There’s no V (for vulnerable) in GIRFEC

Thank you to all the supporters of our campaign who share our belief that the Scottish Parliament does not have the right, or legislative competence, to introduce what amounts to a national identity register via a Trojan horse Bill cleverly disguised in child protection clothing.

The mainstream and social media have been picking up on those aspects of the Children and Young People Bill that we have highlighted as being in breach of Article 8, the UK Data Protection Act and a specific EU Data Protection Directive, the unilateral departure from which by Scotland would have far-reaching implications for the rest of the UK.

The Scottish Sunday Express has run a series of three front page articles covering the main issues of concern, the most recent of which has revealed the contempt in which citizens are held by a government which has deliberately chosen to to ignore public opinion in order to covertly collect, use (and misuse in cases we have come across) the personal data of every individual without bothering to obtain consent, informed or otherwise.

SNP bill to spy on parents is criticised by families (19 May)
State snoops checking out new parents 26 May)
‘ID card’ plan to snoop on Scots (2 June)

Christopher Booker has also recently issued a stern warning in his Telegraph column entitled Now it’s a social worker for every child – in Scotland, making the point that “more state interference will not protect children”. Dr Stuart Waiton, a sociologist and criminologist from Abertay University, has strongly criticised the Scottish Government’s plans in an opinion piece in the Scotsman, while Maggie Mellon, writing in the Herald, has described the Children and Young People Bill [as] a missed opportunity.

The sinister nature of GIRFEC has been the subject  of countless blog posts, including an exposé of Battery children, Scottish style by the inimitable Anna Raccoon and All your children are ours by Orphans of Liberty.  It has also been discussed on a number of radio and internet broadcasts inside and outside the UK, which has done little to enhance Scotland’s international reputation.

The Big Brother Scotland thread from the Home Education Forums lists (with links) many previous and current articles relating to GIRFEC, and an article first published in 2009, ID cards for babies, the rest will follow, documents the hidden history of the EU-rooted (definitely not home-grown) project which was first enthusiastically embraced by Tony Blair and later adopted uncritically by this Scottish Government and its predecessor executives. Cross party culpability clearly applies when it comes to GIRFEC (test tube baby of eCare and half-sibling to Every Child Matters).

The following comment was recently posted on one of our forums by a highly experienced former social worker:

“Excellent campaign. There’s a similar Bill here in Wales – and we support your campaign to stop the growth of the database state. The utter madness of extending the function of the state during a period of austerity should be obvious to any sane person!

“Meanwhile, in the real world of social work, Children’s Services are sinking under the weight of unrealistic expectations. The notion that poor parenting would be improved by early intervention has not produced the anticipated reduction in demand for services – instead the number of care proceedings and children in care is increasing all the time.

“Local authorities are now under enormous pressure from increased workloads and there are huge problems in the recruitment and retention of social workers. In many ways the social work profession has become part of the problem, incapable of offering solutions, and it saddens me that libertarian principles of practice are being forgotten.”

A similar level of common sense, not to mention common decency, is sadly lacking among our elected representatives, it seems, and template responses (or in some cases, non responses) from MSPs have demonstrated just how poorly informed most of them are (or choose to be) about the potential consequences of the imposition of a Named Person and, most importantly, the data mining and sharing free-for-all that they propose to establish in statute.

With the exception of the Scottish Conservatives, who have indicated they share many of our concerns, most MSPs have parroted the easily deconstructed government line or have taken the easy option and written to the Minister before forwarding on just another template Big Lie response with a different signature. Some have a distinctly unimpressive grasp of their public service role, never mind the implications of the Bill, and we have lost count of those who trot out “protecting vulnerable children” (despite there being no V in GIRFEC) as an excuse to database the entire population and snoop on every family to ensure they meet outcomes prescribed by the state.

Make no mistake, your child will be defined as “at risk” and your parenting deemed unsatisfactory by a state appointed stranger if any of the following indicators apply and you can expect a state agent, paid by your taxes, to judge your ‘capacity to provide wellbeing’. You might then be sent on a state approved parenting course (which isn’t all its cracked up to be) or subject to some other intervention  to ensure you meet your (i.e. their) outcomes. We will offer a prize to any paragon of risk-averse virtue who holds a ‘clean’ parenting licence on the basis of having ticked every one of the state’s perfect parenting boxes (impossible if you’ve ever had a child under five, so we’re feeling pretty confident!)

Double standards do of course apply in that if you, as a mere parent, identify and request services for your child who may have additional needs, you can bet your bottom Euro the Named Person will be “off sick”, “on annual leave” or “moved to another department”. If you are fortunate enough to catch your Named Person (and one home educator has been trying for five weeks to identify the Nameless Person who deals with home education and another Nameless Person who deals with mysteriously missing correspondence), you’ll find  s/he will (a) insist on databasing every detail of your child’s and your own capacity to provide ‘wellbeing’ using a veritable  forest of GIFREC forms, (b) disagree with your parental assessment  of your child’s needs, before (c) pleading poverty and/or  sending you away without any of the support / facilities you have specifically requested. The very same Named (or Nameless) Person will meanwhile keep ‘clicking that  button’ to identify every other child (except yours) over whom s/he has ‘jurisdiction’, who may or may not need or want support and whose parents haven’t asked for any (or have sensibly bypassed so-called universal services and obtained it elsewhere).

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this new low in Scottish public policy-making is the profoundly damaging effects that GIFREC is already having on children and families who have had the misfortune to run the gauntlet of a new breed of public servants who have forgotten that they are the servants and we are the public they are paid to serve. Rather than operate on an invitational basis where the child protection threshold has not been reached, ‘services’ are routinely being forced on families and children where they are neither needed nor wanted. Choosing not to  use nursery or school povision is tantamount to criminal behaviour if some of these tick box tyrants are to be believed, while being the victim of crime or a malcious referral is enough to unleash the dogs of GIRFEC, whose often patronising and unwanted advice must be taken and may not left – or else! The online conference hosted by the Home Ed Forums last year has chilling new significance as Dealing with highly intrusive parasitic public servants has become a necessary skill for all families in Scotland, not just those who home educate.

A plethora of heartfelt comments have revealed the deep suspicion with which many members of the public view the role of the Named Person, as well as a justifiable lack of trust in public servants who fail to obtain express consent for data gathering and sharing “at the click of a button” (explicitly confirmed as being routine practice by Lanarkshire’s March GIRFEC newletter).

“The idea that the state is the only safe ‘parent’ is one of the most dangerous and undemocratic policies to have come from a modern western government.”

“ I am a parent and my children do not belong to the state. The state’s job is to intervene if I am not caring for them, not to spend taxpayers’ money in a preemptive strike against families. These measures will be expensive and pointless – it will make it look as if government is doing something while actually achieving nothing.”

“This surveillance will not safeguard children who are really in trouble as their parents will hide them. It strikes at the idea that privacy, a central part of a liberal democracy, is a criminal act. The next step is state surveillance of everyone.”

“This policy is expensive, time consuming and about further state control not care of its citizens.”

“My 11 year old is in tears as she explores the idea of GIRFEC….. what are they going to do to me?”

“I am a mother.”

“I don’t want a named person, I  have my mum.”

The fact that Inverclyde is already extending its tentacles to ‘include’ everyone has not escaped our commenters’ notice as GIRFEC creep progresses towards its prescribed outcome of ‘Getting Information Recorded For Every Child, Citizen and Community’.  As two home educators put it:

“Getting it right for every child, citizen and community – through 1984 Big Brother surveillance. Suffocating and megalomaniacal in scope.”

“Inverclyde should be twinned with North Korea.”

One home educator has meanwhile suggested that MSPs should pause to consider the Disclosure / CRB system, noting the following:

It seeks to weed wrongdoers out of a system … and fails.
It throws up false positives … wrecking innocent lives and stigmatising people.
It promises families they can trust the state to protect their children…and fails.
It was given legal footing meaning that Britain now has the perfect Trojan horse for abusers to ride, a mammoth expensive system that gives no child protection.
Isn’t the named person system actually going to facilitate those who so easily swim through the Disclosure /CRB net, thereby increasing the risk to children by giving abusers more power over them?

Home educators already have their own little list (actually it’s not so little) of professional Named Persons who have been convicted of abusing children. Such people may well have access to your child’s personal ‘wellbeing’ and wider world data (that’s everything about them) “at the click of a button” (according to that Lanarkshire GIRFEC newsletter we mentioned earlier) and makes the government spin look a lot less reassuring. There is no need for one big central database (that has been dismissed as a “myth” to swerve the real arguments) when access to all the data from a myriad of sources is only a mouse click away for every universal practitioner and probably no more than two mouse clicks away for any number of amateur hackers or social engineers, not to mention illegal access via second hand hard drives, ‘lost’ memory sticks or files found dumped in skips.

Which brings us, finally, to the ministerial spin that has become more than a tad repetitive but not remotely convincing. We will be ‘fisking’ the spin in its entirety when we find the time to do so, but it has been interesting to note that comments on this Engage for Education blog post which we have previously flagged up for the ridiculousness of statements made by a GIRFEC cheerleading teacher, were only allowed through moderation after complaints were made about censorship by those who had been actively seeking to ‘engage’ with the propaganda.

A similarly ridiculous response to one commenter has simply served to confirm the nefarious nature of the GIRFEC project and the government’s plans to abolish the long established presumption of innocence principle, in effect creating a population of parent-criminals-in-waiting. Insisting that every child might be at risk in that  brave new Scottish sense (rather than in the child protection sense of “significant harm”) is simply a sinister attempt to justify universal data gathering and sharing without consent on a deeply flawed, ‘just in case’ basis. By the same token, should we now be calling for a national scheme to record and share (with all parents “at the click of a button”) sensitive personal data on the lifestyles of every Named Person and practitioner with access to children so that we can identify the pre-criminal element among them and effect suitable early interventions?

Anyone who seriously believes that taxpayers’ money should be wasted on the above is not only unfit for public office but is also complicit in placing already vulnerable children at far greater risk of significant harm.


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