Children’s databases could put young people at increased risk by diverting resources from frontline services, a report ordered by the Information Commissioner and published today has found.
The report by the Foundation for Information Policy Research argues that the aim of systems – such as the children’s index – to develop an early warning system for identifying whether a child is either at risk or likely to offend could discriminate against them.
The authors also argue that the index, due to be rolled out nationally by 2008 and expected to cost £224m, could stigmatise children.
Other databases incuding the common assessment framework could violate data protection and human rights laws, the report says.
They go on to state that children whose information is held on the index could be unnecessarily stigmatised.
One of the authors, Dr Eileen Munro, a reader in social policy at the London School of Economics, said the scheme “would overstretch scarce resources, damage parents’ confidence and divert services from focusing on real cases of abuse.”
Earlier this week the children’s minister told MPs the index is essential to ensuring that further child protection tragedies don’t take place.
Beverley Hughes, speaking in front of the Education and Skills committee, said that many tragedies had occurred due to professionals not being aware of concerns raised by other practitioners and that the index would address this.
“We have to accept that without some assistance further tragedies are going to happen simply because people don’t know who else was involved and couldn’t put the information together,” she said.
Hughes added that she was unable to think of any other “tool” which would enable professionals to get this information.
She said that due to the index’s purpose it was difficult to say whether it represented value for money. It is expected to cost £41m a year to run.
Essential child protection information