IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM ACTION ON RIGHTS FOR CHILDREN (ARCH)
In 2004 many people responded to ARCH’s appeal for funds to mount a legal challenge to Government regulations that would enable the establishment of a children’s database under s12 of the Children Act 2004. At that time, the Government intended to press ahead quickly with the implementation of the Children’s Index.
Since the Act was passed, we have worked extremely hard to prevent the establishment of the Children’s Index, and full regulations have not yet been brought forward. Pilot projects are now under way in 12 local authorities, and the Minister for Children has indicated that a public consultation will be held over the summer, prior to placing regulations before Parliament, probably in the autumn.
The Government has shifted from its original plans for the Children’s Index, in particular dropping the idea of ‘flags of concern’, and issuing guidance to local authorities that consent should normally be sought before information is shared about children unless they are at risk of harm, which is the existing position.
Although the potential threat that the Children’s Index, and the entire network of databases, poses to children and their families remains acute, the fact that it will now be up to each local authority to develop an information-sharing protocol creates an entirely different focus for our concern. Whether or not a legal challenge to the regulations governing the Index is successful - and that possibility has now decreased substantially - local authorities are likely to develop local indices; indeed, some have already begun doing so. We have therefore decided that we need to change our strategy to monitor the situation closely at local level in order to challenge potential data protection and human rights breaches as they arise.
Given that the Government’s original intention was to go ahead within months of the passage of the Children Act 2004, the time that we have gained to raise public understanding of the Index (and other database plans) has been invaluable, and we have now been offered a major opportunity in the form of a TV documentary and a series of linked media and political activities.
This opportunity will enable us to exert substantial pressure before any regulations are placed before Parliament, which is infinitely preferable to legal action taken after the event and is far more likely to influence local authority policy. We cannot give the precise details at the moment because that could jeopardise the entire project, but will do so as soon as possible. We hope that, in the meantime, our actions so far will reassure you of our judgment, integrity and commitment.
The opportunity available has considerable cost implications. We must apply all of our available funds to it, and raise more money. We believe that it is the strongest chance we have yet had of preventing introduction of the Index while simultaneously focussing public attention on local authorities, and it would be entirely wrong to let it pass.
If you have donated towards the legal fund and believe that court action is the only strategy that you could support, you may of course reclaim your donation. If you wish to do this, please write to us at the address below, giving your name and the amount that you have donated. We will then amend our records and refund your donation. Please send an SAE if you can because currently the bulk of our quite considerable expenses comes out of volunteers’ own pockets.
We would appreciate it if any claims were made as quickly as possible so that we can be sure that we have the funds that are essential if we are to continue campaigning on children’s databases.
If, on the other hand, you would like to support us during what will undoubtedly be a crucial and challenging period, we should be extremely grateful. Please send cheques to the address below, donate via our website: http://www.arch-ed.org/donate.htm or contact us at Archrights@arch-ed.org for our bank details.
We hope that those who have supported us believe that their confidence in us so far has been justified. We will continue to do our utmost against the Children’s Index, the growing challenge of children’s databases and the expansion of child surveillance.
62 Wallwood Road
LONDON E11 1AZ