Headlines: May 15th, 2009

Frontline professionals will soon be able to access ContactPoint, the online directory of children’s services. Initially up to 800 frontline practitioners including social workers, health professionals and head teachers will start using the system. They are based in 17 local authorities in the North West and national voluntary sector partners Barnardo’s and KIDS. ContactPoint is an important element in the response to Lord Laming’s report on safeguarding children.

All users of the directory, who have been through stringent security measures and training, will be able to see in one place some of the different services involved with a child they are working with and start to feel some of the early benefits ContactPoint will offer them.

Currently local authorities have shielded the records of more than 51,500 children. These might include children with particularly vulnerable circumstances, for example children from families on witness protection schemes.

Under these arrangements where a practitioner believes that a child is at risk or may need additional support, for example if they have a disability, they may have no way of knowing whether other services might already be in contact with that child. It is estimated that ContactPoint, when fully operational, will save at least five million hours of professionals’ time, freeing them up from trying to track down other practitioners and enabling them to spend more time on the child.

ContactPoint is backed by major children’s organisations, such as the NSPCC, Barnardo’s and Action for Children, teachers’ unions like NASUWT as well as the Association of Chief Police Officers, The British Association of Social Workers, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Children’s Inter-Agency Group – whose members include the LGA and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.