During the debate about the home education parts of the Children, Schools and Families Bill, some parents drew attention to what they saw as the ridiculous idea that their children were not safe at home by asking facetiously whether or not all homes containing children under five should be checked regularly to make sure that the kids were safe. An amusing idea.....except that this is precisely what is now being proposed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. In draft guidance which was published on May 17th, NICE suggested that because two million children a year were admitted to A & E departments each year, something needed to be done about all those slack and ineffective parents who are allowing their children to come to harm. They believe that all parents of children under five should allow health inspectors into their homes to check that windows and doors are safe and that there is no danger of the children falling down stairs. Cookers and hot taps would also get the once over.
Now although one instinctively recoils from such an idea, I can see why they feel that the state has an interest in this. All those hospital visits come to about £146 million a year and parents do not hesitate to use the National Health Service in this way, even if they themselves were partly responsible for their children's injuries. Mike Kelly, Director of NICE's Centre for Public Health Excellence, said that health officials had a duty to prevent accidents to children.
I must confess that I am in two minds about this. On the one hand, it is not really anybody else's business if my house is a crumbling ruin and barely fit for human habitation. On the other hand, if a child came to harm as a result of my attitude, I would rush down to A & E and expect the public purse to be freely available to make things better. It's a tricky ethical dilemma.