By Hilary White

LONDON, August 5, 2009 ( – The British government will force thousands of the “worst” families in the country to live with 24-hour CCTV surveillance in a bid to cut back on child abuse and neglect, the Children's Ministry has said. In the next two years the government plans to expand an existing family monitoring program from 2000 families to 20,000 at a total estimated cost of £400million.

Despite growing complaints that New Labour's new Britain has in the last ten years become the most spied upon nation in the world, ahead of even China, the Labour government announced late last month that 20,000 “problem families” who have run afoul of social services officials will be watched around the clock and subjected to surprise inspections by government agents.

The new rules will begin by focusing on truancy, alcohol abuse or reports of malnutrition. Parents will be monitored to make sure children go to bed on time, eat proper meals and attend school.

“This is pretty tough and non-negotiable support for families to get to the root of the problem. There should be Family Intervention Projects in every local authority area because every area has families that need support,” said Children's Secretary Ed Balls in announcing the massive expansion of the surveillance program.

The Family Intervention Projects already exist in half the councils in the country. These so-called government “sin bins” are the latest addition to what is being called the “most watched” culture on earth. Last month, Teaching unions in London expressed their concerns about the installation of dozens of CCTV cameras in Stockwell Park High School in south London. While the school's headmaster, Mike Rush, insisted that the move had the support of most parents and teachers, Association of Teachers and Lecturers general secretary Mary Bousted said, “This all sounds very Big Brother-ish.”

Bousted said, “We have major reservations about using CCTV to monitor staff. It would be hard to see how teachers would act naturally if they knew they might be being watched all the time on camera.”
A recent report found that Britain has a staggering 4.2 million CCTV cameras – representing 20 percent of cameras globally – watching its citizens in the name of safety. However, police have admitted that the cameras do little to cut back on the increasing rates of violent crime.

The cameras are found in even the smallest rural villages, and it is estimated that there is one camera for every 14 people in the country. It has been noted that within 200 yards of the former home of George Orwell, the anti-authoritarian author of the iconic novel 1984, the city of London has installed 32 CCTV cameras, in addition to the hundreds of privately-owned cameras in the neighborhood.

In 2007, the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) issued a report warning that “Big Brother tactics” could eventually put lives at risk. Security systems are “vulnerable to abuse, including bribery of staff and computer hackers gaining access to it,” they said.

The RAE report followed a warning by the Government's Information Commissioner Richard Thomas that excessive use of CCTV and other information-gathering was “creating a climate of suspicion.”

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