Monday, 26 July 2010

The Child Protection Policy - 9

On to emotional abuse.
12. Emotional Abuse

This category deals with the persistent or severe emotional ill treatment of a child, which has a severe adverse effect upon the behaviour and emotional development of that child. Its diagnosis will require medical, psychological, psychiatric, social and educational assessment.

It is accepted that all abuse involves emotional abuse but this category supersedes only when it is the main or the sole form of abuse.
The definition doesn't actually say anything specific about what emotional abuse is. This really isn't good enough. Again, let's compare the wording with the equivalent wording from the London Child Protection Procedures. There, the definition of emotional abuse (para 4.2.3) is as follows

Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent effects on the child’s emotional development, and may involve:
  • Conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person;
  • Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction;
  • Seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another;
  • Serious bullying, causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children;
  • Exploiting and corrupting children.
Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.

This as you can see is much clearer. it gives examples of the sorts of things that emotional abuse consists of, and so offers the staff much more in the way of guidance as to things to look out for. It is a matter for serious concern that the school's definition of Emotional Abuse is so thin, since the grooming of children for sexual abuse is most definitely a form of emotional abuse, clearly falling into more than one of the categories above, for instance "Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations", and "Exploiting and corrupting children".

When I attended the sentencing hearing for Father David Pearce, and the details of his crimes were recited in court, it was perfectly clear that emotional abuse had been involved. And still the school has an inadequate and woolly definition, with statements concerning diagnosis all mixed in with the actual definition.

Why, even after all this time, is the school's definition so bad? There's a perfectly good definition, agreed by the experts of London SCB and available for insertion into the policy using a bit of copy & paste. It's not hard to do this right.

Let's go on the school's list of possible signs of emotional abuse.
Possible signs of Emotional Abuse:
  • The child is developmentally delayed
  • Inappropriateness of social responses
  • Self mutilation
  • Extreme passivity or aggression
  • Truanting from School or running away from home
  • Drug or Solvent abuse (either in the child or in its principal carer/s)
  • Excessive fear of situations or people
  • Social Isolation
  • Depression
  • Pressure (possibly when carers are unstable emotionally or behaviourally)
It would appear that since all abuse involves emotional abuse, then the possible signs of emotional abuse should be the same as paragraph 10. But they aren't.

The parenthetical notes all have the effect of tilting the perception of the reader towards a diagnosis of possible abuse in the home. No such diagnosis should be made or attempted.

Again, let's compare with the London Child Protection Procedures (para 4.3.16 to 4.3.18)

Emotional abuse may be difficult to recognise, as the signs are usually behavioural rather than physical.

The indicators of emotional abuse are often also associated with other forms of abuse. Professionals should therefore be aware that emotional abuse might also indicate the presence of other kinds of abuse.

The following may be indicators of emotional abuse:
  • Developmental delay;
  • Abnormal attachment between a child and parent (e.g. anxious, indiscriminate or no attachment);
  • Indiscriminate attachment or failure to attach;
  • Aggressive behaviour towards others;
  • Appeasing behaviour towards others;
  • Scapegoated within the family;
  • Frozen watchfulness, particularly in pre-school children;
  • Low self esteem and lack of confidence;
  • Withdrawn or seen as a ‘loner’ – difficulty relating to others.
The school has some of the signs right, but has some which are not appropriate (e.g. self-mutilation, truanting and depression), some which are entirely subjective (e.g. Inappropriateness of social responses) and has missed important ones, such as "loner" behaviour.

Again, the expert sources of information are easily available, but have not been used. And some of the signs have been defined in such a way as to enable emotional abuse to be diagnosed in almost anybody, by suggesting that he or she has engaged in "inappropriate social responses". That's a very nice accusation to be able to point at parents who complain that there has been abuse going on at school. We know that Father David Pearce did precisely that, though his allegation was of physical abuse, to cover up the fact that he was sexually abusing a child.


  1. I am personally not optimistic that a truthful or candid explanation of the St Benedict's school safeguarding issues will appear in the “revised report.” The ISI has no safeguarding credibility neither does Ofsted the inspectorate that laughably assesses the quality of the ISI reports. Ofsted’s abilities were demonstrated in the C4 News report exclusive on the 19th May.

    What one has to understand is that the ISI (and the other inspectorates that exist) are the ‘juniors’ of the inspection world. They follow the Ofsted protocols in safeguarding “inspection” so that the senior inspectorate can assess their performance.

    It was for the convenience schools that it was decided by the Labour Government that safeguarding would be handled by school inspectors. “One inspectorate does all” and of course this dim reasoning was recommended by a former teacher in his report to Ed Balls. The idea was doomed to failure because the two inspections are cultural opposites – and which has suffered in this marriage of convenience? Safeguarding of course.

    You cannot foist safeguarding onto an educational inspectorate and expect it to work. It is clear that educationalists should inspect education. The same people inspecting safeguarding is nonsense because it is asking an educationalist to fulfil another role in which they have inadequate training and little understanding, no interest and which is an entirely different inspection process. One may as well ask them to inspect the drains and some inspectors believe this is what is being asked of them.

    Sadly the Commission for Social Care Inspection, a truly safeguarding and welfare literate inspectorate was mandated to hand over all its inspection roles to Ofsted on the 1st April 2007 and ever since the standard of welfare and safeguarding inspections is as adjacent to useless as one can get. Ofsted drafted in the very damp Mr Patrick Leeson from Kingston on Thames, and then made the oceanically inept decision to employ John Goldup to the executive board. Ofsted did this because of the non existence of social care, safeguarding or welfare experience anywhere in Ofsted’s senior management team. What’s wrong with John Goldup I hear you ask? Well here is a response from the Care Leavers Association. to his appointment. The Daily Mail also ran a long piece about him being part of the senior management team in Islington at the time of the child abuse cover up scandal in the borough.

    Ofsted recently made clear that in any inspection in has to consider the “commercial interests of the setting.” Any safety critical inspectorate that makes such a statement immediately removes all credibility from its reports. Repeatedly I have also heard the words “we must not destabilise an otherwise good school.” This is a mantra from Ofsted and the DfE. What do you imagine destabilises a school faster than anything else?

    So here you have the inspectorates and the DfE all working together to assist the school “keep things quiet” thus ensuring “the schools commercial interests are maintained and that the school is not otherwise destabilised.”

    Can you imagine the effects of the CAA making either of these statements about their airframe inspections? The aviation industry would collapse because quite correctly no one in their right mind would fly.

    Allowing for this dreadful situation, and the fact that the ISI is a "peer review Inspectorate" which is about as unindependent as you can get, I hold out little hope for a truthful report appearing. The ISI has form for producing misleading, perhaps even untruthful safeguarding inspection reports and I will have no hesitation referring to them on this blog at a later date.

  2. My apologies for the broken link and hope this correction works.

    C4 News report exclusive on the 19th May.

  3. Thank you, Mr WEST, for the above two communiques from the WEST of Lewis, aka grimersta.

  4. No, grimersta isn't me.

    If I had something like that to write, I wouldn't put it into a mere comment. I'd put it into an article, where all those who have subscribed to the blog using RSS would see it.

    There are quite a few people who have subscribed to the RSS feed. They will never see the comments unless they happen to click through to an article to see if any comments have been received.

  5. You're being too modest Mr West. And, if grimersta isn't you not-so-good self, how come you have a clone?

  6. This is a subject about which more people are gaining a significant understanding. They bother to understand simply because safeguarding in the UK (I exclude Northern Ireland because huge progress has been made in the Province since 2005 as I mentioned in a previous posting on this site) is not working. Many factors contribute to this failure. I have a reasonably detailed knowledge of the safeguarding landscape, the shortcomings, the politics, and importantly the dynamics of abuse in schools. But no I am not Mr West who is one of a growing number of people who have decided not to put up with the meaningless claims of the DfE safeguarders that everything is working effectively. It isn't as they well know, and safeguarding cannot possibly be effective without a significant overhaul and changes to the statutory framework which has been described by one of the co author’s of the Temple Book Award winner Child Abuse Law and Policy Across Boundaries, Dr Caroline Keenan, as ineffective, confusing, contradictory, it is the dangerous dogs act writ large - in other words useless.

    I hope this addresses your mistaken assertion.

  7. "Abbeyvista"26 July 2010 at 21:00


    You make some very interesting and valid points regarding the statutory framework for safeguarding in the UK which seem to have far more relevance to the reality of the situation than the ramblings of West.

    You make a very sensible point vis a vis OFSTED and lack of qualification in their role in safeguarding and social care inspection more generally. However, one wider issue which you didn't mention is that while CSCI was a very effective regulator too in respect of care homes for the elderly, they too lacked a lot of the expertise required for the difficult job of safeguarding regulation. I doubt that their quality of inspections would be significantly better than OFSTED, despite the fact that they were an effective regulator of care homes for the elderly.

    I believe that the principle behind merging CSCI's childcare regulatory function into OFSTED as being sound, however the resourcing just is not present at yet at OFSTED at any level which is a serious issue to be addressed by OFSTED. I would go further to say that the expertise was not present in CSCI in the first place.

    Interesting, CQC has taken on CSCI's responsibilities for adult social care regulation relatively smoothly in addition to their functions in regulating healthcare and this seems to be working effectively with a corresponding reduction in regulatory burdens on healthcare bodies. In principle, once the expertise have been established in child social care regulation, the same should be able to be said of OFSTED.

    It is not the organisational structures which are broke it is more indicative of a wider lack of expertise on these issues in the UK.

  8. CSCI were also responsible for the inspection of all boarding schools both maintained and independent. So good was CSCI’s inspection protocols that when Ofsted subsumed responsibility for CSCI’s inspections I am told that it was forced to provide a written undertaking to adhere to these well developed procedures. Ofsted then promptly ignored this undertaking because there was no one to police their adherence to the commitment. The result today is that Ofsted’s contribution to safeguarding is abysmal. Whereas CSCI’s was structured, clear, precise, targeted, and understandable – Ofsted’s are an essay of unstructured and subjective opinion. But of course these non inspections by Ofsted contribute to the 30% saving that the HMCI is tasked with securing while the estate of Ofsted’s responsibility has dramatically increased. Simple mathematics tells you this cannot be possible on the scale we have witnessed without shortcuts being taken.

    On 1st April 2007 when Ofsted subsumed responsibility for the CSCI inspections, two hundred CSCI inspectors were transferred to Ofsted. Since then 45 have left – none through retirement. These were experienced people who no longer wanted to work for Ofsted. This is part of the culture clash when any two organisations are thrown together, except to caricature this “marriage” of convenience why would plumbers (CSCI) think for one minute that electricians (Ofsted) would know anything about their business and be capable of managing it especially when they see their inspection protocols developed over years dumped overnight? What encouragement does that provide to the experts in safeguarding?

    CQC by definition is a welfare inspectorate, and a merger between two culturally similar organisations has more chance of success.
    But with Ofsted having torn up the written undertaking, and being a culturally different form of Inspection, the marriage was doomed before the ceremony.

    How many times have we heard Ofsted tell us they take a ‘snapshot’ which bizarrely they think can apply to safeguarding inspection? I do not dispute that educational inspection is a snapshot – but safeguarding has to be a P&L exercise i.e. over the whole period since the last inspection and possibly even predating the last inspection. You cannot expect an effective inspectorate to emerge from a foundation where two diametrically opposed inspection cultures have to exist with one managing the other.

    The BBC’s whistleblower programme brought to our attention that reports from Inspectors can reach Ofsted’s “quality assurance” team saying one thing and emerge saying something quite different . Well in such circumstances anything is possible and nothing can be relied upon.

    Expertise in safeguarding does exist, but the politics that surrounds child abuse is significant. The sheer numbers of police reports regarding child abuse is significant but these represent only a small proportion of the children being abused. Regrettably the scale of child abuse in the UK is almost epidemic in proportions. These are not my claims but those of the NGA’s and the Home Office.

    The statutory framework guarantees nothing to an abused child. The UK is out of step with most other common law countries regarding reporting abuse to the authorities. So on top of incompetent inspection regime provided in educaton by Ofsted and the ISI, we have no laws to protect children, few rights, and the grandiose position of Children’s Commissioner has no independence. If she wants to launch an inquiry, unlike colleagues in Wales and Scotland, she has to ask permission from the Secretary of State for Education. So, no independence there then!

    The entire system is not fit for purpose. We’ll see what else Mr West raises in his interesting blog.

  9. Any person who suffered abuse at Ealing would be much better off going to MACSAS for help and support rather than Mr West.

  10. I made the post at 18.54 and at the same time support what Mr West is doing.

  11. As a previous poster said, 'no school starts from a blank piece of paper' when assembling a safeguarding policy.

    This is also my experience. The usual framework most commonly used by schools is the one offered by their Local Safeguarding Children's Board - or if the school considers there is a better offering elsewhere this can be used. Sadly Safeguarding is like that - its a la carte providing the setting remains within the "statutory guidance" which is hardly challenging.

    It is therefore an achievement to render an existing document into a condition of uselessness.

    It takes thought and planning by a Designated Officer and importantly the nominated Governor who is ultimately responsible for Safeguarding.

    Governors Safeguarding Responsibilities