A plan to treat vulnerable newborns as “lab rats” by sitting back for two years to see if they were abused has been blocked by the Government.
The Ministry of Social Development proposed to include 60,000 children born this year in an “observational study” to test the accuracy of its new predictive risk modelling tool.
It attempts to predict abuse, welfare dependency and the likelihood of a child’s downward spiral into crime on the path to adulthood so it can better target spending.
The Government gave the go-ahead to develop the model in 2012, as part of the Children’s Action Plan. It had now begun testing it.
But documents show officials had sought ethical approval for one study which involved risk-rating a group of newborns and not intervening in high-risk cases, to check whether their predictions came true.
A furious Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said she could not fathom what her officials were thinking.
She has called a halt to the study.
The minister’s handwritten notes on the documents instructed officials: “not on my watch, these are children not lab rats”.
One of the roles of a Minister is to apply the political filter to stuff from their department. The idea that a Government would sign off on not intervening with at risk children just to test the accuracy of predictions is one which no good Minister would let fly.
Personally I’m surprised it even got to the Minister.