‘Government’s information-sharing proposals were written pre-Laming’

    Proposals for information-sharing in the children’s green paper
    were written before the Victoria Climbie Inquiry even began,
    Community Care LIVE heard last week.

    Terri Dowty, policy officer at charity Action on Rights for
    Children, said that rather than being a response to Lord Laming’s
    recommendations, the database proposals were part of pre-existing
    plans to move towards electronic service delivery – or e-government
    – within the UK.

    She said that, 18 months before the children’s green paper was
    published, a report from the Cabinet Office’s performance and
    innovation unit suggested that joined-up electronic service
    delivery could help in identifying children at risk of social
    exclusion and families in need of services, and in information
    sharing within the Sure Start scheme. It did not mention child
    protection.

    “We are asked to believe a lot of things about the Children Bill,
    and quite frankly Alice in Wonderland’s six impossible things
    before breakfast springs to mind,” Dowty said. “We are expected to
    believe that Every Child Matters was a response to the Laming
    Inquiry, rather than a pre-existing government policy that was
    waiting for the right cover story.”

    Dowty challenged the government to demonstrate its commitment to
    child protection by tackling the staffing crisis in children’s
    services rather than “throwing money at an untried IT system,
    which, if the past is anything to go by, will end up consuming far
    more than its estimated cost”.

    She also dismissed claims that databases might only be held locally
    and cover basic details. “[If that’s the case] then why is the
    government seeking wider powers?” she asked.

    Peter Mucklow, head of information sharing and assessment at the
    Department for Education and Skills, said that any database would
    simply be a tool to enable practitioners to obtain basic
    information easily and to identify other practitioners already
    working with a child.

    He said that many services were currently delivered in silos, and
    practitioners lacked access to basic yet essential
    information.

    “The delay and inaccuracy in identifying children in need and
    providing the services they need can be the difference between
    prevention and a much more acute intervention later on,” Mucklow
    said.

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