Children’s database launched amid leak concerns
Nervousness over ContactPoint, which has been delayed twice while ministers met security concerns, has risen following a string of data losses from government departments. These included the 2007 case of two discs containing the child benefit details of 25m people.
Information stored on ContactPoint will be accessible to hundreds of thousands of government and voluntary sector workers, and will span health, education, social work and youth offending.
“We have serious child protection concerns about this database, which will give too many people access to sensitive information about every child in the country,” said Isabella Sankey, policy director at Liberty, the civil rights group.
“Kids in most need of urgent attention could be lost like needles in a haystack, while all of this information will be vulnerable to accident and abuse.”
David Laws, the Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, said: “The government has shown it can’t be trusted with sensitive data. Parents have every right to demand that their children’s personal details aren’t put at risk.”
But Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s, the children’s charity, which will share in ContactPoint, said the directory would provide a quick way for professionals to find out who else was working with a child, making it easier to deliver better co-ordinated services.
“ContactPoint has the potential to make the world a safer place for vulnerable children,” said Mr Narey.
The database will supply limited information about children, and any “warning flags” – for example, telling users whether social workers have become involved. It began in the north-west yesterday, prior to a planned national roll-out.
It was first proposed after the 2003 Laming report into the death of Victoria Climbié, the eight-year-old girl who died after failures by social services.
The August 2007 death of “Baby Peter” amid further mistakes by welfare services has heightened concerns about how the state can prevent such extreme abuse, although child care experts say it is not clear that ContactPoint would have prevented either death.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “The solutions to preventing future tragedies lie in the provision of proper resources, back-up and training for frontline services such as social work, and in enabling local authorities to construct effective co-ordinated services in the know-ledge that they will face tough action if they fail.
“This database can very easily be viewed as a bureaucratic response to a failure in communications at local level, where face-to-face work plays a crucial role in early intervention.”
Health Direct notes that labour has an appalling record of protecting our data. To endanger every single child in the country with this useless database is not only dangerous but a crass waste of tax payers’ money.