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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 May 2006, 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK
Child protection scheme trialled
A child
Information on the children will be kept until they turn 16
Computer files are to be created for children in the Highlands in a pilot scheme designed to tighten Scotland's child protection system.

Every newborn child in the region and about 500 Inverness schoolchildren will be logged during the trial.

From 3 September teachers, police and social workers will be able to access the files on the children, which will be kept "live" until they turn 16.

Ministers said the Highlands pilot would help other local authorities.

It is hoped fewer young people will be referred to the Scottish Children's Reporter Association.

The new measures are part of the Scottish Executive's Getting It Right For Every Child programme.

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

Last year more than 50,000 children were referred to the SCRA, statistics show.

Information such as whether a child is late for school or extreme behaviour changes could be entered into the database, which teachers and doctors could then investigate for potential abuse.

'Clear safeguards'

The scheme will be piloted in Highland Council from September before being extended across the country, the executive said.

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

The death of five-year-old Inverness girl Danielle Reid, who was killed by her mother's boyfriend in November 2002, sparked concerns about the child protection system.

Danielle Reid
Danielle Reid's death sparked fresh concerns about child protection

The authorities lost track of the youngster for two months after her mother told Danielle's school that she had been taken to live in Manchester.

A spokesman for the executive said: "The intention is that when an agency or professional has a concern about the needs of a child they will be able to access other relevant information.

"A single record will be created where required.

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

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

'No failsafe'

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."

Scottish National Party education spokeswoman Fiona Hyslop welcomed the scheme, but said it should have been introduced nationwide last year.

She added: "However, it should also be remembered that computer systems are no failsafe against evil people and everyone must always be vigilant in protecting Scotland's children."

Watch a report on the Highland child pilot scheme

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