MKs: Child welfare more important than privacy laws

Lawmakers give gov't 14 days to complete legislation that would demand ministries to share info concerning children at risk.

Peres school children (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Peres school children
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
The welfare of children must take precedence over the right to privacy, lawmakers concluded Monday, giving the government 14 days to complete legislation that would demand its ministries share information pertaining to children at risk.
If such a bill is not approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation within the next two weeks, MKs Zevulun Orlev, chairman of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; Alex Miller, chairman of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee; and Danny Danon, chairman of the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee will consider submitting a private member’s bill that will force authorities to open up their files to each other.
The three chairmen agreed at a joint session, which included representatives from the ministries of Welfare and Social Services, Education, Health, Internal Security and Justice, as well as Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog and his ministry’s director-general Nachum Itzkovitz, that another year could not pass without this information-sharing law being in place.
“We sat here in January 2010 and heard about recommendations for a law that would require various ministries and authorities to share information,” highlighted Danon, who was previously chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
“Now a year has passed, we have witnessed two terrible murders of children by their parents and still nothing has been done.”
Herzog told those gathered that the issue was between the welfare and protection of children on one hand and the privacy of an individual on the other hand.
He said that the issue had moved forward in recent weeks and that the Ministerial Committee on Legislation was expected to get the final version of the bill for approval on January 9.
“This is an example of classic bureaucracy; instead of dealing with an issue, it is being passed from one place to the other,” said Herzog. “If the 40 children who have been murdered over the past number of years had been killed together in one bus accident, then the law would have been passed a long time ago, but because they have been murdered separately at different points throughout the years, we are still waiting.”
He explained that following the murder in August 2008 of four-year-old Rose Pizem by her grandfather Ronnie Ron, an interministerial committee, headed by the Welfare and Social Service Ministry’s deputy director general Motti Vinter, was established to make recommendations on improving the flow of information between the various government bodies working with children.
The committee issued its findings last April, recommending legislation that would give full access to information about a child to all the relevant public services.
Speaking at Monday’s Knesset session, Vinter said that every discussion he has had since then with representatives of other ministries about protecting the welfare of children has “turned into a debate over whether this law will invade people’s privacy.”
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child pointed out that on the last day of 2010 a three-month-old baby was killed by his father, bringing the total number of children killed by their parents last year to seven.
“In total, 43 children have been murdered by their parents over the past eight years,” added Kadman, highlighting that even if the law is passed there still needs to be a cultural overhaul in government services that often refuse to breach patient confidentially codes even if it means saving lives.
He also highlighted that the social services lacked enough manpower and resources to ensure that information sharing could and would take place, even after such a law is passed.
“Of course there is no specific tool that will determine if a parent will kill a child,” commented Itzkovitz, adding that Israel should implement a system similar to the UK, whereby the right to privacy and codes of confidentiality among professionals must not override a reasonable concern that a child may be at risk of harm.
In Britain, professionals and service providers have a responsibility to act to make sure that a child whose safety or welfare may be at risk is protected from harm.