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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The race for predictive modelling

I was intrigued by the Express article: Revealed: New Zealand abandoned Girfec-like scheme after branding it `useless` because I wanted to know how the New Zealand scheme was put to rest. I read that:

“Officials pulled the plug on the
predictive risk modelling plans when experts said it did nothing to
address the causes of child abuse but gave authorities an excuse for
inaction.”

“The country’s Ministry for Social
Development abandoned a pilot to trial the model, created using
multi-agency shared data based on 132 variables from socio-economic
status to the background of the carers, amid concerns the method was
ethically questionable and breached privacy.”

“Even UNICEF expressed concerns over the
plans to rate every newborn child with a risk score to predict future
abuse for officials to keep an eye on…”

http://ift.tt/2aBUFNF

Certainly there were similarities to the
Scottish Named Person scheme with its potential privacy breaches, many
wellbeing variables and hundreds of risk indicators. The idea of
agencies stepping in early before a crisis develops would have had to
have involved some kind of predictive risk modelling. Only the word more
often used in Scotland is `prevention`.



Then I discovered that the New Zealand
scheme was not designed for every child and `risk scores` were to be
determined for children of benefit claimants.

“In 2011, a Green Paper commissioned by
then Social Development Minister Paula Bennett… estimated that 15% of
New Zealand children, or about 163,000 could be classified as being ’
vulnerable’ at any one time.”

“However, as the NZ Herald reported
a year later, the focus narrowed significantly in the subsequent White
Paper, onto a far smaller group of welfare recipients.”

“The concentration of data sharing and statistical predictive tools then began in earnest:

“The White Paper, written by a team in the Ministry of Social Development [without consulting outside experts]
is much more prescriptive, but for a much smaller group. It proposes: a
national `Vulnerable Kids Information System`, cutely shortened to
`Viki`, that will be `a mechanism for extracting and combining
information on children (and their caregivers) from existing databases`
once a child reaches a `threshold of concern`. Professionals across the
sectors `will be able to both view information about these children and
enter information about them” ….
 “

http://ift.tt/1OB69xv


So the New Zealand scheme was set up to target `vulnerable` children on welfare. But the proposal was more obscene than that.

“A proposed observational study that
would see if children assessed as at-risk went on to be abused has been
blocked by Social Development Minister Anne Tolley – who said infants
would not be treated as `lab rats` under her watch…”

“However, documents show that ethical
approval was sought for another observational study which would have
seen a group of 60,000 newborns assessed for risk using the tool, and
then seeing if those deemed high-risk went on to suffer abuse.”

“Ethics approval was going to be sought
for the study, but it was immediately halted by a furious Ms Tolley, who
wrote in the margins of a document outlining the proposal: `not on my
watch, these are children not lab rats`.”
http://ift.tt/2aBUEco

In New Zealand, testing of the predictive modelling tool would now be done with historical data.



Setting aside the issue of
confidentiality, I wonder how many people realise how important the
recent UK Supreme Court judgment is for the children of Scotland.



Without it, they would have been the children`s `laboratory rats` of the world. 

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