Tracking systems proposed in the Children Bill will deter parents
from seeking help and advice, according to the policy director for
a leading children’s rights charity.
Terri Dowty from Action on Rights for Children said parents were
“insulted” by the implications of the bill which suggest they are
“untrustworthy”. Speaking at the London School of Economics last
week, Dowty said that a database flagging up concerns about
children could stop parents getting the right support.
Clause 8 of the bill allows agencies, including police, health and
schools, to share information on children with each other.
Dowty added: “Placing families under surveillance changes the whole
dynamic of family life. It will make families less likely to ask
for help. It’s hard to see how scaring parents away from sources of
advice and support can possibly help their children.”
She also said the central role played by parents in the lives of
their children was at risk of being superseded by a state vision of
how children should be brought up. The bill is making many parents
feel that they are being subjected to “some kind of state takeover
bid”, she added.
During the second House of Lords reading of the bill, Lord
Northbourne, a cross-bench peer, said it was unfair that parents
would be denied access to the information in the database that
other professionals were party to. He added that it was “dangerous”
to send a message out to parents that the government does not
“wholly trust” them.
At the meeting, Di McNeish, head of research and policy at
children’s charity Barnardo’s, said the problem could be overcome
by listening to parents and children themselves.
“The real gap in information-sharing is not between professional
and professional but between professionals and families.”
McNeish added: “It’s also about a recurring failure to really
listen to children. Of all the recurring themes in child abuse
inquiries this is the one that should concern us most. In most
inquiries, the child’s silence is the most deafening.”