“Barnardo’s Bunkum”

4 December 2008 — 6 Comments

I posted recently about the children’s charity Barnardo’s and their ‘Children In Trouble’ campaign that used shock tactics to highlight the victimisation of young people in our culture. In addition to the ‘Hunting’ video I posted, last week their new TV ad hit the screens. It’s unpleasant viewing to be sure, but that’s the point.

However, many youth workers and professionals in the field have criticised Barnardo’s for taking this approach and I was pointed in the direction of an excellent Spiked article that calls into question the methods and motives used by Barnardo’s in their survey with the general public that originally produced their shocking statistics:

‘Most adults think children are feral’, claimed the newspaper headlines, as if Barnardo’s had uncovered a scientifically measurable prejudice against young people. In fact, Barnardo’s put the following statement to its respondents: ‘People refer to children as feral but I don’t think they behave this way. Do you agree or disagree?’

Eh? Come again? I write and edit words for a living, and even I was bamboozled by this statement. Does one say agree or disagree to the first part (‘People refer to children as feral’) or the second part (‘But I don’t think they behave this way’)? It took me a couple of minutes to work out that I would say ‘agree’. Forty-two per cent of respondents agreed with Barnardo’s statement (that is, they agree that people refer to children as feral but don’t think that is a useful description), while 45 per cent disagreed with Barnardo’s statement, which presumably means they think children are in some way feral (at least I think it does; I’m confused again). Not surprisingly, 13 per cent said ‘Don’t know’, which was by far the highest ‘Don’t know’ response for the whole survey. If there had been a choice that said ‘I have no idea what you are talking about’, I imagine it would have been selected by, ooh, at least 20 per cent of the respondents.

So maybe this is true and maybe it isn’t but the point raised is that should Barnardo’s be using their position more responsibly to show young people in a positive light?

Jon

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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

6 responses to “Barnardo’s Bunkum”

  1. Anyone with a basic understanding of survey methods will view this question as immediately suspect. There is clearly an an agenda behind it to produce results that support Barnado’s view. Whilst they undoubtedly do good work on behalf of children and young people I can’t help feeling this campaign runs the risk of presenting the charity as creating fear rather than addressing the real issues, which much of their work does.
    As you say, presenting young people in a more positive light could make a real difference to the way they are perceived. I would have thought that showing how a charity or ministry is helping young people to live more positive lives would be a greater inspiration for people to support. It’s very sad if shock tactics like this are more effective at bringing in the money.

  2. Anyone with a basic understanding of survey methods will view this question as immediately suspect. There is clearly an an agenda behind it to produce results that support Barnado’s view. Whilst they undoubtedly do good work on behalf of children and young people I can’t help feeling this campaign runs the risk of presenting the charity as creating fear rather than addressing the real issues, which much of their work does.
    As you say, presenting young people in a more positive light could make a real difference to the way they are perceived. I would have thought that showing how a charity or ministry is helping young people to live more positive lives would be a greater inspiration for people to support. It’s very sad if shock tactics like this are more effective at bringing in the money.

  3. This campaign has been dogged by controversy since its launch along with some hard hitting PR last month. While this campaign aims to highlight misconceptions, the shock tactics it has used do run a danger of overshadowing some of the very serious messages Barnardo’s is highlighting and it would be foolish to pretend that the positive messages Barnardo’s want to communicate with this campaign will necessarily be heard.

    The headlines that accompanied the research released to promote this advertising campaign screamed of adults’ fear of ‘feral’ children infesting our streets – it’s hardly the message a charity aiming to promote child welfare should be associated with.

    However behind the hype surrounding the launch of this campaign there are some very important issues that it raises which Barnardo’s should be praised for. The “break the cycle” advert in particular tackles a number of serious issues around the abuse and violence that young people suffer on a daily basis. If the ASA has received complaints then it is quite right that they investigate them appropriately, however we at Beatbullying feel that this must not detract from the fact that the government needs to take action to protect young people from the kind of graphic violence portrayed in these adverts which is all too real for a number of young people in the UK.

  4. This campaign has been dogged by controversy since its launch along with some hard hitting PR last month. While this campaign aims to highlight misconceptions, the shock tactics it has used do run a danger of overshadowing some of the very serious messages Barnardo’s is highlighting and it would be foolish to pretend that the positive messages Barnardo’s want to communicate with this campaign will necessarily be heard.

    The headlines that accompanied the research released to promote this advertising campaign screamed of adults’ fear of ‘feral’ children infesting our streets – it’s hardly the message a charity aiming to promote child welfare should be associated with.

    However behind the hype surrounding the launch of this campaign there are some very important issues that it raises which Barnardo’s should be praised for. The “break the cycle” advert in particular tackles a number of serious issues around the abuse and violence that young people suffer on a daily basis. If the ASA has received complaints then it is quite right that they investigate them appropriately, however we at Beatbullying feel that this must not detract from the fact that the government needs to take action to protect young people from the kind of graphic violence portrayed in these adverts which is all too real for a number of young people in the UK.

  5. Hi Tim, thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree the wording of the questionnaire is deliberately leading (or misleading)!

    Emma, I think you’ve summarised the good and bad points of this campaign very well. I’m caught in the tension of both applauding and condemning Barnardo’s for their effort!

  6. Hi Tim, thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree the wording of the questionnaire is deliberately leading (or misleading)!

    Emma, I think you’ve summarised the good and bad points of this campaign very well. I’m caught in the tension of both applauding and condemning Barnardo’s for their effort!

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