The GIRFEC Files

As most of our readers will be aware, home educators have been at the forefront of the campaign against GIRFEC surveillance and the imposition of a Named Person on every child in Scotland. The online petition set up by a Scottish home education charity to raise public awareness has attracted over 6600 signatures and some incisive accompanying comments from concerned individuals. Home educators have also taken an active part in the NO2NP campaign and been well represented at events across the country.

Being a minority group whose members frequently face discriminatory treatment and are the subject of unwarranted smears by ‘services’ for exercising a lawful educational choice, it is little wonder that we are especially alert to threats to undermine children’s rights and parental responsibilities. Many of us have been sounding loud alarm bells about the data mining agenda behind GIRFEC and its various incarnations (including ECM and its sinister ContactPoint database which was thankfully scrapped) for well over a decade.

Despite parental protestations and censure by the legal establishment, the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 was steamrollered through the Scottish Parliament last year. It essentially places the routine gathering and sharing of sensitive personal data, including the health records of all children and associated adults, on a statutory basis (allegedly unenforceable until August 2016, but already being ‘rolled out’ ultra vires across Scotland). A public consultation on draft guidance to support the breaching of citizens’ rights to privacy, as enshrined in the ECHR, and circumvention of the principles of consent and/or necessity, which are required by the UK Data Protection Act, has recently closed. The draft content made grim reading, confirming parents’ worst fears about the extent of the planned violation of children’s and families’ rights that the government seems hell bent on perpetrating. “Putting the con into consultation and taking the P out of privacy”, as one home educator put it.

Just recently we have heard the First Minister and other apologists describe GIRFEC and its underlying state dictated ‘wellbeing’ outcomes (which are reliant on universal data stealing and sharing by every ‘service’ provider, not just one named person) as being put in place to protect vulnerable children. We are naturally puzzled by such disingenuous claims, for there is no V (only an E) in GIRFEC.  Indeed, if the experiences of our forum and Facebook group members are anything to go by, the V is far more likely to stand for Violation or Victimisation, of which we have plenty of E for Evidence.

As direct result of the CHYP legislation, small organisations such as our own and Tymes Trust report being overwhelmed with GIRFEC and Named Person related enquiries. Most parents are only just finding out about the government’s plans for their distinctly non-vulnerable children, including those who had to be withdrawn from school for their own protection. State-sponsored ‘services’ now speak only the language of SHANARRI, since group-think has replaced professionalism and common sense, and parenting has become defined as a problem to be solved. Snooping and interfering in ordinary families’ private lives pays the ‘children’s workforce’ pretty handsomely, of course, and is a lot cushier than real child protection work (which is something else entirely).

Like this Scotsman correspondent, many parents (and young people) are already thinking twice about seeking any outside advice or support. The widely reported case of the 13-year-old Aberdeen school pupil who was interrogated by a school nurse has done nothing to reassure any of us, and this is before the legislation becomes enforceable in August 2016. Give a bully a charter and watch what happens!

Meanwhile, those parents who are in desperate need of support to help meet their children’s needs (that they themselves have had no problem in identifying) harbour high expectations of named persons having magic keys to open doors to services that have already been denied. These are the families referred to in the (selective) Highland pilot scheme who asked for a single point of contact out of sheer desperation, having been ‘signposted’ full circle in a cynical game of pass the parcel. Needless to say, they are still being frustrated and fobbed off by the same old box tickers with checklists; the only difference is that taxpayers’ money is now being irresponsibly squandered on interfering in the private family lives of all children (and parents) in a misguided mission to identify ‘wellbeing’, or more accurately well-behaving, ‘concerns’.

According to one concerned teacher blogger,

I now feel that I have to be a social worker, a health worker and a child psychologist – without the training or qualifications.”

“… some parents are concerned about this and it is understandable as few individuals want that level of their private lives being scrutinised.

She is right to be concerned. GIRFEC, along with its CfE spawn, is all about stealing personal data for measuring the worth (or otherwise) of every human life. Dissenters and those who don’t meet their state-dictated well-behaving outcomes will find themselves sanctioned and/or forcibly remediated into conformity. Welfare reforms are carved out of the self-same policy stone.

The Scottish Association of Social Workers (SASW), whose members are, after all, the experts in child protection, have recently voiced concerns about the cost of a universal surveillance policy at a time when family centres and resources supporting children are threatened by cuts. Campaigners have also welcomed a ‘late intervention’ by Clan Childlaw in advance of the judicial review appeal hearing which is scheduled for early June.

Clan Childlaw has applied to intervene to assist the court in the ongoing judicial review proceedings regarding the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. We are of the view that the balance between sharing information amongst professionals and the ability of a young person to access confidential services has shifted too far towards the sharing of information.  We are concerned that this amounts to an unlawful interference with a child’s right to privacy as protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the wake of this news, the First Minister’s response to questioning by Liz Smith MSP was far less self-assured. Here she is on record conflating child ‘wellbeing’ (as dictated by the state) and child welfare in order to misrepresent the extent of sensitive data gathering and sharing, presumably in an attempt to mislead the public. As we have long been at pains to point out, there is no V in GIRFEC, but there are mighty big bucks in big data. Children and families are just commodities to be ‘bought and sold for GIRFEC gold’ by this latest parcel of rogues.


NO2NP roadshows are attracting ever-larger audience numbers as parents see through the soundbites, and the implications of GIRFEC data theft for every family become clear. Details of forthcoming events can be found on the NO2NP Faceook page and a long-running discussion of the main issues can be found in this forum thread.


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