Predictive risk modelling: on rights, data and politics.

One of the items included in the scope of the current New Zealand government’s review of the Child, Youth and Family services (CYFS) is this one: ‘The potential role of data analytics, including predictive risk modelling, to identify children and young people in need of care and protection’.

Predictive risk modelling (PRM) is a simple and seductive idea. If we can predict with accuracy who is likely to abuse children before they have done so, then we can target services to those families, fulfilling the dual objectives of preventing harm before it occurs, and being uber efficient with taxpayer dollars. Such seductive ideas, especially in an age where access to the ‘big data’ required to attempt such a proposition is viable, are often worth investigating. Enormous datasets can be mined, a large number of variables can be included, and patterns of particular combinations of risk factors for certain populations can be identified. In the case of the proposed Ministry for Social Development (MSD) PRM tool, however, there a number of issues. In particular, the level of accuracy of the PRM tool is overstated, the data it relies on has serious problems, its use as a practice decision-making tool is minimal, it has significant rights implications, and using it to decide who should be offered preventive services may not be any more effective than the current state of affairs (although to be fair this is difficult to ascertain – but needs to be).

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Welcome to the nightmare: Social work, child protection and the punishment of the poor

Nigel Parton’s (2014) recent study of the political context surrounding the ‘reform’ of child protection practice and policy in England contends that the state is pursuing an increasingly authoritarian agenda in relation to a particular section of the population, England’s poorest and most vulnerable families. The neoliberal project involves a shift in responsibility for social outcomes from the state to families.

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The pictures in our heads part two: the child protection reforms and the causes of child abuse

In my first ‘pictures in our heads’ post, I noted that assumptions about how problems and their solutions are to be understood are implicit in policies of all kinds. These assumptions influence how we frame the key issues. Therefore, the changes proposed by the Vulnerable Children’s Act and Children’s Action Plan contain assumptions that shape the way we think about the causes of, and solutions to, child abuse.

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It’s behind you! The purpose (and distraction) of reviews in supporting families

A guest blog post by Kate Morris, Professor of Social Work at the University of Nottingham. Kate is one of the authors of Re-imagining Child Protection: Towards humane social work with families. In this post Kate reflects on her recent visit to Aotearoa New Zealand and the similarities between politically motivated reviews of child protection services in England and NZ.

Continue reading It’s behind you! The purpose (and distraction) of reviews in supporting families