Headlines: December 9th, 2005

Local authorities will be responsible for mainatining information about children in their areas held on a new national index, which the government has announced to implement an important recommendation from Lord Laming’s inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie. The index is seen as a way of improving children’s welfare and wellbeing, while ensuring strong safeguards on access to information about them.Unveiling details of the system, which is being introduced after a series of Trailblazer projects across the country, the Children’s Minister, Beverley Hughes, said it would enable all practitioners delivering services to children to identify and contact one another easily and quickly. They would be able to share relevant information about children who needed services or where there were concerns about a child’s welfare.

Lord Laming’s findings showed that information about Victoria Climbie had not been properly recorded and that communication between different agencies had been poor. He recommended that the benefits of developing a national database of basic information in respect of all children and young people, should be explored. This led to the pilot schemes involving children and parents to see what worked and to ensure the right safeguards were developed for the IS Index, which will be rolled out nationally by the end of 2008.

Beverley Hughes said it would be a central index with local authorities in the lead for maintaining the records for children in their area. The index would ensure a child’s details would be available wherever they accessed services or if they moved. It would also help the planning of services locally.

The index would contain only basic identifying information for a child, contact details for their parents or carers and practitioners working with the child, and a facility for practitioners to indicate that they had undertaken an assessment or had information to share. It would be secure with all professionals having access to it being given training and being subject to appropriate checks. Only authorised practitioners and children’s services professionals such as doctors, paediatricians, education welfare officers, social workers, teachers with pastoral responsibilities and staff of Youth Offending Teams would have access to the information.

Hampshire’s Director of Children’s Services, John Coughlan, who is Vice President of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said it was the expertise of the professionals working with children every day that would help to make sure they were safe and getting the care and support they needed. The index was a tool for practitioners to use and would not undermine what they did but help them to work across disciplines.