Bought and sold for GIRFEC gold

Now that the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill has been passed (pending royal assent) all the usual suspects in the public and third sectors are celebrating their state sanctioned status as nosy parker Named Persons with powers to interfere in private family life. How long will it be before they fully appreciate the implications of selling out the families they are supposed to serve for GIRFEC gold?

As we and others have long been at pains to point out, data theft and citizen surveillance is what this Big Brother Scotland Bill is all about and the more accurate definition of GIRFEC is ‘Getting Information Recorded For Every Citizen’. If, as is claimed, it is really about ‘getting it right for every child’ (“it” being open to interpretation by state appointed guardians), why has every child and parent not been consulted on, or consented to, the blatant violation of the right to privacy as enshrined in existing legislation? The Scottish Government may have managed to fool 103 MSPs, including those who squealed the loudest about ID cards, but it has certainly failed to convince members of the legal establishment or the 3200 people who have signed and commented on our petition. Telling parents they are too stupid to understand, or that they have been deliberately misled by ‘pressure groups’ misrepresenting good intentions, is hardly going to help matters when the government has refused to produce the legal advice it claims to be relying upon to impose its snoopers’ charter.

We have just witnessed a veritable rammy break out over the planned use and abuse of NHS records south of the border, closely followed by another data stealing stushie (after the event) where confidentiality applied only to the shady dealing that saw 47 million hospital records secretly sold off to the insurance industry. In allied news, Aviva employees were recently found to have stolen and sold off customers’ data to claims management firms who proceeded to hard sell their dubious services to policy holders. It’s not much of a stretch to anticipate that, following  the passage of the Big Brother Bill (if not already), the same calibre of employee with access to children’s personal data might easily be tempted to deliver it up to even less scrupulous sorts – one of the many reasons the ill fated ContactPoint in England became known as ‘the paedophiles’ address book’ before being scrapped.

Despite genuine concerns being raised by the great and the good from the legal profession, social work experts, bloggers, respected journalists and parents (who, according to Aileen Campbell, the Minister who knows best for everyone else, “also” have a role in bringing up their own children), the “Holyrood halfwits” (as they have been dubbed by some angry parents) saw fit to vote through, with barely a whimper, a Bill that allows every child’s personal data (and the personal data of every associated adult and pet guinea pig) to be gathered and shared willy nilly, at the behest of some state imposed, non opt-out Named Person, amongst a bunch of strangers, any one of whom could access that sensitive personal data for flogging on to the highest bidder – or worse. It’s not as if it’s unusual to hear about data being lost, corrupted, stolen, left on a train or dumped in a skip, and once it’s in the wild, there’s no getting it back, never mind putting it right for any child or family. An apology just won’t cut it and parents and children rightly want to know well in advance who to sue.

Let’s not fret unduly about Facebook, which seems to overly exercise those who want to protect us all from our own decisions (though we suspect an ulterior motive as viral campaigns on social networks can be embarrassing for some), it’s the Scottish Government you’ve got to watch! The former relies on voluntary participation by consenting subscribers with capacity, but the latter will only be satisfied with compulsory universal surveillance for every citizen just in case anyone strays from his or her state approved ‘journey’ from gestation, through childhood and beyond.  As Aileen never tires of pointing out with her practised soundbites and politician’s smile (we paraphrase here): “We don’t know the children and families who will need our ‘support’, so we need to watch them all so that we (i.e. state sanctioned and subsidised snoopers) can intervene in families’ lives at the earliest opportunity (i.e. pre birth).” Maybe the police would care to come and check our homes routinely on the off chance we have a stash of stolen goods, or stop and search us as we go about our lawful business ‘just in case’ we have something to hide? That sort of approach, known as the ‘sus law’, was tried before and look what happened. (Some of us were in south London at the time and narrowly avoided the Molotov cocktails). And look what is still coming out all these years later about the conduct of some police officers and high profile politicians.

Having failed to acknowledge the concerns of others and seemingly oblivious to the dangers of introducing an Orwellian scheme which was originally proposed by its Labour/Lib Dem predecessors (yes, they’re all in it together), the present SNP government already boasts a whole raft of risk factors, indicators and outcomes, conceived and created by wellbeing wonks at great expense to taxpayers (that would be us) and policed by an army of early interference box tickers employed to ‘nudge’ us, by fair means or foul, into living our lives according to a state approved template. The government know best, we are assured, but if the government cared to engage with the real world once in a while, away from all those (directly or indirectly) publicly funded, professional policy based evidence fabricators, it might learn some important lessons from real life families who are “also” responsible for bringing up their own children.

We find it somewhat ironic that, while many parents who have identified the resources and facilities required by their children are being routinely denied them or forced to accept substandard services (if indeed their Named Person isn’t off sick, on leave or gone into hiding to avoid breaking the budget), those who choose to refuse optional services are being branded a risk to their own children and being subjected to unwanted and unwarranted interference. Have you heard the one about the parent who dispensed with optional health visiting ‘services’ and was subject to a malicious referral to the Children’s Reporter for dispensing with optional schooling ‘services’? Or how about the parent whose child was bullied at school (whose anti bullying policy didn’t translate into practice) and was threatened with prosecution for removing him for his own safety? Or our old favourite where a parent asks the council for information about home education and gets back a whole load of bull which bears no resemblance to what the law says? We really don’t need to make it up, and we could go on ad nauseam, such is the appalling state of Serviceland where the unprofessional conduct of some (thankfully not all) public servants and state subsidised hangers on create many more problems than they pretend to solve.

No matter how often a lie is repeated, it will always be a lie and there are some real whoppers doing the rounds. We have of course already exposed the Big Lie about GIRFEC allegedly being conceived and introduced to Highland following the tragic death of Danielle Reid. As our timeline incontrovertibly demonstrates, a universal surveillance scheme was already in the pipeline and just waiting for a convenient grave to rob, as had been the case in England where Victoria Climbie’s murder was cynically and callously used to miss-sell GIRFEC’s near identical evil twin Every Child Matters as a supposed child protection measure.

There are plenty more lies being told, and we make no apology for calling a lie a lie, whether it is being told by design or repeated through ignorance, laziness or failure to check the facts. Like the one about GIRFEC operating so successfully in the Highlands “for years”. Step forward, Bill Alexander from Highland Council (who went on public record stating that “not a single parent has raised any concerns” about the Highland ‘pathfinder’), and explain to parents what actually became of their complaints. Did they all get lost in the post, were they filed under ‘inconvenient truth’ or simply binned? We have seen enough copies of parental complaints, including one especially damning, detailed timeline of professional failures going back several years, to know that they exist and have not been acknowledged, never mind addressed.

Also implicated in the telling of tall tales of GIRFEC success in the Highands are all those cheerleading ‘children’s charities’ that we hear from on a monotonously regular basis as they chase taxpayers’ money to pay for staff salaries, posh premises  and ‘good works’ (in that order). They may have convinced MSPs with their policy based evidence, from which they stand to gain in the form of big GIRFEC grants, but they don’t fool the families whose personal data have been gathered and shared without consent and who have either been refused services they need and want, or have been on the receiving end of unnecessary and unwanted ‘support’ from a bunch of wellbeing wonks, well meaning or otherwise.

Their ‘evidence’ as presented is fatally flawed because, apart from the obvious conflict of interest of its producers, it is seriously limited in scope, focusing on those children already known to be at risk and with identified support needs, for whom such an approach has always been non contentious and is already known to work if properly resourced. No brainer there! Now contrast effective targeted intervention with the universal scheme introduced in the Isle of Man, admitted as being a disaster by the Tynwald and abandoned in the wake of social services meltdown, an ‘outcome’ which renders both unreliable and unbelievable the lofty claims made by GIRFEC vested interests about a selective small scale sample in Highland. Sadly, such claims have been repeated often enough to have gone unchallenged by most MSPs and, until recently, most of the mainstream media, leading to the passage of inherently bad law in the form of the CHYP Bill (which, to be fair, also contains some useful measures to help disguise the main data stealing agenda).

While GIRFEC supporting children’s charities may claim to be champions of children’s rights, their commitment to the UNCRC apparently only applies to selected Articles, not including that peskily inconvenient right to privacy. An arrogant former Green MSP turned Barnardo’s Scotland apologist, responding to an article by mere parent Mel Kelly, who had described the Named Person imposition as muddled and dangerous, expressed predictable indignation that parents could be  so stupid as to disagree with his organisation’s superior knowledge of what’s right for every child – a bit rich considering Barnardo’s remit has always been to support vulnerable children (and there’s no V in GIRFEC, remember?) Others have claimed to welcome constructive debate, only to run away when challenged, as happened with Martin Crewe, also from Barnardo’s, who clearly believed engaging with parents who disagreed with him was infra dig, but maybe his arguments were just indefensible. Most of the big ‘children’s charities’ trot out the same platitudes, insult parents’ intelligence and question their ‘capacity to provide wellbeing’ as a matter of course, but some of the smaller charities who provide confidential services to young people, and even our old sparring partners at the SPTC, have seen through the spin and failed to toe the dictated line. You can usually tell who pays the piper.

Stuart Waiton from Abertay University has also come along to upset the state sponsored GIRFEC gravy train with his damning Guardian angels or Big Brother? essay recently published in the Herald. An indignant Aileen Campbell was subsequently moved to respond somewhat desperately that the Named Person plan will boost child wellbeing (note her use of the future tense, not the conditional) and won’t conflict with overarching human rights and data protection legislation. Her unconvincing riposte has been dissected by one of our correspondents, and being too good not to share, we have reproduced it here with permission.

Aileen Campbell is entirely contradictory in her defence of the new Named Person laws. On the one hand she states that the approach to sharing information about children has not ‘loosened’. On the other hand she admits to creating a new legal duty to share information about a child’s wellbeing.

It is this new and very broad power to share information about a child’s ‘wellbeing’ that will cause the number of families to be intrusively investigated by the Named Person to increase hugely. Consider that one in five children in Highland, where Named Persons already operate, have been put on a child’s plan. In England, by contrast, one in thirty children are subject to similar plans because they are in need of services. Importantly, these plans in England are voluntary as required by Human Rights and Data Protection Laws.

Aileen Campbell also says that a wellbeing concern would only lead to a discussion with the family’. President Ronald Reagan’s famous phrase that the ‘nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help springs to mind because there is no provision for a parent or child to object to who will be their Named Person and no provision to refuse an investigation by the Named Person.

Consider that most Named Persons will be teachers who already have a lot of power over children. With their additional role as Named Persons teachers will have even more power in the life of a child. Yet it is regularly reported that teachers are suspended because of inappropriate relations with children – something which the existing criminal record checking system is ineffective at detecting.

It is this issue of state employees having excessive power over children which engages the Human Rights Act. Parents need a robust legal defence with which to protect their children both against harmful Named Persons and harmful investigations by Named Persons. The best defence is a properly constructed consent process, similar to that employed in England, which gives parents the right to prevent the Named Person from commencing a needless, intrusive and potentially harmful investigation which can potentially upset the child, the parent and the wider family.

The Human Rights Act exists to prevent families from being bullied by state employees. The Christian Institute and the Schoolhouse Home Education charity (organisations which are staunch defenders of family life) have both asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to examine the Named Person laws for compatibility with the Human Rights Act.

Obviously, in the year of the referendum, there is a risk that the Secretary of State will shirk from an argument with the Scottish Government over domestic legislation. However, the United Kingdom does promote Human Rights across the globe. Where there is a potential risk to children and families from Named Persons having too much power that should not be set aside for political reasons.”

Alongside Pinocchio style pronouncements of “success in the Highlands” and the stated good intentions of those whose interests are so obviously vested in the roll-out of GIRFEC and universal data theft, there has been a bit of a smear campaign going on, especially now that it has become apparent that there is to be a legal challenge to the Bill. When parents aren’t being dismissed as too stupid to understand what’s good for themselves and their children, even more sinister aspersions are being cast to infer that ‘pressure groups’ have been deliberately misleading parents and misrepresenting the facts. That would be us, we presume, although we are in esteemed company since the Faculty of Advocates and others have pointed out the same pitfalls, all of which are rooted in, er, facts that can be substantiated by documents available (or previously available – we kept copies of those that vanished) in the public domain. Considering that we are entirely independent, do not accept state funding or corporate advertising, and always put the ‘wellbeing’ of children and families first, we believe we hold the moral high ground here. We challenge the Scottish Government to produce its legal ‘advice’ before having the gall to presume to prescribe childhood by tick box and hamster wheel and claim ownership of, and authority over, other people’s children unless those children are at risk of harm according to the established child protection threshold.

The Christian Institute has come in for considerable flak for daring to mount a legal challenge to the CHYP Bill. For some reason, the ‘Christian Right’ is invariably characterised as being ‘wrong’ by the ‘right-on’ media, and during a recent radio broadcast listeners had to endure some ill informed views, including those of a self confessed atheist whose blind faith in the benevolence of the state was matched only by his hatred of religion! For the record, the Christian Institute’s move to seek judicial review has the support of a large number of parents and concerned individuals, of all faiths and none, who are opposed in principle to data theft and state snooping in family life.

Meanwhile Aileen Campbell, who really needs to brush up on her history of Burns, is welcome to her world of  ‘grown up’ politics where the infantilisation of parents may be expedient for pushing through illiberal policies whose roots lie outside Scotland (if you need a clue, drop us an email), but only until these parents collectively say NO to what is oft described as a Nazi policy. And before they all get on their Trojan high horses gasping Godwin in an attempt to defend the indefensible, may we remind them of Tony Benn’s no nonsense description of this (New Labour) policy as “eugenics, the sort of thing Hitler talked about”?


Comments 4

  1. Excellent article. I agree with all you points and hope other parents ,professionals and interested parties will question the misinformation and selective information put forward especially the perpetuated series lie that GIRFEC has worked well in the Highlands.
    From personal and third party experience i know that this was and is not the case.

  2. My son and I will be quite happy to tell his story as evidence that GIRFEC in the highlands DOES NOT WORK.
    indeed we have been trying to tell his story for a number of years now but sadly those CARING (not) folk in the highland have tried to suppress it for all they are worth.
    If telling his story helps to stamp out this ridiculous legislation please get in touch.
    Donna mackie

  3. Post

    Sorry to hear of your experience of GIRFEC, Donna. You are not alone, but what makes it so much worse for families is that their concerns and complaints have been publicly denied. There should be an investigation into the false claims made for GIRFEC, but who could be trusted to conduct it?

  4. Absolutely right.
    Also who in the highlands can be trusted to ensure that the shredding machines in highland offices are NOT switched on prior to any investigation taking place.

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