Saturday, September 09, 2006

Young people's views on information-sharing

A new report on the Government's information-sharing plans, prepared for the Children's Commissioner by the NSPCC, finds that:

Young people were suspicious of the motives behind the creation of the children's index, which will allow professionals to share information about 11 million children, a study by the children's commissioner for England said.

Many of those questioned believed the system would be "incredibly intrusive" and deter them from using sexual and mental health services for fear this would be disclosed to their school or parents.

The young people who took part in the various sessions arranged by the NSPCC raised a huge number of issues, from fears about the safety of their personal data to concerns that they could be labelled or stigmatised. They were also clear that teachers should not have access to information:
They were adamant that teachers should not get access to the database, regarding them as very different professionals to social workers or doctors. Teachers had no right to know about their personal lives, the children said.
Fair enough. Would adults want their employer or line-manager, who has to be worked with every day, to know which public services they were using?


There's also the risk of breaking the 'sealed box' approach that some young people use as a coping mechanism when they are unhappy at school. A few years ago, a lot of concern was in the air about lack of parental involvement with their children's schools. It was pointed out that often it was pupils themselves who didn't want that involvement, with an accompanying assumption that they preferred to exclude their families from what they saw as their own separate arena.

When we talked to young people about this, we found that in some cases it was the other way around: those who loathed school wanted to exclude it from their private lives, so they went to school, did what was necessary, and then tried to forget all about it until the next day. The last thing they wanted was to have their school and not-school life mixed up together.

It's always a good idea to get information straight from the horse's mouth, and so it's a shame the full NSPCC report isn't online yet. The direct comments of the young people are compelling reading. We hope that will be rectified in the next few days.

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