Imagine a country where strangers have the right to ask intrusive questions and store the answers on a database.
Where everyone from police officers to leisure-centre staff can demand: "Tell me who you feel close to?"
They will also have been trained to ask questions about sexual behaviour, family life, religion, secret fears, weight and "sleeping arrangements" at home.
Incredibly, thousands of Government and council apparatchiks in Britain became entitled on April 1 to ask such questions of anyone under 19.
This horrifying invasion of privacy has begun, almost unnoticed, because the Government has cleverly presented it as being in the interests of "child protection".
Big chorus now: "IT'S FOR THE CHILDREEENNNN!"
The questions don't need a parent's consent since any child over 12 is deemed responsible enough to grant permission for an interview.
Well, isn't that convenient?
Any child not achieving the Government's five "outcomes" - being healthy, staying safe, enjoying life, "making a positive contribution", and achieving " economic well-being" - is now defined as having "additional needs".
In other words, they can define a kid having a fight with brother or sister, or being told to behave 'or else!' by the parents as having 'additional needs'. Which means the Big Nanny can step in.
How did this idiocy come about? Margaret Hodge announced the ECM agenda in 2003, just after Tony Blair ignored his friend's unsavoury history as leader of Islington Council during one of Britain's worst child-abuse scandals and, to widespread protest, made her Children's Minister.
Hodge claimed the ECM was justified by the case of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie who was abused and murdered by her guardians.
As the reporter who exposed paedophile rings in Islington's children's homes and, later, the blaming in neighbouring Haringey of an innocent social worker for Victoria's death, I was mystified.
I knew the problem was never lack of paperwork on children at risk, but too many stupid people reading it - and failing to act.
So, on April Fool's Day, the very effective Child Protection Register was abolished.
In its paternalistic zeal, however, New Labour replaced the register with the Integrated Children's System.
Let's see: incompetent socialist politician with connections, instead of being canned, gets put in charge of program that can screw with lots of peoples' lives. Yeah, that makes sense.
Further along, we find out just what professionals will be able to do this
In an effort to develop a more "common" approach, anyone from a sports coach to a playgroup worker is allowed to question a child, as long as they've been on a three-hour training course.
There is a risk that the interrogators could include people who may derive a perverse thrill from asking children personal questions about bathing, dressing and "changes to their body".
Allowing so many people to probe into children's personal lives is also a threat to this country's long-treasured right to privacy.
Right to privacy my ass, it could put their bloody LIVES at risk.
And, as always, comes one of the rusty hammers government uses:
"The association of ECM with Victoria Climbie and the use of expressions such as 'safeguarding' and 'at risk' have stifled essential debate - after all, who could possibly be against protecting children?" said Dowty.
She believes we should refuse to comply. But how strong will families need to be, if by opposing the scheme, they risk being accused of negligence - or worse - towards their children?
Yep. "Well, you don't want your child to answer questions? What are you hiding, then?" Etc.
Back when my kids were small we found out that one of their teachers was asking them- and other kids in class- questions about their home life, parents, etc. They were told to tell said teacher, next time she asked, that "My parents told me not to answer questions like this. And if you ask them again, they want to meet with you and the principal and ask why." I can't remember exactly how the ex put her part of it, but it did help get the point across that this bullcrap would not be allowed to continue. But here you've got the bloody government giving anybody who's taken a three-hour class permission to ask these questions. Talk about ripe for abuse... and that's besides the general matter of "Don't you morons have anything better to do? Like get the hell out of peoples' lives?"