Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Security checks for new child database

Full Story:
An independent security check is to be carried out on a Whitehall database carrying details of every child in England after the loss of discs holding personal data on 25 million people, it was revealed today. The children's secretary, Ed Balls, ordered an external assessment of the ContactPoint system on Tuesday, as the loss of child benefit data by HM Revenue and Customs was made public. The £224m computer system was set up following a recommendation of the inquiry into the death of Victoria ClimbiĆ© to better coordinate work by different agencies involved in child protection. The system will contain each child's name, address, date of birth, contact details for parents, details of school, doctor and professionals working with the child. The aim is for social workers, doctors and schools to share information on young people to stop minors falling into gaps between the various services. However, the potential for misuse of such an enormous database has alarmed privacy campaigners and schools. Earlier this year, in a letter to the Guardian, experts warned that at least 330,000 users would have access to the data "with no evidence that the system proposed can be secured". A survey released on Wednesday by children's rights director Roger Morgan reported widespread concern among vulnerable children that the database could increase the likelihood of their details falling into the hands of paedophiles. In a statement today, the Department for Children, Schools and Families stated that ministers remain "fully committed to the ContactPoint programme". The department said: "It will enable children's services professionals to find out who else is working with the same child or young person, making it easier to deliver better coordinated support."

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