding to need or opportunity as they arise. Sometimes charities have to do things in the interests of their business plan, that are at best, ethically questionable.
Boards of Trustees tell you a lot about an organisation. If for example you look at the Coram board of Trustees it looks like a list of people who have spent a lifetime embedded in the establishment in one form or another, mostly in business – truthfully it is hard to see what the charity gets from these people and what they get from it – my guess is each gets prestige. Is there an exchange of values? Maybe and not always in the way you would want.
Below is an extract from a presentation in 2017 by The Coram Chair of Trustees, at a conference ‘Children in care - raising standards, improving support for care leavers and the future for adoption’
“Coram is a group of charities,…And I shall draw on those references, and also in my position.., as Chair of the National Autistic Society.… the main reason I’m here is because I’m the survivor of the adoption reform process, in at the beginning, and still there. So a memory and continuity that’s sometimes lacking in the Department (of Education) itself….Eight years ago, we had 6,000 children waiting, with adoption placement orders, we had inconsistent outcomes, across a whole range of different authorities. We had really quite poor customer service, if you were an adopter, and sequential decision making. And the reform programme has addressed all of these points, and done it well………. So I think we all collectively need to apply ourselves to the fact that, given that there isn’t a correlation between expenditure and outcome we need to challenge ourselves to address sufficiency..”
This presentation was followed by another from the Head of Business, Family Placement, Barnardo’s
'’We need to look at ensuring that we can meet the market requirements, and provide sufficiency to meet those demands. And it’s exactly what Carol has highlighted before, we must remain focused managing the market, working together as partners, in true relationships. And I think, for those of you in the audience who’ve been involved in regional adoption agencies, you’re aware of the challenges. As a voluntary adoption agency, and colleagues alongside, it has been quite difficult to ensure that we are communicating, and have effective working relationships to achieve these objectives.''
Both are talking about babies and children, removed from families by the Courts in the name of the State. I meet some of the mothers whose children are being discussed in presentations like these by the Head of Business and know some of their stories and see their pain and the losses they live with on a daily basis. This inhumane language around 'ensuring sufficiency' is beyond shameful as is the creation of a 'market' where they are suppliers of the raw material traded in the market and neither they nor their children are invested with a shred of humanity.
It should make for chilling reading and it leaves me asking what do many of the big national charities bring that is of value? Are their values so debased they should have no place working with children and families or are they just a small taste of what is to come if the market in children's care and health is fully deregulated as the Department of Education is considering? See the 2016 Laing Buisson report commissioned by the DfE The potential for developing the capacity and diversity of children’s social care services in England Independent research report 1.5.1 Conclusions on existing independent sector capacity In addition to our desktop analysis of market structure and the capacity of individual players, we had the benefit of hearing providers’ own views on their appetite for expanding into core ‘Assessment and Care Planning Services’ areas of children’s social care, from the stakeholder event held in September, and one‐to‐one telephone interviews with providers. Although the current policy direction by ministers is not to generate a wholescale marketisation of children’s social care, we concluded that it is hard to envisage how significant additional capacity and diversity could be created without more services being exposed to market forces.
I believe that unless we are all prepared to fight for something different wholescale marketisation of services for children will happen whether we want it or not. It is almost here already as the examples above show. I believe it is worth fighting to prevent this - when all see babies and children as products in a market, inhumanity has become normalised and none of us nor the people we care about will be immune from its effect.