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Child ID numbers to enable government to seize more children

London Guardian

Charles Clarke, the education secretary, is fighting for a short bill in the Queen's speech next month which would give every child an identity number and allow local authorities in England to share information about any suspicion of neglect or abuse in the family.

The bill would be the first instalment of the government's plans to reform child protection after a public inquiry into the murder of Victoria Climbiι.

Mr Clarke wants it to include powers to shake up local government by merging education and children's social services into children's departments which will control the lion's share of council budgets. The powers of chief education officer and director of social services would be combined into the powerful new office of children's director.

The short bill may also establish a children's commissioner to champion young people's interests in Whitehall. Mr Clarke revealed his hand in a speech to social services directors in Brighton as he tried to win their support for reforms which will divide their departments, leaving them responsible only for adults.

He said he would not pre-empt decisions about the Queen's speech, but added: "I hope we do get a commitment in this parliamentary session for a short bill to deal with some of the headline issues in the green paper.

Identity numbers for children would be part of a tracking system to keep tabs on England's 11 million children. Each child would have a file including the name, address, date of birth, school and GP. If the child came to the attention of agencies such as education welfare, social services or police, the file would carry a flag giving contact details for the lead professional in charge of the case.

Social services directors said they were encouraged by indications from Mr Clarke that he would not impose a rigid blueprint for children's departments, allowing variations to suit local circumstances.

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