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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Concerns over new child database
Children playing hopscotch
There are concerns the child database infringes people's privacy
The planned national child database will erode the right of parents to look after their own families, civil liberties groups have claimed.

Everyone under 18 in England will be registered on the 224m IS Index, which will contain identifying information and parent contact details.

Campaign group Liberty said governments should not interfere with family life.

It also warned against complacency "about the importance of privacy in a free society".

The IS [information sharing] Index is due to be piloted in 2007 and rolled out nationally during 2008.

It will also record brief details of a child's contact with schools, social services, doctors and other groups.

Ministers said in December that the index will cost 224 million to set up and 41 million a year to run.

They also insisted the database would be secure and would strike the right balance between improving child safety and maintaining privacy.

State children?

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: "If children learn to live with constant surveillance, random drug testing and sniffer dogs in schools, what kind of citizens will they become?

"Two dangerous trends collide in the debate about children's privacy.

"On the one hand, we are not respecting the rights of our children generally, and on the other, we're complacent about the importance of privacy in a free society."

Children's rights group Action on Rights for Children (ARCH) said the index raised questions about the government's intervention with the family unit.

Group director Terri Dowty said: "Who is bringing children up?

"Are parents effectively nannies for the state's children or are children born to families and the state just helps families when they ask for it?"

Liberty, ARCH and other campaigners will raise their concerns at a conference on Tuesday at the London School of Economics.

Reports have indicated the index could include information about a child's performance at school, whether their parents are good role models, and even information about their diet.

It will certainly not be including any information on children's diet or school attainments
Department for Education and Skills spokesman

But the Department for Education and Skills denied the database would include this type of information.

A spokesman said: "The national database will contain basic information about children in England.

"It will enable practitioners to identify and contact each other easily and quickly so they can share any relevant information about children.

"It will certainly not be including any information on children's diet or school attainments. The Children Act 2004 specifically prohibits the inclusion of case information."

The database was set up to improve the way information about young people is shared between services after the death of Victoria Climbie.

The eight-year-old died from abuse and neglect while living with her aunt and her aunt's boyfriend in February 2000.

She had been seen repeatedly by nurses, doctors, police and social workers, but all of them failed to spot the abuse that led to her death.




SEE ALSO
New child protection law planned
22 Jun 06 |  Scotland

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