Ends in August
The controversial children’s data base, ContactPoint created under the Children Act 2004 costing £224m to set up and £41m a year to run, will close down on 6 August.
The Department has written to directors of children’s services and chief executives of ContactPoint national partners. The letter sets out the timetable for shut down and decommissioning, provides guidance for local authorities, National Partners and other partners on the activities they need to undertake, and confirms funding and other support available during this period. Both coalition parties had manifesto commitments to close ContactPoint. Although many charities were keen on the databank as a means of identifying at risk children and helping professionals and agencies involved in child protection better co-ordinate their efforts to protect at risk children it suffered from three main criticisms – on the grounds of privacy, security and child protection .Over 400,000 individuals were able to access sensitive information held on the database. Security concerns about the database have been significant, and commentators have said that there is a large risk of abuse of the system. Evidence presented in 2006 to the management board of the Leeds NHS Trust showed that in one month the 14,000 staff logged 70,000 incidents of inappropriate access. The obvious threat was that sex offenders might access information to help them to target children. The previous Governments case was hardly helped by the fact that celebrities children were excluded and there were some moves to exclude Ministers and MPs children from the scheme, providing evidence not only of hypocrisy but also that those involved in approving the database had little or no confidence themselves in the integrity of its security. Although it could be argued the principle behind ContactPoint was sound, the practice was a mess and frankly the coalition government had little alternative but to scrap it.
It is also worth noting that in a vast majority of recent child abuse cases, including the Victoria Climbie tragedy, which provided the main impetus behind the scheme, social workers knew that the respective children were at risk but failed to act properly to protect them.
In short, if ContactPoint had been running at the time it would have made no difference to the fate of these unfortunate children.