Sunday, May 21, 2006

Scottish 'Big Brother' plan to profile every child in massive database

Child protection authorities in Scotland are planning to phase in an enormous database on all children born in the country in an effort to identify children at risk of abuse. Not surprisingly, the initiative is being referred to as "Orwellian":

Edinburgh Evening News - Edinburgh - 'Big Brother' plan to store every baby on computer: "'Big Brother' plan to store every baby on computer

EVERY newborn child in Edinburgh and the Lothians faces being stored on a "Big Brother-style" national database under a major shake-up of Scotland's child protection system.

The computerised files would be kept "live" until the child reaches the age of 16 and will include personal details of their health, family life and education.

The child's file will be closed when they reach 16, but it will then be kept on record for up to 75 years.

Teachers, police, GPs and social workers will be able to access the files to check for signs of abuse.

If the child is regularly late for school or their behaviour changes dramatically, the details could be put into the system where it is hoped it will build up a picture of the child's overall welfare.


The national database is being planned by ministers to revolutionise information sharing between different agencies and improve protection for vulnerable children.

The move follows a series of high-profile cases of child protection failures in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

In March, two-year-old East Lothian boy Derek Doran died after drinking his parents' methadone. He had been found dead in his bed by his mother last December at their home at Elphinstone, near Tranent.

And last year, three-year-old Michael McGarrity was found alone in a Leith flat with the body of his drug-addict mother, having survived for six weeks on scraps of food.


The scheme is to be piloted in Highland Council from September 3 before being extended across the country, according to the Scottish Executive.

Every newborn child in the Highland region and around 500 Inverness schoolchildren will be logged into the system during the trial.

Families have been told they will be consulted about the nature of information that is held.

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said: "Highland's experience will also be used to help other local authorities prepare for the roll-out of the new systems."

But a human rights expert warned the new system may be open to abuse.

John Scott, former head of the Scottish Human Rights Centre, said: "The positive aspects of this are fairly obvious but bringing so much information into one place brings with it the scope for abuse.

"The important thing it to ensure there are very clear safeguards in place."

Thanks to Pogo Was Right for the link.

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