With thanks to Stephen Glenn for highlighting this.
It’s hard to imagine stronger condemnation of the National Bullying Helpline than this on the website of Bullying UK, another anti-bullying charity:
Bullying UK is horrified at a story in today’s Daily Mail in which the National Bullying Helpline CEO Christine Pratt all but identifies someone from Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s office who contacted her helpline for confidential help.
Mrs Pratt tells the Daily Mail: “At least one of the callers who we were in correspondence with was suffering from work-related stress and had time out of the office.”
Gordon Brown’s office is small and the National Bullying Helpline’s comment will almost certainly identify this person who turned to the helpline in despair.
It’s hard to imagine a more serious breach of confidentiality. And it’s extremely concerning that we’ve had emails and Tweets (Twitter messages) from people who think that this charity is responsible.
We’re not, we’re disgusted and upset and we’re writing to the Charity Commission today to complain about the National Bullying Helpline.
In the meantime, we suggest Mrs Pratt considers her position, given the damage she has caused to the anti-bullying sector where confidentiality is paramount.
That really is strong stuff.
Listening to the interviews with Mrs Pratt and Anne Snelgrove on Today this morning was rather unedifying. There was so much mess flying around that it was difficult to understand what is going on. It seems that Mrs Pratt has managed to be specific enough to break confidentiality (in general terms) but not specific enough to add anything to public knowledge of Gordon Brown. We appear to be talking about two (or more) complaints about the Prime Minister’s Office from some time ago.
She talked about two (or more) complaints from the Prime Minister’s office and two from the Deputy Prime Minister’s office. Hello? The last time we had a Deputy Prime Minister was when Tony Blair was Prime Minister. John Prescott stood down when Blair stood down. So is it even clear that Gordon Brown was Prime Minister at the time of the complaints? Indeed, acoording to Ben Goldacre’s tweet, the co-founder of the National Bullying Helpline has appeared on BBC news today saying that the bullying reports date from several years ago.
And then this afternoon, Mrs Pratt further refined, or perhaps added to (who knows?), her allegations, according to Paul Waugh’s Tweet:
Mrs Pratt refines her (new) accusation.Just told ITN news she recvd email re Brown bullying but “it’s NOT someone who works at No.10”
It seems Mrs Pratt needs a few days reflection, then she should come back and tell us, perhaps in a document to prevent further confusion caused by talking on the fly, what precisely she is saying. At the moment, she is, to borrow a Baldrickian phrase, coming across as muddled as a muddled thing.
Having said that, I don’t for a second minimise even 1 complaint, let alone 4 (alleged). For someone to be in such a state as to have to look up and phone an anti-bullying line is awful. But it seems that Mrs Pratt has pulled off a remarkable coup here, on several fronts:
1. She has not furthered the cause of the people who complained in confidence to her helpline. Indeed she has probably caused them more anxiety and pain.
2. She has not made any clear statements about what was going on in Downing Street, just generalised and rather self-contradictory comments. So she does not appear to have advanced the truth much, if at all.
3. She has made it less likely for people to go to anti-bullying helplines in future, knowing that their confidentiality is not completely sacrosanct and that their identity could possibly be, in general terms, revealed in the middle of a media s***storm.
What was Mrs Pratt thinking about yesterday? It was a Sunday. She heard Peter Mandelson saying something on the telly and decided to go to the BBC that day. She runs a confidential helpline. A charity. Would it not have been a good idea to leave it a few days, consult others in the charity such as the trustees and patrons, and then possibly make some sort of contribution to the debate while carefully not exposing the people who complained? Or better still, have made a confidential communication to the Cabinet Secretary? Or even better, just have kept schtum?
We need to get to the bottom of all this, but I can’t see how that can be done without further exacerbating the pain of the people who phoned the helpline in the first place.
Saint Ben Goldacre makes some excellently incisive comments here:
gordon brown may well be a nasty man, but i cry massive bullshit on the “national bullying helpline” that everyone including the observer are using in their stories.
frontpage: amateurish, quotes from cameron and widdecombe (patron, along with some random tory councillor)
they’re tiny and shortlived:
a grand, this is not a serious proper charity
and theyre run by these people who flog mediation services
just thought i’d mention.
also, i dont mean to go on, but what kind of serious bullying charitiy takes uninvestigated cases to the media like that? it’s insanely unprofessional, a breach of confidence, etc.
just annoys me because i think stuff like bullying and proper investigation / action are really important, where this looks like political dodginess.
To quote from National Bullying Helpline’s website:
Good to see a few places coming out on this, Nick Robinson was early doors:
Third Sector here:
And here from Channel 4, here is Christine Pratt from the National Bullying Helpline talking in a bizarre and confused fashion about confidentiality. Where previously I was inquisitive and wondering what was going on, I am now officially disgusted of Tumbridge Wells. This is vile.
meanwhile i’ve also been sent this account of one person’s dealing with Christine Pratt and the National Bullying Helpline (warning it’s a bit sad and upsetting):
All those donations, £10, and the half refund of £150 and the other £150 as another donation, bit odd to my young eyes.
And this court document is disturbing on Christine Pratt of the National Bullying Helpline:
The thing that makes me most concerned is this: Pratt / National Bullying Helpline “says she went public because she was angered when ministers denied claims of bullying made in a new book by Observer journalist Andrew Rawnsley.” Odd motivation after all this on privacy and confidentiality, etc.
it looks like a blogger was first on this btw:
and there’s this which seems sensible to me