Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Family life faces state invasion

Another day, another database!

This is a monumental and terrifying shift for the responsibility of a child from the parents to the state. The government is now implementing a vast £224 million database to store information on 12 million children (due for launch 2008). As well as basic information, they also want to store subjective information like:

* Diet
* Religious inclination
* Education standard
* Is the parent a good role model?

The stated aims of The Children Act (2004) and the creation of the database (Children’s Index - Section 12 of the Children Act) are to protect the children.

But there is a system already in place that does just that and it is called The Child Protection Register. This list only has children identified as being abused or neglected. The Children’s Index, however, will have 12 million children on it, which is at best unmanageable and at worst a honeypot for sexual offenders and child abusers. How are they realistically going to be able to find the children that need protection in amongst so much other irrelevant (and personal) data?

More importantly, who is going to be given access to this database?

Well, it transpires that the police, doctors, teachers, social workers and non-statutory voluntary services (which in a small town like Bedford, for example, runs into literally dozens of organisations and hundreds of staff).

These people will also have the power to flag up "concerns" about children who are not meeting the criteria set by the state. Once two concerns or "flags" are raised an investigation can begin.

A concern could be that the child is not very good at economics at school or that your child goes to church or even whether your child is being taught the difference between right and wrong (something that the government does not seem to want taught anymore).

And exactly what are the state’s criteria? Will we be able to question/debate/decide on these criteria? What happens if there is an error in the database and families are wrongly accused? It is hardly unheard of for a computer error to occur even with the most protected and sophisticated of systems. The recent failure of the CRB system and the even more recent failure of the £20 billion NHS system should give us all the warnings that we need here!

This "act" could well be a fundamental tool in the destruction of the family and its traditions. The state want to bring up children the "state" way, so they become good little sheeple, sorry, citizens, who do not question their masters in government.

The government will have full access to this database, and with all this information they will have total control of children’s lives and any children that do not conform to the state will be investigated, taken away and put into social care.

I will leave you with this final chilling comment from Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty:

"We are heading towards a situation in which an entire generation of kids won't know what privacy is, as though we are preparing them for prison rather than life in a free society. It is time to ask ourselves why we sacrifice the privacy of our children first."

You heard the lady...Take action now or pay for it later!

Monday 26th June 2006 |

Government surveillance of all children, including information on whether they eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, will be condemned tomorrow as a Big Brother system.

Experts say it is the biggest state intrusion in history into the role of parents.

Changes being introduced since Victoria Climbié's death from abuse include a £224 million database tracking all 12 million children in England and Wales from birth. The Government expects the programme to be operating within two years.

But critics say the electronic files will undermine family privacy and destroy the confidentiality of medical, social work and legal records.

Doctors, schools and the police will have to alert the database to a wide range of "concerns". Two warning flags on a child's record could start an investigation.

There will also be a system of targets and performance indicators for children's development. Children's services have been told to work together to make sure that targets are met.

Child care academics, practitioners and policy experts attending a conference at the London School of Economics will express concern about how the system will work.

Dr Eileen Munro, of the LSE, said that if a child caused concern by failing to make progress towards state targets, detailed information would be gathered. That would include subjective judgments such as "Is the parent providing a positive role model?", as well as sensitive information such as a parent's mental health.

"They include consuming five portions of fruit and veg a day, which I am baffled how they will measure," she said. "The country is moving from 'parents are free to bring children up as they think best as long as they are not abusive

or neglectful' to a more coercive 'parents must bring children up to conform to the state's views of what is best'."

The Children Act 2004 gave the Government the powers to create the database.

Experts fear that genuine cases of neglect will be missed in the mass of detail.

"When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, is it necessary to keep building bigger haystacks?" said Jonathan Bamford, the assistant commissioner at the Information Commissioner's office, which promotes access to official information and the protection of personal information.

Keeping check on 11 million or 12 million children, when the justification for the database was that three or four million were in some way "at risk", was "not proportionate", he said.

"The cause for concern indicator against a child's record is expressed in very broad language. For example, it could be cause for concern that a child is not progressing well towards his or her French GCSE."

Arch, the children's rights organisation, was also worried. It said: "Government databases have a dreadful record."

It was revealed this year that more than half a million children had been entered on a DNA database created to record known offenders, even though many had never been charged with an offence.

Eight-year-old Victoria Climbié died in 2000 while living with her aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao, and her aunt's boyfriend, Carl Manning, despite having been seen by dozens of social workers, nurses, doctors and police officers.

The Department for Education and Skills said: "We need to ensure that professionals work across service boundaries for the benefit of children.

"Our proposals balance the need to do everything we can to improve children's life chances whilst ensuring strong safeguards to make sure that information stored is minimal, secure and used appropriately.

"Parents and young people will be able to ask to see their data and make amendments and will retain full rights under the Data Protection Act."

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