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Orwellian Connexions

Dr. Jan Fortune-Wood is a libertarian home educator and freelance writer who supports ‘Taking Children Seriously’. She writes in with some insightful views on the Orwellian ‘Connexions’ programme.

The nine most frightening words in the English language, Ronald Reagan is once reputed to have said, are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” One only has to glance at the latest brainchild of ‘joined-up government’ to know the truth of that statement. The Connexions scheme is meant to ensure that children are tracked in order to give them maximum access to the benefits everything taxation has to offer. The price tag comes in the form of an electronic card that is programmed with a complete history of the child. It is optional, no one has to join the scheme – it’s simply that learning institutions can make it a requirement for registration and it remains to be seen how many other public sector institutions will be joining in the rush for data.

This back door identity card is administered by ‘personal advisors’ (PAs) using the ‘Connexions Assessment Tool’. Based on a system used by Social Services, the tool enables PAs to assess eighteen areas of private life and ‘score’ the answers from 1 – ‘positive strengths’ to 5 – ‘critical or complex issues identified’. With just one simple tool these PAs can sum up and objectify young people under the all encompassing headings of:

Life Skills

Key Skills

Basic Skills



Substance use issues

Emotional well-being

Physical health



Social & community factors

Family history & functioning

Capacity of parents/carers

Risk of offending

Relationships within family & society

Attitudes & motivation

Identity & self-image


When it comes to ‘exploring issues’ with the young person no category escapes scrutiny, for example ‘attitude to authority’ is ‘explored’ as a key skill for young people. As the sickening document develops, PAs are advised to look for evidence of living in a criminal environment to predict risk of offending. Blair’s advisors have not yet discovered any gifted precogniscants who can see the future and lock up offenders before they commit their crime in the manner of the recent ‘Minority Report’ Movie, but they are doing their best to decide people’s futures even without the aid of extra sensory perception.

Young people are expected to report on their parents as part of this welfare provision, telling all about the level of their parents’ aspirations for the young person, what kind of dental care they have provided and how often they are made to take a shower. Parental stability, difficulties and ‘evidence’ of substance abuse by parents, all as perceived by the young person, are all recorded.

Again and again the recurrent word is ‘appropriate’ and the document suggests that it is highly appropriate for some under trained, intrusive PA to explore a young person’s private sexual history alongside her ‘developmental progress’ and immunisation history. Moreover, this PA, fresh from her in service training course on how to be an authoritarian government lackey goes on to delve into the young person’s mental health. ‘Do you now or have you ever had suicidal thoughts?’ Does the teenager have any other juicy emotional life experiences that can be recorded for his own good? Self harm? Bereavement? Masturbation doesn’t seem to be listed, but then there is enough of that going on in this document already.

Home-educated young people are amongst the few escaping the routine invasion of this new and invidious scheme, but as they enter colleges later in their education they are being asked for details of their Connexions cards and pressurized to join the herd of electronically tagged Blairite citizen fodder. Having libertarian views would no doubt earn them a 5 score for critical and complex attitudes to authority. Living in a household where they are taken seriously as autonomous human beings able to initiate and motivate their own learning would put them well off the scale, a new class of ‘potential offenders’ in their own right. The Connexions scheme is inimical to liberty and we need to be campaigning against it vociferously before all young people are made the subjects of joined up government ‘help’.

Dr. Jan Fortune-Wood, North Wales

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