Government plan to put children online attacked by Huppert

March 25, 2010 11:20 AM

Julian HuppertGovernment plans to include youngsters on a giant medical database and log their details on electronic forms which can be accessed nationally, has been attacked by Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Cambridge.

He fears the electronic records could get into the wrong hands potentially threatening the safety and privacy of millions of young people across the country.

The government has already started sending out leaflets asking people if they wish to be included on a new medical database; but under-16s will not be given the chance to opt out unless their parents choose, and even then there is no promise to respect parental choice.

Now the government is rolling out a programme which will force staff working with children to fill out an electronic record for any child believed to be at risk or assessed with needs which might require the attention of more than one professional.

Cambridgeshire is one of four counties across the country where the electronic Common Assessment Framework was launched this week.

At the moment, if a teacher or a social work is worried about a particular child they are required to fill out a CAF form. The forms are long and intrusive and most people leave many of the boxes blank, especially as any one person is unlikely to know all the necessary information.

Under the new system the form will be filled in electronically and all the information will be required.

Julian fears that the new system could result in children falling through the net as busy professionals won't have the time to spend on the online form or will use guesswork to complete it which could stigmatise a child or the family in the longer term.

"This is a national database, still at an experimental stage, containing highly sensitive personal information, and practitioners' subjective opinions, about the child and the suitability of parents," he said.

"The government does not trust parents and it is using Cambridgeshire children as guinea pigs to test its latest fad. This is a blatant intrusion into family life."

The latest moves follow the government's plan to include children's personal details on another database, ContactPoint, which is designed to make it easier for professionals working with children in specialist services to share information.

Most of the youngsters included in the database, however, will never need specialist help and Liberal Democrats fear it is just another example of the government moving towards a Big Brother state.

"The government is obsessed with recording people's personal data electronically," added Julian. "It sells these ideas by saying that it will help to keep children safe; but in reality they have the potential to do completely the opposite.

"Forcing people working with children to complete complicated online forms in full could lead to children at risk being missed or judgements being made on information that is not strictly correct. The risk for error is great.

"This bureaucratic nonsense could cause more problems than it solves. The government has an appalling record for keeping personal data safe and yet we are expected to trust it with our children's details."

What would you like to do next?