Headlines: November 28th, 2007

Plans for a single national database containing the personal details of every child in the country are being delayed so a review of its security can be carried out and changes made to the system. The Children’s Minister, Kevin Brennan, said the decision had been taken following the loss last week of computer discs containing details of parents and children receiving Child Benefit.

Earlier this year heads of local authority children’s services warned that a number of issues needed to be addressed before the system – ContactPoint – could safely go live. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services said they supported the creation of the database but there were ‘a number of technical and resource challenges which will need to be overcome in the delivery of ContactPoint’.

Mr Brennan said that delay would enable an independent assessment of security procedures to take place as well as giving time to address changes to ContactPoint that potential system users had said they needed. The review will mean the 224 million pound system will be delayed by about five months and will not now come into use until next September or October next year.

The idea of ContactPoint followed the recommendations of the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie, which highlighted the need to make it easier for the various agencies involved in child protection to co-ordinate their work. It is designed to hold details including a child’s name, address, date of birth and contact details of their parents, school, doctor and and any professionals working with them.

Mr Brennan said the Government had received feedback from children, parents, local councils and professionals on the operation of the database. “Over the last few months we have been considering the substantial stakeholder feedback we have received and looked at the implications that the resulting proposed changes could have on the system,” he said. Only last week, the children’s rights director for England, Roger Morgan, warned that young people had serious concerns about the database and
feared paedophiles would spent time and effort trying to access information from it.