Many parents living in fear of “aggressive and unwarranted” investigations by social services, finds new poll
The Christian Institute
Wednesday, 09 March 2016
For immediate release
Many parents are living in fear of aggressive and unwarranted investigations by social services, a new poll has found.
Concern is so widespread that one in four parents are worried about taking their children to A&E or a GP after an accidental bump or bruise.
Asked, “How concerned, if at all, are you that taking your child to your GP or A&E might trigger an unwarranted investigation by child protection staff?” 26 per cent said they were concerned, including almost one in ten (nine per cent) who said they were “very” concerned. Fewer than half, 44 per cent said that they were not at all concerned, while just over a quarter (26 per cent) said that they were not very concerned.
The poll from ComRes, commissioned by The Christian Institute, found this figure rose to almost three in ten when a similar question was used of other parents. 29 per cent of parents agreed with the statement “I know other parents who are reluctant to take their children to A&E or the GP because of concerns it might trigger an unwarranted investigation by child protection staff”.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, commented: “These figures are shocking. Parents should never be frightened about taking their children after an accident to see a doctor but, as State interference in our private lives increases, anxiety among normal caring parents also rises.
“And you don’t have to go very far to find cases which have involved the most appalling and draconian treatment of loving parents – the family of Ashya King were hounded across Europe and his mother and father arrested and imprisoned because of a disagreement between those providing medical treatment and those who gave him life.”
The poll found low levels of confidence in social services and their use of resources. Nearly six in ten (58 per cent) parents are concerned that social services “are sometimes too quick to take action against parents who have done nothing wrong”.
Just three in ten (31 per cent) parents thought the Government “was doing a good job balancing the need to protect children at risk while not penalising ordinary parents”. More than two thirds (68 per cent) either disagreed (38 per cent) or did not know (30 per cent).
When asked if “The Government’s child protection resources should be focused on identifying and helping those most at risk, rather than monitoring every child”, more than seven in ten (71 per cent) of parents agreed with just one in seven (14 per cent) disagreeing.
Mr Hart continued: “The Government and social services are seen as interfering and too quick to launch aggressive and unwarranted investigations. No wonder parents are living in fear.
“As this poll found, parents believe that money and resources should be focused on those children who are at risk. It found that the public overwhelmingly (79 per cent) believe that parents should be ‘very’ responsible for their children’s general wellbeing. This compared to only one in six (16 per cent) who say the same of health visitors and one in eight (13 per cent) who say class teachers.”
The poll was commissioned on the eve of a legal challenge in the Supreme Court to the SNP’s new State guardian scheme. The so-called Named Person scheme will see every child having a State official appointed at birth to monitor their wellbeing up until the age of 18.
Named persons will be entitled to demand information and share it with police and social workers without parents’ consent or knowledge. They will also be able to give advice to children on a range of subjects from general wellbeing to sexual health without the knowledge or permission of that child’s parents or guardians. Children will be subjected to psychological tests, profiling and home visits, with this information being shared between State agencies but not with parents.
Asked specifically about the Named Person scheme, almost six in ten people (57 per cent) do not think it is right for every child to be assigned a State official to monitor their wellbeing, whether their parents want one or not.
Interestingly, among Scots, more than half (52 per cent) disagree with the SNP’s plan for a named person and only one in four (27 per cent) support it.
By 51 per cent to 32 per cent, the public disagree that “it is reasonable for a State official to ask children questions about family life, even when there is no sign that anything is wrong”.
In addition, more than six in ten (64 per cent) parents believe that assigning a named person to every child, whether vulnerable or not, “is an unacceptable intrusion into family life”. Just one in five (19 per cent) disagreed.
Interestingly a full two-thirds (67 per cent) say that it should be up to parents to ask for help from the Government when they need it. While nearly nine in ten (87 per cent) think it is primarily the job of parents, not Government, to bring up their children in the way they think best. In Scotland this figure rose to 89 per cent.
Worryingly for the Scottish Government, the poll found by a ratio of almost two to one – 43 per cent to 23 per cent – that Scots would not trust named persons to always act in the best interests of a child (across Great Britain it was 45 per cent to 24 per cent).
Mr Hart concluded: “The Named Person scheme is the most audacious power grab in the history of parenting. The State-appointed bureaucrat can keep vital information from parents and even tell children that mum and dad have wrong views. Already a Scottish Government funded booklet has told parents they should only choose their child’s bedroom wallpaper after consultation with the child concerned.
“If parents decide that their thirteen year old son can’t have Grand Theft Auto for Christmas, or that he can’t watch Game of Thrones, they shouldn’t be told off by the named person for the decisions they make.
“The named person will be legally responsible for monitoring the happiness of hundreds of children. You can be sure these overworked officials aren’t going to have the time to properly analyse all details behind the many sensitive judgements that parents have to make. So if they see anything in a family that doesn’t tick a box on a government checklist, you can bet they’ll just escalate it up to social services, the NHS or the police. The authorities that should be helping truly needy kids are instead going to be overwhelmed with tittle-tattle. Genuine serious cases will get lost in the system while the full weight of State intervention is brought to bear on innocent families.
“Parents are, on the whole, best placed to care and look after their children and where they are not, the State and all of its agencies should focus on helping those people. It should not be targeting decent, hard-working people who are simply trying to raise their children according to their beliefs and values.”
The Christian Institute
The Christian Institute is a non-denominational registered charity, which seeks to promote the Christian faith in the UK.
It was founded in 1991 by Christian church leaders and professionals and it currently campaigns on a range of issues including marriage and the family, child protection, pro-life concerns, drugs, religious liberty and education, as well as Christianity and the constitution.
For media enquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson of Media Intelligence Partners Ltd on 07970 162225 or 0203 008 8145, or The Christian Institute’s Head of Communications on 07736 957579.
ComRes polled 2,030 people online between 2nd and 3rd March 2016. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+.
ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.