Headlines: January 27th, 2009

Almost 400,000 professionals working with children will have access to the ContactPoint database of details of every child in England, according to the Children’s Minister, Baroness Delyth Morgan. Speaking as the system was rolled out, she said it would save five million hours in professionals’ time.

The 224 million pound directory contains the names, addresses and birth dates of every child under 18 together with details of their school, GPs and contact details of any professional working with them. Baroness Morgan also confirmed that parents would not be given the right to request that a child’s details are removed.

“We can really only achieve the wider benefit of safeguarding children if we have a universal data source,” she said and added, “Local authorities are making parents aware of what ContactPoint is and ensuring within that the question of shielding is being highlighted.” Officials confirmed that hundreds of children in each local authority could have their details shielded.

Access to the site will be open to councils, government agencies, the police, the NHS and some children’s charities, including, Kids, Barnardo’s, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Action for Children and the Church of England Children’s Society. In addition appropriate staff from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service will be able to make use of it. Before being given access all users will have to undergo identity checks, training and an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check. Use of the system will be monitored.

The Children’s Secretary, Ed Balls said the database would help those working with children to “prevent problems escalating” but the Liberal Democrats have called for it to be scrapped. Their Children’s spokesman, David Laws, said the Government had shown it could not be trusted with sensitive data.