CHILDRENS DATA BASE UNDER THREAT

CONTACTPOINT DATABASE

Concerns mean Tories will dump it

 ContactPoint, which has so far cost £224 million, will hold the name, address, date of birth, parents’ details, GP and name of school of all 11million English children aged under 18. The information will be held in an archive for six years after every child turns 18. Over 400,000 individuals will be authorised to access this data base, but there have been longstanding concerns that a system that allows such broad access cannot be secure in any meaningful sense. Those who would be able to use the system include local authority officials, charity workers, youth workers and careers advisers.

 Critics point out that the Governments record in securing sensitive information on individuals is lamentable Although the motives for setting up such a database are sound, to ensure that children under threat are identified earlier and there is a more joined up approach to identifying and supporting vulnerable children it has always attracted opposition for its expense, its lack of security and the fact that it may breach basic rights .Local Authorities earlier this year found that while the shielding system for vulnerable children is supposed to withdraw everything but a child’s name, sex and age from the computer record local authority staff who have been uploading information on to ContactPoint have discovered that the shielding does not always work. Some adopted children whose identities should be shielded are listed on the database by both their original and their adopted surnames, with a link between the two. This could allow children who have been removed from abusive homes and put forward for adoption to be tracked down by their birth parents. In other instances, shielding simply disappears from the records of vulnerable children every time that the database is updated automatically from central government databases, such as the school census or the child benefit database.  MPs have sought to have their children excluded from the database along with celebrities which signals just how little confidence they have that the system is secure. (Although, apparently, its ok for the rest of us) Both the Tories and Liberal Democrats want to abolish Contactpoint on the grounds of cost and intrusion.

 Public funding constraints mean that even some in Government realise that Contactpoint probably doesn’t have a future, despite some continuing support from Children’s charities who believe that the advantages in terms of child protection outweigh the disadvantages.

 But it is a sobering thought that in many and indeed in a majority of the most recent child abuse cases the authorities have known that the child is at risk but have failed to protect it . It is hard to see how Contactpoint would have made any difference in these cases.

 Meanwhile, the Government has launched a consultation on Contactpoint with Children’s minister Delyth Morgan saying that the national rollout of ContactPoint was on track and practitioners could start to be trained and access the system from late October.

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