Frequent moves may undermine database accuracy, say practitioners

The children’s database may be unable to keep track of children and families who frequently move house and change professionals, it is claimed.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said it might be impossible for the database, announced last week, to keep accurate information on vulnerable children who moved frequently, had multiple names and were in touch with many professionals.

NSPCC chief executive Mary Marsh called for the database to cover the UK – not just England as planned – so it could fully track children who move.

“Children and their families move regularly across regional and national boundaries within the UK 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,” she said.

The NSPCC also fears it will be difficult and time-consuming to maintain the quality of the information on the database, particularly in areas with a high turnover of population.

The database will be in place by the end of 2008 and local authorities will be responsible for maintaining the records for children in their area. It will contain basic information on each child such as name and date of birth, contact details of parents or carers and of practitioners working with them.

Practitioners will also be able to indicate that they have carried out an assessment or have other information to share.

Only professionals who have undergone Criminal Records Bureau checks and the additional checks due to be put in place following the Bichard report will be able to use it.

The government’s proposal for professionals to place flags on the database each time they had a concern about a child has been dropped.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesperson said it had not yet been decided whether young people’s consent would be sought before details about specialist health services were included on the database, and that this would be consulted on.

The database will cost 224m to set up and then 41m a year once it is in operation. The government says that it could save about 88m a year because of the reduction in the time practitioners spend trying to contact each other.

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