Early Intervention and Universal Surveillance

By Sheila Struthers (first published on SubRosa blog, 11 December 2010)

Early intervention and universal surveillance: “the sort of thing Hitler talked about” 


Tony Blair  on early intervention, identifying  tomorrow’s “problems“ in the womb. Chilling stuff.

‘This one about identifying troublesome children in the foetus – this is eugenics, the sort of thing Hitler talked about’ commented Tony Benn at the time –  a step too far even for a fellow Fabian it would seem. 
Today we have the Westminster coalition pushing that very same agenda, only with added emphasis on how much money it is going to save in the current economic climate. Last year, charity Action for Children and think-tank New Economics Foundation calculated that more preventative models of children and young people’s services, such as early intervention, could save the economy £486 billion over 20 years. Funny how much of the evidence supporting early intervention comes from organisations such as Action for Children who are in line to make a lot of money from it. The charity tag means nothing;  the child protection industry is big business. 

An  independent commission into early intervention, to be chaired by Labour’s Graham Allen, was announced in July. A couple of years ago Graham Allen and Conservative  Iain Duncan Smith co-wrote a report,  Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens in which the Scottish  eCare/Girfec system gets an honourable mention.

In a recent interview, Graham Allen stated that early intervention could be “the poppy in the battlefield of expenditure cuts” which would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.He stresses  in the interview that  cross-party commitment to such a long-term strategy is fundamental, saying: “You can’t stop this after five years — it’s essential everyone is on board if we are going to change people’s social and emotional capabilities. Even if by then my Labour colleagues aren’t talking to me any more.”

Pardon me Graham but I’d rather you kept your grubby data-mining mitts away from my “social and emotional capabilities”.

Meanwhile, another Labour MP and early intervention fan Frank Field  (Cameron’s Poverty Czar), favours an “Index of Life Opportunities” to identify children in need of support in their earliest years which would measure children’s social and emotional development, cognitive and language skills, communication skills and well-being . Cameron has recently welcomed this proposal. 

The Coalition have scrapped Contactpoint and claim to be doing the same with the National Identity Register. So what.

Early intervention programmes identify those deemed at risk of not achieving government defined outcomes. To do this requires the collection of huge amounts of highly personal data  on every child and associated adults. Early intervention is the the latest cover story for databasing the population. 

Sadly, Scotland seems to be far advanced  along the road to this brave new world… 

How did we get to the stage where a Conservative/ Liberal Democrat coalition in England and a Scottish Nationalist Party  administration  in Scotland are gaily pushing Blairite New Labour eGovernment policies which in turn stem from Lisbon?

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