ContactPoint launched today
A controversial database containing details of every child in England is to be rolled out to ensure “faster contact” between doctors, social workers and police if they suspect a child is at risk.
ContactPoint, a £224 million directory, will contain the name, address, date of birth, GP and school of all under-18s – as well as the name and contact details of any professional working with that child.
The database was set up in response to a key recommendation of the Laming Inquiry into the tragic death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000. …
What the Laming Inquiry actually said (my emphasis in bold):
Recommendation 17 The Government should actively explore the benefit to children of setting up and operating a national children’s database on all children under the age of 16. A feasibility study should be a prelude to a pilot study to explore its usefulness in strengthening the safeguards for children. (paragraph 17.121)
The first stages in the official launch of ContactPoint have now been announced.
This includes training for two security-checked officials in each council to start operating the system. More intensive trials will be carried out in 17 authorities in the North West and two children’s charities. The system will be operated from the summer.
Almost 400,000 [390,000] people will have access to a controversial new database containing the details of every child in England, a minister has said.
Gone up from 365,000, which was disputed by (among others) The Register, which also pointed out that:
… The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has consistently claimed that access to the ContactPoint Database will be highly restricted and only a very small proportion of the near-three million individuals identified in legislation as entitled to access it ever will. That does beg the question of how a system whose objectives are to improve the care of individual children by facilitating contact between professionals, can achieve that objective if all information has to be accessed through a series of departmental gate-keepers. …
… Margaret Morrissey, from campaign group Parents Outloud, said: “As parents we have absolutely no faith in any kind of security or protection that Government has over our information.
“This has a real danger of putting a lot of children in a vulnerable position.”
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin said all staff will undergo rigorous enhanced Criminal Records Bureau checks before being given access to ContactPoint. The directory will be protected from hackers through sophisticated passwords, PINs and user identities, she said.
But the minister acknowledged that tens of thousands of children at risk of abuse would need extra protection on the system to keep them safe. Details for these children will be “shielded” and only accessible to a limited number of professionals.
For the vast majority of children under the age of 18, however, personal details will be available to 390,000 professionals, including workers from charities such as NSPCC and Barnardo’s. …
The government said it had today finally begun training local authority officials to run the new ContactPoint database, which will contain personal information all 11m children in England and Wales, after months of delays and political controversy.
About 300 council workers will learn how to adminster the database, and will be responsible for the quality of the information it contains, officials said. From spring, people who work with children in 19 “early adopter” organisations* will be trained as the first ContactPoint users.
Concerns have also been raised about police access to ContactPoint and the potential for profiling young people as potential criminals. Asked what forces would use it for, Morgan said: “That’s a matter for the police.”
Er… is she suggesting the police have carte blanche?