GIRFEC Cluedo upsets happy families

Last December it was widely reported that the Scottish Government was bankrolling the Hopscotch children’s theatre company to tour schools promoting its own selective version of the UNCRC which had been re-interpreted to downplay parental responsibility and had completely airbrushed out children’s Article 16 right to privacy.

We can now reveal that the Scottish Government has also hijacked a popular family game to encourage public employees to play detective in preparation for their new snooping and reporting duties under the controversial state guardian scheme, whereby a government approved named person will be allocated to every child in Scotland to monitor all aspects of their lives until they are 18.

GIRFEC Cluedo was conceived and developed by senior civil servant Mike Mawby as a training tool to enable professionals to investigate and assess how well or badly parents are meeting their children’s ‘wellbeing’ needs according to a government checklist. The aim of the game is to emphasise the supposed benefits of the state guardian scheme, which promotes universal data gathering and sharing without consent and permits state intervention “at even the lowest level of concern” rather than on child protection grounds.

The shift in focus from welfare to wellbeing (which has no precise legislative definition and is open to subjective interpretation via woolly SHANARRI indicators) has been heavily criticised by Police Scotland and social work experts*. Worryingly, until very recently most parents have remained unaware of the existence of the soon-to-be statutory policy and its far reaching implications for every family.

GIRFEC Cluedo has already been used by a range of practitioners, community groups and school children in advance of the scheme’s implementation. It has even been played by a visiting delegation from Moldova, as well as trainees at the Scottish Police College and Dreghorn army barracks.

Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell endorsed it on social media, revealing her married name to be “Mrs White” in response to a joke about “the Minister in the Library with the candelabra”. However, the state guardian scheme is no laughing matter for happy families as the government has mandated that all their confidential details may be shared by anyone with a wellbeing concern, or potential concern, about any child, no matter how seemingly trivial.

According to Mike Mawby, whose GIRFEC Cluedo casts parents as prime suspects, service providers should all be gathering intelligence, including hearsay and opinions, to pass on to a child’s state guardian, “drawing on the family and those closest to the child as necessary, including child minders”. The edict also applies to anyone working with adults who are parents or carers.

While the game’s guidance notes acknowledge possible anxieties about “confidentiality and professional conduct”, there is no mention seeking consent to process individuals’ sensitive personal information, which is a requirement under the UK Data Protection Act unless a child is assessed as being at risk of significant harm.

“In GIRFEC there are no thresholds”, says Mawby, and the data protection “watchdog” for Scotland has – at the behest of government – helpfully rubber stamped a unilateral departure from ‘reserved’ Westminster legislation, leaving Scots citizens with less protection of their personal data, including sensitive medical data, than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

Scottish ICO policy officer Maureen Falconer has gleefully confirmed that GIRFEC is “lowering the trigger down to wellbeing”, underlining the seismic shift in focus from protecting children at risk of harm to monitoring every child and family. She insists that consent is no longer necessary in Scotland for professionals to share confidential information across services. What’s more, there is no need even to tell them about it as they “may think they have a choice”.

A judicial review of the legislation reached the Supreme Court earlier this month, with a judgement expected before August when the compulsory scheme – already rolled out in many areas of Scotland without statutory vires – is due to become legally enforceable.

Despite being presented by the First Minister last week as an ‘entitlement’, and some risible efforts by vested interests and apologists to claim it’s just like going to the doctor or calling an ambulance,  there is no opt-out from the universal data mining and sharing which drives it. Parents are far from amused by the government’s disingenuous game playing with their children’s and their own private lives.

Hasbro, which owns the Cluedo trade mark, has not responded to requests for clarification  on whether or not the Scottish Government has permission to use its brand to promote an intrusive, anti-family scheme which records and shares citizens’ private information without their consent.

* Listen to Liz Davies [at 2.30] on the dangers of tinkering with the child protection threshold and allowing unskilled practitioners to assess risk.

UPDATE: GIRFEC Cluedo has been featured in the Scottish Mail on Sunday (10 April 2016)



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