By Steve Doughty
Now safety police want to check all our smoke alarms
Family homes could be invaded by health and safety inspectors checking that parents are keeping their children safe.
Whitehall is recommending that inspectors make sure parents have fitted smoke alarms, stair gates, locks on medicine cupboards, windows and ovens, and temperature controls to stop bath water getting too hot.
The proposed scheme was condemned by critics yesterday as a nightmarish intrusion into family life.
The Department of Health has already had the National Institute of Clinical Excellence draw up guidelines to reduce ‘ unintentional injuries among under-15s in the home’.
According to NICE – which is responsible for public health promotion as well as deciding which drugs the NHS may supply to patients – a million accidental injuries happen to children at home each year ‘and many are preventable’.
Its draft guidelines call for inspections of home safety to be carried out by trained staff from the NHS or councils. Officials would identify homes where children are thought to be most at risk of accidents and ‘offer home risk assessments’.
The guidance states: ‘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.’
Devices specified by the guidelines including smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, hot water temperature restrictors, safety and stair gates, and oven, window and door guards and locks.
There will be repeated return visits to check that parents have maintained their safety devices.
NICE has also called for a computer database to be set up to pick the homes and families who will be targeted for safety inspections.
There was a howl of protest over the proposals yesterday.
Researcher Patricia Morgan said: ‘This is a nightmarish prospect. This is vetting and barring extended to the home. 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?’
Shami Chakrabarti, of Liberty, the human rights group, said: ‘Why can’t we have a public information campaign before we rush into creating databases and intrusion and introducing bureaucracy to the living room?’
Simon Davies, of watchdog group Privacy International, said: ‘The problem here is the additional powers that would go to government authorities.
‘Anybody who stands in the way of inspections will be considered suspect. This represents a landmark expansion of government intervention in home life. It must be regarded with great concern and suspicion.’
He added: ‘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.’