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Alarm bells sound over child records database

Larry Neild on why we should be worried about ContactPoint, the £200m child database being tested in Liverpool

Published on August 8th 2009.

Alarm bells sound over child records database

A NEW Government database that will list details of every child in England and Wales, aged 18 and under, is set to begin trials in Liverpool this month.

But Council Chief Executive Colin Hilton is to write to the Government placing on record the city's own concerns, and saying it is alarmed Liverpool is in the frontline of the scheme.

One of the most frightening aspects of this measure – aimed at protecting children – is the number of people who will have access to its files. Almost half a million people around the UK - social workers, health professionals and head teachers - will be able to log into ContactPoint.

Stored on computer will be names, addresses, gender, date of birth, parental details, health and education records children. Also recorded will be any areas of concern.

All of this is being done in response to the tragedies surrounding children like Victoria Climbie, the eight-year-old abused and murdered by her guardians in 2000.

The council decision warns: “.... this is an ‘intrusive project’ and we note with concern the Government cannot guarantee the database will be secure, especially given their appalling track record with large databases and sensitive information”.

Ignore the fact that every month we seem to read about huge database files going missing, the question has to be asked if children will be any better protected as a result of a massive IT programme costing well over £200m with annual running costs of over £40m.

Yet another concern is the proposal to store background notes that could well

be based on unproven and unfounded bits of tittle tattle, and which could possibly see youngsters whisked away from their homes and into care.

No child should be subjected to frightening or horrific experiences, especially by those closest to them. Thankfully such serious episodes remain relatively rare. Less rare are the stories about children being abused and tortured while in the ‘care’ of foster homes and institutions run by religious orders.

Cllr Paula Keaveney has already highlighted her own concerns about ContactPoint which is being tried and tested in Liverpool and the North West before being rolled out nationally.

The council will essentially be come gatekeeper to the database, says Cllr Keaveney, who is alarmed that the names stored on it will be accessible to at least 330,000 users nationally. Though the Government has recently estimated that 480,000 people may have access.

The launch of the system has been delayed three times.

In March the Government admitted that it had uncovered problems in the system for shielding details of an estimated 55,000 children including those who are victims of domestic violence, those in difficult adoptions or witness protection programmes and the children of the rich and famous, whose whereabouts may need to be kept secret.

The Government says that the shielding problems have now been fixed. However, not only do widespread concerns remain about the security but the project has been criticised by the Rowntree Trust as illegal under human rights and data protection laws.

Meanwhile, the implementation of the new database is being handled by PA Consulting. That’s the company, says Cllr Keaveney, which lost details of all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales.

As in the case of National ID cards, there is, among many people, deep suspicion about personal information on being kept on file. Parents and carers are assured they will be able to read files and correct inaccurate information.

I wonder how long it will be before the first “victims” emerge from ContactPoint?

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23 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

bazza ballbrassJune 15th 2009.

On a related note, the switchoff for the analogue signal is in tandem with new technological developments which allow govts to control all radio broadcast frequencies. In real terms this means the end of pirate broadcasting and only "approved" stations will exist.Further, mobile phone signals can be filtered and tracked via the new digital frequencies to permit high resolution eavesdropping by police agencies who suspect child abuse is taking place! It is the wolf in sheeps clothing!!!

Det. Chief Superintendant LockhartJune 15th 2009.

Once again a public function is being attempted by some overcharging cowboys in the private sector and ripping off the taxpayer. I thought all this would have stopped when the Tories were kicked out in 1997.Perhaps if the money wasted on private sector contractors was spent on the public sector people doing the actual work it might be more successful - though I realise that in modern Britain this sounds like heresy.

TimeforalittlesanityJune 15th 2009.

Bloody hell, Watchman, what kind of nightmare world do you inhabit, because it's clearly much scarier than the one the rest of us live in

Inspector MorseJune 15th 2009.

Perhaps all the nation's children ought to be locked up in prison camps where presumably they will be safe from "depraved beasts" to keep the morbidly obsessed like The Watchman happy? It is a well-established fact that the vast majority of child-abusers are in fact family members or friends of the family. I suspect that he and his pals will only find something else to get worked up about instead so they can attack respectable middle-aged men just because they don't shave their heads and go to the footy.

millerJune 15th 2009.

It is very easy to create a culture of spies by providing childlines and numbers for narks to spill the beans but it is very easily abused.Once you are on the police computer you are there for ever.If your nasty neighbour or local scum kid wants to ruin your life a quick call from a phone box or via skype is the anonymous way to drop an electronic hand grenade into your life. The other issue here is a cultural one - do we really want a society of Stasi informants or shall we just accept the fact that lots of working class people and bent lawyers, priests, and teachers are the price we pay for an open and democratic life?

Remember remember...June 15th 2009.

What happens when, for example, the murderers of James Bulger change their names?Do they slip under the radar denying us the right to identify them?Listing names is not the same as controlling these monsters.A child DNA database is required. This should include blood samples, saliva samples, and fingerprinting for ALL adults and children.Lie detection should be mandatory for all jobs with children.CCTV and webcams should be installed in every single location where children are based or likely to pass through.Visas and clearances from Government and police forces should be obtained for any school organised activity.Free provision of GPS bracelets for the under 18s.There is so much to be done to protect the child that we havent even started yet.

The WatchmanJune 15th 2009.

As a final note on this matter. All single men over the age of 13 should be given the option of an opt in scheme to wear GPRS tags.Decliners will be permitted but may be required to report to police stations regularly or their photographs will be circulated within the local area.Now THAT would scare the twisted sex fiends that are preying on the nations children once and for all.

The WatchmanJune 15th 2009.

Its not a nightmare world it is the new reality. Biometric passports, id cards, and a dna database are already forthcoming from this Government (check their own site).Why should we be afraid to give dna samples - it is essential to protect children.

yes mama yesJune 15th 2009.

At the call centre where my friend works,they already have systems to display when the caller is lying or trying to deceive the insurance company.It is not yet legal to use this as evidence (yet) but the insurance giants are selling this to the Tories as a good vote winner for catching paedophiles, benefit scroungers, and criminals with stolen identities.No one should be afraid.It will protect children.

MrsRJune 15th 2009.

It would have been more heartening to read Liverpool bCity Council is refusing to co-operate with this barmy idea. Come on Warren B, get your finger out and tell the Govt to stuff their spying schemes. And there's us fighting to bring 'freedoms' to other countries.

Mark OnieJune 15th 2009.

This Government want to switch off the analogue radio broadcast signals by 2015!That's it, I'm voting Tory!

tomJune 15th 2009.

One would have a bit more faith in the city council's child protection credentials, if McElhinney's Careline hadn't routinely ignored thousands of calls from vulnerable children

FfffffffffffJune 15th 2009.

Didn't know it was still going.

AnonymousJune 15th 2009.

I understand the concerns about privacy and freedom, but please don't forget, in the debate which seems to be emerging about IT and government, that this initiative started because of a concern for the safety of small children.If we don't like the proposals to hand, I guess we're at least morally obliged to come up with better ones...... We can't pretend this isn't a real and very worrying issue.

The watchmanJune 15th 2009.

The paedophiles lurking around playgrounds must be named and shamed. Their pictures should be clearly displayed in the vicinity of all schools, hospitals, and swimming pools.Force these evil scum to go abroad where their unholy lusts can be more easily fulfilled.We dont want any more child victims.

The watchmanJune 15th 2009.

This data base is essential to stop the depraved beasts stalking kiddies playgrounds and haunting schools.Ask your local bobbies - they will tell you what THEY would do with these slavering monsters.

Yan King OffJune 15th 2009.


Winston SmithJune 15th 2009.

This is ID by stealth. Always dressed up in the sheeps clothing of protection of little children, this will be rolled out to apply to every single area of life. Soviet Russian internal passports, residence documents and citizenship papers are next.It is not good enough - the basic freedoms for which millions of Britons have died over the years are being hacked away for no good reason.

e-thuggeryJune 15th 2009.

The Watchman needs tagging, that's for sure

No hiding placeJune 15th 2009.

I hate to say this, but if there's one good reason to have a Conservative Government it is because they have promised to ditch these dangerous schemes, along with ID cards. This government is obsessed with keeping records on all of us. We really are in a Big Bad Brother state.What the hell is a Labour government playing at?

Xclue-siveJune 15th 2009.

Good to see Confidential was on the ball with its story about ContactPoint. It was the splash in the Daily Post today (3 days after you). Great to see you guys beating the 'big boys! (eh, yer wot) to a good exclusive. Keep it up.

AnonymousJune 15th 2009.

Now there's a point. The old money pit from BT!

scousekrautJune 15th 2009.

Colin Hilton should refuse to have anything to do with it.

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