National children’s database for England confirmed

A single database containing basic information on every child in England will be fully operational by the end of 2008, children’s minister Beverley Hughes confirmed today.

The database, first recommended by Lord Laming in January 2003 following the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie, will reveal whether a child is enrolled at a nursery or school and whether they are signed up with a GP, as well as list contact details for their parents or carers and for any practitioners working with them.

There will also be the facility for practitioners to indicate against a child’s name whether they have undertaken an assessment of them or have other information to share.

Hughes said the new information-sharing index would allow professionals to “work together across service boundaries for the benefit of children”.

“These proposals balance the need to do everything we can to improve children’s life chances whilst ensuring strong safeguards to make sure information stored is minimal, secure and used appropriately,” she said. “The experiences of the trailblazers have shown that practitioners are able to make better decisions and take quicker action when they have basic information about the child and contact details for other services working with the child.”

Only authorised practitioners and children’s services professionals who have had the relevant training and security checks will be allowed to access the database, and parents and young people will be entitled to ask to see what data is held on them and to make amendments.

Local authorities will be responsible for ensuring records for children in their area are kept up to date.

National Children’s Bureau chief executive Paul Ennals welcomed the index as a “proportionate response to a continuing problem”. However, he warned that real change could not come from a technological system alone, but would require an accompanying change in cultures and working practices.

The child protection charity the NSPCC warned that the index could fail many children unless it was extended to cover the whole of the UK. “Children and their families move regularly across regional and national boundaries within the UK,” said chief executive Mary Marsh. “If the index is not established UK-wide, then the information held stands to be only partial for many children, and potentially worse than useless.”

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