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ContactPoint consultation launched

Date:8 OCT 2009

The government has launched a consultation to update the rules governing the children's database ContactPoint.

The ContactPoint database will give an estimated 400,000 people access to personal information of all children under 18 as well as information about their parents, schools and medical records.

The consultation proposals include updating the law so that children whose parents live overseas but who go to school in England will be included on the database.

In addition, the government announced that users would require extra clearance to access personal information about celebrities or those at risk of harm and their children. Controversially, this could include politicians.

Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have pledged to scrap the database and invest the savings into more front line services if they win the general election.

Since the law governing ContactPoint came into force in August 2007, the database has cost £224 million and come under criticism for security breaches and for numerous delays to its launch date. A report in 2007 by auditors Deloitte who said the database could never be totally secure.

Children's Minister Delyth Morgan said: "No system can alone guarantee that all children will be safe, but we know ContactPoint will make a real difference. Ensuring the system includes all children that go to school in England will make it truly universal, helping professionals ensure that no child slips through the net.

"Under current arrangements, if a practitioner believes that a child is at risk or needs additional support they often have no way of knowing whether other services might already be in contact with that child. We estimate that ContactPoint, when fully operational, can 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."

The consultation closes on 29 December 2009, and can be accessed by clicking here.