The madness of the NSPCC

This post was written by Reuben Bard-Rosenberg on November 26, 2010
Posted Under: Uncategorized

On Tuesday Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club drew attention to the NSPCC’s new campaign to keep children safe from their music teachers. Of particular note was this frankly weird and disturbing video – made by the NSPCC in collaboration with the musicians union – pushing a”no touch” line for instrument teachers:

I mean, really! There were monents during that video when I had to remind myself that it wasn’t a spoof. One must wonder what exactly are the NSPCC are trying to achieve here. For a start, despite the millions of music lessons taking place every year, cases of abuse appear to be very very rare: google “‘cello teachers’ abuse” and the only relevant thing that comes up is an article on the NSPCC’s new campaign. But assuming that there are some paedophiles posing as cello teachers, they are hardly going to be put off by being told not to adjust a kids fingers on the fingerboard. On the other hand, if this video is aimed at the rest of the profession, then I really do not find it plausible that altering a students technique could easily slip into something more sinister. P

Yet, while this campaign may not do much good, I can see how it may well do harm. Music teaching is one of the few areas of education – and indeed of child-adult interaction – that isn’t thoroughly institutionalised, and that isn’t facilitated by compulsion. How much do we want to drum in to the heads of students that all their teachers are potential paedophiles? Do we want them to look with suspicion at any teacher who physically adjusts their technique.

None of this would matter very much if the NSPCC simply stuck to posting faintly ridiculous videos on youtube. However they are, in fact, a superpower of the third sector, whose (arguably warped) perspective is highly influential on government policy. Nothing is done in the world of child protection without speaking to them. The NSPCC supported the introduction of the vetting and and barring scheme – a draconian system that allows the state to throw unconvicted individuals out of their jobs on the flimsiest of pretexts, even those not even accused of any criminal act. Now that the Con Dems, in one of their few intelligent acts, have halted the scheme so as to put it under review, the NSPCC are lobbying in its defence.

Nobody would doubt that the NSPCC do incredibly valuable work in protecting children from harm. Yet it is also possible that those working in child protection – and dealing everyday with stories of abuse – develop a very particular perspective on the nature of child adult interaction. This, indeed, might explain the embarrassing level of support that the NSPCC gave to the outbreak of hysteria over non-existent satanic ritual abuse. It is high time the media stopped giving this organisation a free pass, and that other voices were heard – not least those who actually work with children on a day to day basis.

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Reader Comments

I think you need to get your head out of that cloud. Try our Report ‘Out with the Bathwater?’ at our web site. That suggests it is elements of the CRB scheme that need review, and that the aim needs to be identification of those who are KNOWN dangers to employers, that such people are BARRED for good reason. The scheme needs to be rigorous also in protecting the rights of the innocent, which a recent High Court Judgment will aid, and employers should not be sent heaps of useless conviction information, only that which, after a decision that an applicant is not barred, aids children’s well-being and safety.

The relevant standards are the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (their interests are primary when we consider their welfare) and Article 6.1 of the ECHR, right to a fair hearing. There is a sensible balance.

Music teachers are as likely and unlikely to be a danger. A study of unconvicted paedophiles in the US showed up 24,000+ children accessed, at an average of 150 per offender … showing that where they see weakness they will target, a fact we at Fair Play have seen enough to convince us. A domestic paedophile – maybe 2, 3 children. An institutional counterpart – that’s a whole order more.

Written By Jan Cosgrove on November 28th, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

I simply cannot imagine learning a string instrument without my teacher having physically moved my fingers into the right positions. For a beginning guitarist, we’re talking stretching them apart and holding them there.

Why are unconvicted paedophiles being counted in Fair Play’s statistics? I’ve never been convicted of paedophilia. Am I one of your datapoints too?

Written By Hugh on November 30th, 2010 @ 12:20 am

I was wondering about that too.

Written By Reuben on November 30th, 2010 @ 12:38 am

Woah! Not our research, but from an academic source. You’re no data. As for a being a known risk, until someone is checked, that’s the point. There are those not known – how many? Well they tend not to put up their hands if asking for a job with kids. Then it’s down to sensible safeguards. Children don’t tell, for all sorts of reasons, none of them excuses the paedophile. Music teachers? Not unknown, there’s no genetic guarantees are there? I used those stats to illustrate that there are those who seek opportunity outside their own domestic settings and that the figures suggest we may well under-estimate their victim toll. After all convicted offenders may well only stump up as many offences as they think may minimise their sentence, that’s common enough sense. 9 instead of 50, for example. Yes I do see your concern about the NSPCC video, they are giving simple general advice which personally I feel is ‘guarding your own backside’ to some extent as no paedophile seeing it is going to take note. S/he will seek opportunity as the video implies. If somoene doing that doesn’t take advantage, no harm. As for kids’ feeling uncomfortable, it’s a point but I doubt it’s that common. However, in playwork one always advises that kids initiate, so one never picks them up uninvited or plonks them on one’s lap etc. The idea that there can never be physical contact is nonsense, similarly the myth about taking photos etc. The issue is consent for actions and uses which are normal and lawful. Fair Play is strong on that. Maybe the answer in music is for any teacher to say ‘if you’re not sure, ask me to show you, and if still not sure, ask me again’. Doesn’t eliminate the calculating offender situation. All we say is, they do exist, for sure.

Written By Jan Cosgrove on November 30th, 2010 @ 1:45 am

Related debate on Radio 4 Women’s Hour today. NSPCC spokesperson said that past convictions could only take you so far, as ‘much child abuse happens in secret’. So- why the obsession with CRB checks?

Written By Majeed on December 1st, 2010 @ 10:38 am

Personally I wouldn’t touch the NSPCC with a barge pole.
Their existence depends upon their persuading us that all children are in immeninent danger from everyone they come into contact with. And from widening the definiton of suspicious behaviour to include everyone.
The NSPCC regularly targets a group of people and starts a publicity campaign that encourages everyone to think that that minority group are more likley to be child abusers, and should all be viewed with suspicion.
In the past they have most famously targeted pagans with the unproven idea, and almost certianly ficticious satanic child abuse.
Only last year they targeted home educators – when the Local Authority data itself showed a decreased level of child protection concerns in the home education community – who are in effect only parents choosing to fulfil an important part of parenting themselves, many specifically because of concerns about their child’s welfare.

Written By KNorman on December 9th, 2010 @ 8:05 am

Majeed. CRB/ISA. It’s common sense to eliminate anyone already KNOWN to be a danger by their past actions. It also has been the LAW since 1933 at least that such people are barred by statute from such contact with children. No-brainer, surely? Shimple.

Knorman. OTT. NSPCC has flaws, sure, but the NSPCC exists to protect children from harm. Full Stop. Satanic abuse? Yes, contentious but I think you will find the NSPCC was cautious unlike some fundy US Christian sects. Anyway, if covens of priests can be involved in abuse, why not some satanists?

Home Educators. Agree with much of your sentiment BUT in the States it is these guys who are telling Congress not to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, putting forward every fictitious claim you can imagine, who never respond to questions as to what rights they say kids have, but who want a Parental Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Oh who also claim that ratifying the UNCRC will mean that someone who committed murder at age 17 years 11 months cannot be executed at age 18plus because they committed the crime whilst a minor. This from Home Educators ….

Whose US leadership has a clear neo-con agenda beyond HE and whose tactics stink. Whose main underlying concern appears to me to be apoplexy that kids might actually have a right to make their own choices about faith, and to have a right to voice their opinions on matters that concern them and to have these taken into account when decisions about their lives are being made by adults.

Written By Jan Cosgrove on December 9th, 2010 @ 10:51 am

Your last point about US home educators’ leadership… I think you’re referring to the HSLDA? Yes they’re a loud lobbying organisation but as you say, they push their own agenda and don’t remotely speak for all American homeschoolers. What they have to do with NSPCC’s ridiculous campaign against UK home-educating parents, I have no idea.

The point is, NSPCC have a financial interest in promoting the idea of risk to children. They also have an institutional mistrust of parents as a whole, and I wouldn’t touch them with a barge-pole either.

Written By Tracy on December 18th, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

I wouldn’t touch the NSPCC with a barge pole either. They aren’t the only ones with a vested interest in having us all CRB checked. Jan would you like to state your vested interest too?
As a home educator, I also see no reason to judge the culture in our country with that of the USA. It is completely different.
The main problem I have with the UNCRC is that it was used last year by the likes of the NSPCC to forward their agenda to have our children interrogated on their own by strangers, in our own homes. Up until then I had always thought it innocuous and well meaning document. Now I am not so sure. Maybe it just depends how it is used?

Written By Rachel on December 18th, 2010 @ 4:02 pm
Chris Cartwright

What a loada … My daughter iceskates and her coach regularly has to hold her or put her body into the right position while she learns a new move. She feels completely comfortable and safe – I check regularly, I do that, I talk to my daughter! Like playing a musical instrument – and I do know having had violin lessons – sometimes you do need to have your body put into the right position to physically learn how to do it. The way to protect children is to help them become aware of what feels uncomfortable to them and giving them the opportunity and courage to tell someone if they feel uncomfortable. Not making them terrified of any physical contact. In other words, actually talk to your child (how ground breaking is that?) and then trust your child’s instincts. Or accompany them to the lesson – duh!

Written By Chris Cartwright on December 18th, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

Oh my goodness NSPCC are just a crazy charity more interested in publicity than actually helping kids, thank you to all the music teachers in my life and none have ever tried it on.
Freaks…will never support this joke of a charity

Written By peter stoneman on December 18th, 2010 @ 5:44 pm

Chris Cartwright, I think the point about relying upon kids to know what makes them uncomfortable and not making them terrified of all physical contact is a very important one. What is dangerous about is this is that it undermines their ability to make such a judgement.

Written By Reuben on December 18th, 2010 @ 6:28 pm
Chris Cartwright

To Reuben – Definitely! Children’s judgement is undermined, they then don’t trust themselves, feel too scared to tell their carers and that’s what paedophiles rely on. Everyone working with children should know it’s the vulnerable children who perhaps have SEN or don’t have secure relationships who are most often targetted. They don’t know how to tell, or what to tell. The NSPCC would do far better building up children’s confidence and making them aware of their own instincts about what’s comfortable and what’s uncomfortable than this rubbish. Pretty soon children won’t have any physical contact with anyone, even when they need it. And actually we’re pack animals, we need contact for comfort and to feel secure.

Written By Chris Cartwright on December 18th, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

Tracy: I mentioned Home Educators because they formed part of the argument of a previous contribution. Being a home educator doesn’t make you per se virtuous either, and one can point out the lies and distortions of that lobby as a worrying matter.

Rachel, my setup advocates the UNCRC re the Right to Play. It has no force of law here, it is not incorporated into UK law, I wish it were because it would be, like any such device, double-edged, as easy to use against state interference as for it.

Chris: This is a non-sequitur in that no one is advocating telling children to suspect people. The NSPCC video is naff in some regards but its simple message is that children can avoid getting the wrong impression if adults take care not to give one. Now their approach is “don’t touch” but I agree with people that such advice is questionable. Not all kids want you there – this is another trend of our age, adults always have to be hanging around. Isn’t that likely to make your kids fearful? You warn them, tell them to ‘trust their instincts’, and then actually hold their hands all the way to make sure that the music teacher keeps his hands off? You will achieve what you deplore maybe …?

Anyway, what ARE kids’instincts? What seems attractive to some at 14 may also be unlawful … let’s get real about real kids with real bodies, real emotions. A guy they trust comes onto them, and you believe the kid’s instinct always defends them? Wow, paedophiles would give up. So, to make a point, some music teachers are never, never have been and will not be again paedophiles? Trust is the main issue – he builds that trust with a child through …. music, football whatever … who’s heard of Barry Bennell, his home was like a luxury youth centre, he whispered his promises of a bright future on the pitch as he seduced.

Peter – really off key. Let’s remember the damage a Barry Bennell can do – he gets publicity also, even a TV documentary, national press headlines. And he really wanted to help kids …. of course. much less dangerous than the NSPCC. Lucky you with all your music teachers. There are others who can tell you a different story, sing a sadder song.

Reuben – well going with them to music lessons is hardly going to help them make sound judgements. I can remember the brief embarrassed question shot at me by my Dad, and about watching out for strange men. Didn’t say about strange women … But hormones raging, a kid’s judgement about what s/he wants/feels/is being seduced into may not be too reliable. This as much a kid can misinterpret an adult’s actions because of a “pash” as much as having defences worn down by a skilled predator. Doesn’t happen?

Chris, a real point. But whose task is that? The NSPCC? Maybe parents? Adult role models who can be trusted. Youth leaders, playworkers, teachers, faith leaders (oh yes) and many others.

If I were the NSPCC I’d withdraw it and remake it after talking to some who were abused by music teachers and asking them to make statements about what would have helped them? To ask if such movements as depicted actually have any resonance for them? What would have prepared them, if anything? Who could they have talked to?

Written By Jan Cosgrove on December 19th, 2010 @ 2:45 am
Simon Peters

Alarmist rubbish, not helped by clumping script and gurning instead of acting. The worst sort of clumsy propaganda pandering to the fears of a population conditioned to fear the worst in every situation.

Written By Simon Peters on January 7th, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

Simon Peters: Emotional responses like this are more dangerous. Children are not conditioned in that way, and parents who have had the anguish of discovery that it was their child who was unlucky enough to be ‘chosen’ will tell you how offensive your dismissal is. There is a tendency abroad which wants to rubbish all such concern as some sort of conspiracy, they play on the self-righteous and on those who believe things like the MMR scandal (where is that gent now – making dosh in the States the land of the gullible). Working out how and when to act to protect children causes mistakes as well as successes. That is better than dismissing it wholesale – that is how the Catholic Church and others acted – believe the adult, trust the person’s good intent purely on say-so, cover-up the abuse, live in cloud-cuckoo. Alarmist? No real life. If you haven’t seen it, bully for you. Don’t rubbish those who have. Correct mistakes, criticise, yes. Trash real concern and effort? Poor stuff.

Written By Jan Bryan Cosgrove on January 7th, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

With their strange obsessions, I wonder how many NSPCC employees are paedophiles?

Written By Ian on January 29th, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

Just playing devil’s advocate here but look at the kid’s body language. He stiffens as the teacher gets in his space, he’s stiff and trying to avoid the touch.

George is uncomfortable here. I think the problem isn’t so much [i]touch[/i] as the way that the teacher kind of rushed in.

Written By Sia on May 8th, 2014 @ 3:30 pm
David Smith

As a children’s social worker, I am perplexed by the continuing assertions of the NSPCC that they can ‘end child cruelty’. I am further baffled by the fact that they retain their statutory powers which were rendered inefective by the LASSA 1970 which created statutory social work teams in Local Authorities. The NSPCC should therefore have been stripped of these powers as they were no longer needed. What annoys me is that they NEVER use their powers of investigation into child abuse when it is referred to them; they merely pass it on to the Local Authority to do that work. They only seem to get involved in the ‘investigations’ of high profile systemic/organisational abuse which has attracted a lot of media attention. However, each Local Authority has a responsibility to investigate this in their own areas too. In my view, they should not mislead the public by claiming that they directly deal with the referral and investigation when they clearly do not. The only work they do with children/families is not offered consistently and is generally attached to research projects. Essentially, the work they do is a means to an end to attract publicity and donations. They need to start being honest with the public and accept that they are no different to Action for Children or Barnardo’s; children’s charities who do not have the same statutory powers but do the same ‘work’ as the NSPCC!

Written By David Smith on July 1st, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

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