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Could the new Children Bill place children at risk?

Plans for tracking children may place them at risk, fear academics and children's rights campaigners.

A half-day public meeting on Tuesday 6 April at the London School of Economics and Political Science will bring together those with concerns about the new Children Bill's attempt to develop a computerised database on all children - to 'track' them through life.

Margaret Hodge, minister for children, will put the Government's case for the Bill. [Ms Hodge is now unable to attend and, regrettably, no-one else involved with the Children's Bill from the government is available to speak in her place.] The meeting will also hear from families and professionals about their reactions to the proposed database and provide the opportunity for public debate before the legislation is passed. Speakers will include Terri Dowty, Action on Rights for Children, Jay Sweeney, campaigner for Children's Rights, Dr Peter Reder, expert child psychiatrist and Professor Brian Sheldon, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Social Services, University of Exeter.

The Bill's sponsors believe it will make it easier for professionals to share information about children and their parents. The legislation will authorise the creation of local or national databases, recording basic data on all 11 million children in England and Wales. Professionals will be expected to record 'any cause for concern' about the child or a parent on the central file.

But others believe information on children in real danger will be hidden in a mass of data on children not at risk of harm. The Bill may foster a culture of record, record, record - and drown professionals in information overload.

Dr Eileen Munro, Reader in Social Policy at LSE and author of Effective Child Protection (Sage Publications, 2002), will chair the event. She said: 'With children like Victoria Climbie, when abuse is suspected, there is already a complex set of procedures to enable professionals to share information. Doctors and teachers have no hesitation in breaking confidentiality when they think the child may be experiencing harm. In Victoria's case, mistakes arose from misunderstanding the information, not in failing to share it. So, is lack of information the fundamental problem in each of the categories of problem?'

The meeting will take place from 2-5pm on Tuesday 6 April in the Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, LSE, Aldwych, WC2.

Entrance is free and open to all but please email tracking-children@lse.ac.uk| if you would like to attend or for further information.

Ends

Contact Dr Eileen Munro: e.munro@lse.ac.uk| or see http://tracking-children.lse.ac.uk| 

Updated 2 April 2004

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