Headlines: November 21st, 2007

Children and young people are worried that information on the new ContactPoint database listing details about all children in England will be misused. Fears about security have been heightened by revelations concerning the loss of data by HM Revenue and Customs.

The ContactPoint database brings together information about children so that the different practitioners, such as social workers, can have a quick way to find out who else is working with the same child or young person, making it easier to deliver more coordinated support. The data held includes the age of the children and where they live.

A survey carried out on behalf of the Children’s Rights Director for England, Dr Roger Morgan, found that children felt that one of the big risks will be that, even with electronic security tags and passwords, some staff will pass data on to other people and that could give unauthorised outsiders access to their information.

The children are also concerned about the safety of ContactPoint. Children want to be assured that their information will remain safe and confidential and have asked specifically that the government will never in the future put a child’s photograph or telephone number on the database. Children felt that the very strong security measures that are planned, more extreme than those required for bank accounts, sounded good. But they felt these measures would not prevent people from trying to access their information.

Some fears of the children have proved justified following the loss of private bank account details and National Insurance numbers of 7.2 million families involved in claiming child benefit following the disappearance of computer records from HM Revenue & Customs. It is understood that the discs were being transported to the National Audit Office. At the request of the police the news was kept secret while they tried to discover the perpetrators of what may be the biggest attempt at identity theft ever seen in Britain.