Parents of under-fives face 'nanny state' home inspections to keep children safe
By Jenny Hope and Steve Doughty
Last updated at 8:09 AM on 18th May 2010
Parents of children under five are to get home checks to ensure they are keeping their youngsters safe.
Inspectors will check whether families have installed smoke alarms, stair gates, locks on medicine cupboards, windows and ovens, and fitted temperature controls to stop bath water getting too hot.
Guidelines for inspections have been drawn up on the instructions of the Department of Health in a bid to prevent injuries among under-15s in the home.
More than two million children visit casualty departments with such injuries each year, says the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) which has developed the guidelines.
In 2008, 208 under-15s in England and Wales died as a result.
But the scheme is being condemned by critics as a breach of privacy and a nanny state intrusion into family life.
The draft guidelines issued yesterday call for all families to have the option of home safety inspections by trained staff from the NHS or local councils. Health and safety organisations are told to identify homes where children are thought to be most at risk of accidents and ‘offer home risk assessments’.
In some cases, the offer will come after GPs or school nurses have raised the alarm because a child has been to hospital repeatedly for emergency treatment.
‘A home risk assessment involves systematically identifying potential hazards in the home, evaluating those risks and proving information or advice on how to reduce them,’ says the guidance.
Mike Kelly, Nice’s public health excellence centre director, said: ‘Our aim is not to promote a nanny state.
‘It’s a normal part of growing up for children to sometimes hurt themselves in day-to-day life, but we also need to prevent serious injuries from happening. These can have a profound effect on a young child right through to adult life, as they could be permanently disabled.’
Simon Davies of the Privacy International pressure group said he was particularly concerned over the additional powers that would go to state officials.
He added: ‘This is a landmark expansion of government intervention in home life. It must be regarded with great concern.
‘If the database identifies you but you are unco-operative or you refuse to comply, the next step will be your door broken down at five in the morning. That will happen as surely as night follows day.’
Patricia Morgan, a researcher on the family, said: ‘This is a nightmarish prospect. It is a major step towards total state control.
'When state intervention creeps into your home, where does it end? Will you have to have cameras in your house?’
A spokesman for NICE said all parents could take advantage of the scheme.
She added: ‘It’s optional, it’s not mandatory. Even if your GP suggests a home inspection because there have been a number of unintentional injuries, it must take place with consent.’