Why disclosure has limited value in child protection

19th November 2010 at 00:00

I am amazed by the ridiculous claims made for the efficacy of disclosure as a way to protect children, most recently the claim by Donald MacKenzie, an officer with Dundee City Council, who suggested disclosure somehow helped to fight child trafficking.

Children face three major areas of risk: their family and domestic circle (the biggest risk); random encounters with people like Robert Black, Ian Huntley or child traffickers; and those who have an official care or training role over them. Disclosure only operates in this last area; even here, it is limited to identifying those who have already come to the attention of the police. It is totally ineffective against those, like nursery worker Vanessa George, who have managed to escape notice.

So where on earth does trafficking fit in? Does Mr MacKenzie seriously suggest that traffickers are responsible citizens who ensure all those who work for them have clean disclosures, or does Dundee perhaps operate a trafficking scheme and behave in this responsible way? By its very nature, trafficking is completely outwith the law and the scope of disclosure.

It is typical of the poor analysis that is applied to child protection that we have created a hugely bureaucratic system of checking, which those who advocate it believe offers total protection but which, at best, is of very limited value and operates only in a very specific area of risk. Until we get a better balance and more accurate assessment of the risks, this blind belief in the efficacy of disclosure places children as much at risk - by offering a false sense of security - as it protects them.

Judith Gillespie, Findhorn Place, Edinburgh.

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