Thursday, 11 October 2012

Tracking risk without fixing it

The government is developing a database to track around 30,000 grammatically flawed “at-risk” children*—with those included based on measurement against around 130 “risk factors.”

What do I think about that?

Frankly, it makes me uneasy. And when I feel uneasy about something on this subject, I read Lindsay Mitchell.

The development of a database for at-risk children is a good idea....I think. When unsure about something I work it out by writing.
Yes, it's state intrusion. However, the state has a legitimate role in protecting children.

True. But will this protect them?   Lindsay gives just one hypothetical example among many that could be dreamed up, involving a child in the first year of life—their “riskiest.”  Not only are there gaping hole in identifying their risks, but “the database can't predict if, when or how severe “any incident] will be.

And the invasion of privacy involved?

If people abuse welfare and break laws intended to protect others [says Lindsay] then they give up certain rights. Yes, I imagine some people are going to also abuse the database. We've seen that sort of infringement with police and WINZ databases. Some klutz might even email its contents or part thereof to an unintended recipient!
But, on balance, I can support the database. Don't expect it to be the silver bullet though.

No. Who could.

To state the problem properly is to identify it. I suspect that most situations in which children are at risk from their parents (because, let’s face it, that’s the risk we’re talking about here) are known about by all sorts of people, but none of them are in any position—or have any legal authority—to do anything about it.  Thinking through how that is changed might have more effect than simply measuring what’s going wrong.

And I still fear the biggest cause of children being “at risk” from their parents is that money is taken from us against our will to pay no hopers to breed.  To pay children to have children they don’t want.

Until that particular root cause is tackled, the impression must remain that these sort of announcements from this Minister are more about diversionary headlines than they are about tackling the real problems.

* * * * *

* “At-risk children” is grammatical abuse. It would be grammatically correct to call them either “children at risk of X” or “children at risk from X,” but to do that one would need to specify the X. Which would not be politically correct.


  1. Big parallels to UK law, biggest problem here is lack of skilled people working in this field who are not themselves in need of help. Poorest areas worst served.

  2. I expect the real "risk factors" won't be tracked in the database at all.