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(en) Britain, SolFed*, DA #30 - All children to go on 'big brother'

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 22 Nov 2004 08:59:37 +0100 (CET)

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A national database containing confidential details about every
child in Britain is to be set up by the government. An unique
identifying number will be assigned to each child so that the
authorities can access their records.
All parents will receive letters from the government informing
them of the plan, which will be added to the Children's Bill
in the autumn. The central electronic register will hold
information on a child's school achievements, GP and
hospital visits, police and social services records, and home

Under the plans, parents will not have access to the database, but
will be able to apply to see details held on their children under the
Data Protection Act. It will also include information on their
families, such as whether parents are divorced or separated.

The 'universal children's database' will
allegedly be made to identify problem relatives, including aunts
and uncles who have a history of alcoholism or drug misuse. The
decision to create it was approved by the ministerial committee on
children, young people and families, chaired by Charles Clarke,
the education secretary. However, the move amounts to intrusive,
Big Brother-style authoritarianism, and would be a clear invasion
of civil liberties.

Barry Hugill, a spokesman for Liberty, the civil liberties group,
said: 'They are creating a national database through the
back door. You start with information about all children, but, in 20
years' time, you've got almost half the population.
The government may justify it in terms of child protection, but it
is way beyond what even the children's charities wanted or
thought necessary'.

The plan follows the publication last year of a report by Lord
Laming into the death of Victoria Climbie, the eight-year-old who
died from neglect and abuse. Laming recommended the
establishment of a national database, although the government
had previously played down its interest in the idea.

However, 'restricted' minutes of a ministerial meeting
have revealed that ministers privately agreed to the national
children's database, rejecting proposals for a system
designed to cover only those children thought to be at risk.

The minutes in question read: 'Turning to the question of
who the database should cover, the minister for children, young
people and families (Margaret Hodge) said that all children should
be included. This fitted with the prevention agenda and reduced
the risk of stigmatisation. Information collected could also be used
to support service planning and delivery'.

The only concerns raised by Ministers at the meeting, including
Hodge, Paul Boateng, Lord Filkin, Estelle Morris and Alun
Michael, were about the technical challenge of setting up the
database. The government has been hit by the failure of several
new computer systems, including the Child Support Agency,
Inland Revenue and the Criminal Records Bureau. No-one there
raised concerns over civil liberties.

A feasibility study has already been commissioned into the plans,
and negotiations have been held with several firms, including
Experian, which runs national credit-checking services.
According to the leaked minutes: 'To overcome the
technical problems associated with a national database it might be
better to start small and build up'.

Once again, the government has shown its lack of respect for
basic civil liberties. We are slowly but surely becoming the most
spied on society in history - something Hitler and Stalin could
have only dreamed about.

Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, the British
section of the International Workers' Association
* Solidarity Federation is of the anarcho-syndicalist spectrum

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