Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Call for evidence on ContactPoint regulations

The House of Lords committee that examines secondary legislation has called for evidence on the just-laid ContactPoint regulations. The Children Act 2004 Information Database (England) Regulations 2007 would allow the government to operate a database on all 11 million children in the UK. The database would contain details of police officers, social service workers and other state employees that have had contact with each child.

As I wrote with FIPR colleagues last year in a report for the Information Commissioner, this database risks exposing sensitive information on children to hundreds of thousands of government officials — along with hackers and anyone else who can get illicit access. It also risks stigmatising children who have had problems earlier in life, and will distract attention away from those children at risk of abuse.

Rather than sitting at a desk tapping away at a database, most teachers, police officers and social workers we interviewed would prefer to work directly with families to help them support their children. In cases of suspected abuse, police need to be involved immediately — not alerted through a central database. This is made much more difficult if social workers are flooded with information on the four million children expected to be highlighted in the database, rather than the much smaller number of child protection cases.

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