The government has said it has begun training local authority officials to run the new ContactPoint database, which will contain
personal information all 11m children in England and Wales, after months of delays and political controversy.
About 300 council workers will learn how to administer the database, and will be responsible for the quality of the information it contains, officials said. From spring, people who work with children in 19 early adopter organisations will be
trained as the first ContactPoint users. ContactPoint should be fully available nationwide early next year.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have called for the system to be scrapped, claiming it will be insecure and vulnerable to government data loss. The Tories want ContactPoint to be replaced with a database that only includes information about
children identified as vulnerable.
The database is loaded with data from existing government systems and will record the name, age, gender and address of every under-18, along with their guardian's contact details. This will then be associated with the contact details of their GP, school,
health visitor and school nurse. No case or subjective information will be held on any child, officials said. [but of course it readily connects users to someone that does keep subjective information].
The DCSF estimates that 390,000 people will have access to ContactPoint. They will be required to undergo criminal record and identity checks, and be verified on the system by username, password, token and PIN.
The plan to shield some records on ContactPoint so that only very basic information is displayed about a child to users has proven controversial. To contact other users about a shielded child, ContactPoint users will need to make a case to the
local authority to put them in touch. Officials estimated that hundreds of children will be shielded by each local authority in an ongoing process due to start as soon as administrators are trained. Supposedly shielding would protect families
fleeing domestic violence or in witness protection and was not designed to guard the privacy of politicians and celebrities.
Concerns have also been raised about police access to ContactPoint and the potential for profiling young people as potential criminals.
Update: Inadequate data security for children fleeing abusive homes
ContactPoint is meant to keep tabs on England's 11 million children by giving council officers, health care professionals and police a single register of their names, ages and addresses as well as information on their schools, parents and GPs.
But its planned launch has been put on hold once again after local authority staff discovered loopholes in the system designed to hide personal details of the most vulnerable young people – meaning that adopted children or those fleeing abusive
homes could be tracked down.
This is the third time that the ฃ224million computer index has been delayed, prompting fresh calls for it to be scrapped.
It comes just a day after a scathing report commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust named ContactPoint as one of 11 public sector databases that are "almost certainly illegal" because of privacy and security issues, and because there
is no opt-out.
The ContactPointl database featuring the details of every child in England will be officially launched next week, despite lingering concerns over safety.
Contactpoint has also been described as almost certainly illegal by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, a civil liberties group, following privacy and security concerns.
From next week, 800 people in 17 council areas will be trained to use it. The trial covers local authorities in the North West, as well as officials working for two charities - Barnardo's and KIDS.
Earlier trials of the system have already uncovered a series of errors.
The Conservatives have already pledged to scrap the database.
Tim Loughton, the shadow children's minister, said: Despite serious and widespread concerns about the security, integrity and necessity of this database, ministers seem determined to bulldoze it through.'
At noon on Friday 6th August the ContactPoint database was switched off.
A £224 million system that contained the names, ages, addresses, schools, GPs and several other private and personal details of 11 million children in the UK, disappeared at the flick of a button.
In advance of the move, Children's Minister Tim Loughton voiced a number of our stated concerns when speaking to the BBC:
We don't think that spreading very thinly a resource which contains details of all 11million children in the entire country, more than 90% of whom will never come into contact with children's services, is the best way of safeguarding children.
This is a surrogate ID card scheme for children, by the back door, and we just don't think it's necessary.
The only thing worse than an unwieldy state database that opens up the personal details of millions of children, is one that is deeply flawed and dangerously unstable. Good riddance to ContactPoint.
The government is considering bringing back a version of the controversial ContactPoint children's database, just months
after the original project was halted.
The ContactPoint database project was launched by the previous Labour government, but the Tories vowed to scrap it if they won power, on the grounds that it was a potential security risk to children.
After the election the coalition government announced it was pulling the plugs on the project, but now a parliamentary written answer, indicates they are having second thoughts and are considering a streamlined version of the database.
Tim Loughton, junior minister for children and families, admitted, We are exploring the practicality of an alternative national signposting service which would help practitioners find out whether a colleague elsewhere is
working, or has previously worked, with the same vulnerable child. The approach would particularly take account of the needs of children who move between local authority areas or who access services in more than one local authority.
Social workers in particular, and potentially other key services like the police or accident and emergency departments, may need this information very quickly. Any new approach would seek to strengthen communication between
Loughton said it was important that information held on the new database was kept to a minimum, to allow effective identification of the individuals involved.