Our petition to MSPs to reject GIRFEC surveillance and a named person for every child in Scotland has now passed the 600 signature mark as word spreads about the intrusive nature of the Scottish Government’s plans to snoop on all families and ‘intervene’ in the private lives of those who fail to meet (and those who disagree with) the ‘wellbeing’ indicators and outcomes as dictated by the state. Please keep sharing the link and take time to explain to those who may not comprehend the gravity of the threat to fundamental family freedoms. Soon it will be too late for them, as well as those of us whose non-conventional parenting choices are already in the sights of the state fuelled steamroller. First they came.

Not to be confused with child protection (where information sharing without consent is uncontentious in relation to children who are at risk of significant harm), Members of the Scottish Parliament are being asked to rubber stamp a blanket data mining and sharing policy to ensure universal surveillance for every child (and, by association, every adult, thus a national identity register, which we recall being vehemently opposed by MSPs not so long ago). Merchandised and sold as ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’, but more accurately described as ‘Getting Information Recorded For Every Citizen’ (without informed consent or even knowledge), GIRFEC is already being implemented in direct contravention of the UK Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act, as well as being contrary to the principles enshrined in the Children (Scotland) Act (where parents at least merit a few favourable mentions), the ECHR and the  UNCRC (which should be considered in its entirety, not just a few pick-and-mix Articles to suit the wellbeing wonks’ twisted agenda).

Since the Scottish Parliament is not competent to pass legislation which is non human rights compliant, we find it incomprehensible that a Bill should have been introduced which blatantly breaches Article 8 and violates the much vaunted (but not remotely protective) soundbites of the  Scottish privacy principles signed off by John Swinney in 2011. Legal opinion and domestic and European case law (some very recent) has reassured us that we are right to question the legality of specific aspects of the Children and Young People Bill and we will continue to urge MSPs to oppose these repressive and dangerous proposals.

A call for evidence has been issued by the Education and Culture Committee (deadline 26 July 21013)  which will consider the Bill as it proceeds through the Parliament. We would urge everyone who shares our concerns to submit evidence of the actual detriment and potential detriment that universal data mining and sharing without consent and the compulsory imposition of a Named Person (a role from which parents are to be debarred) will cause, most especially in relation to families who may not wish to avail themselves of so-called universal services (such as schooling).

The Schoolhouse spring picnic, which was attended by families from across Scotland, provided an informal opportunity to raise concerns about illegal data sharing and ultra vires activities by local authorities and other public servants. Subject access requests made under the Data Protection Act have already revealed some serious breaches of data protection principles, and it is advisable for all those who have been misinformed and/or doorstepped by school nurses, health visitors, local authority officers or anyone else who claims to have powers of entry and/or to ‘test’ children without consent or lawful authority (that isn’t GIRFEC, by the way), to use the SAR procedure to obtain all records held about them and details of anyone who has or may have access to those records.

Alarmingly, we have been notified by one parent of completely erroneous information being recorded about her family (which can be shown to be wrong as well as potentially defamatory) and subsequently used by an NHS employee to suggest forcefully that she needs ‘help and support’, while several other parents from different areas have described doorstepping by health visitors who have tried (in some cases, successfully, by misleading means) to gain entry to a family home without authority, ask intrusive questions and demand access to children. The circumstances of one case are so serious that we believe it warrants a formal complaint to the individual’s regulatory body. We are not alone in pointing out such unprofessional and unacceptable practices.

Local authorities, most of whom carefully conceal information about home education on their websites, are not nearly so coy at demanding disclosure of data from everyone else, sometimes well beyond their lawful authority. A few of our picnickers reported recent bad experiences with council nitpickers whose insistence that home education provision must be ‘structured’ and based on a school-at-home approach is completely contrary to the statutory guidance issued by the Scottish Government (for which no changes are planned, if we are  to believe direct assurances given to Schoolhouse in a meeting last month).  Possibly the most worrying aspect, however, is the mostly socio-economic postcode lottery which continues to apply to the granting or refusing of consent to withdraw a child from school, even in circumstances where bullying and assaults on school premises have led to severe trauma for children. Threats of school attendance orders and the undermining / ridiculing of parents, sometimes in the presence of children, have caused great distress in meetings and during home visits (which are not compulsory as sometimes suggested, but may have been agreed to in a spirit of co-operation only to be bitterly regretted).

Many parents now believe (and who can blame them?) that the time has come to video and/or audio record every meeting with every ‘professional’ and to keep all other communication in writing only. Named Persons, if/when imposed, will undoubtedly find themselves being ‘SARd’ on a regular basis so that all data held on individual children (not forgetting parents, associated adults and pets) can be scrutinised, challenged, edited and annotated by the ‘data subjects’ over whom they have been given ‘jurisdiction’ (the term used by an MSP at a recent meeting of a parliamentary committee). Failure to comply with notices withholding and/or withdrawing consent to share information will also invariably result in formal complaints being raised and vigorously pursued against Named Persons.

When evidence based policy is cynically replaced by policy based evidence (such as the Triple P parenting programme which really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be) in order to reduce the intervention threshold to a bunch of subjective ‘wellbeing’ indicators dreamt up by civil servants, it effectively ensures that every child is deemed to be at risk (not of ‘harm’ in the recognised sense, but of  ‘not meeting its state dictated outcomes’), thereby removing established privacy safeguards and introducing a cavalier culture of universal data mining and sharing without consent (or even knowledge) with potential for misuse, corruption, loss or theft by hacking or increasingly sophisticated social engineering methods.

Meanwhile an army of child protection racketeers will continue to enjoy the benefts of their ‘healthy’ (but we would contend otherwise) growth industry with correspondingly generous ‘publicly funded’ (that’s by us, folks!) budgets to stigmatise stay-at-home  hands on parents, home educators, Gypsy Travellers and a variety of other undesirables (that’s also us, folks!) who deny the state’s claim to the ownership of every child and who believe it has no right to introduce parent licensing (with penalty points and interventions, up to and including the loss of the licence (i.e our children), for every recorded failure to meet state defined ‘wellbeing’ targets).

Is this really the sort of Scotland we want to ‘exist’ (as opposed to live) in? If not, concerned individuals might want to take the actions suggested above and also take heart from the latest small victory by our southern neighbours who have sent  the state snoopers off to think again.

***Please consider signing the Schoolhouse petition calling on Members of the Scottish Parliament to reject GIRFEC surveillance and a Named Person for every child in Scotland. ***