Contactpoint: Call to scrap database for children after second delay

ContactPoint, the electronic database that will hold information on all children in England, will miss its October start date, the government said last week.

Junior children’s minister Kevin Brennan blamed the delay on “issues as a result of recent tests” and said the system, which will be accessible by 330,000 children’s services professionals, would not be launched until January.

Following news of the delay last week, both the Liberal Democrats and the Tories called for ContactPoint to be scrapped.

In a letter to Barry Sheerman MP, chair of the House of Commons children, schools and families committee, Brennan said more work needed to be done before embarking on the final phases of “rigorous” testing.

The £224m database is initially due to go live in 17 local authorities and children’s charities Barnardo’s and Kids, followed by the Children’s Society and the NSPCC.

Brennan said the government would “continue to work closely” with delivery partners and keep them updated with progress.

It is the second time the database has been delayed. It was due to go live in April, but following the loss of child benefit security details by HM Customs and Revenue last November, children’s secretary Ed Balls ordered a review. In February, the review by consultancy firm Deloitte said the database would always face security threats.

IT services and business consultancy Capgemini was given a £41m contract to build the system by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in July last year.

The plan for a comprehensive database of children has attracted controversy since it was proposed in Lord Laming’s 2003 report into the death of Victoria Climbié and taken forward in the subsequent Every Child Matters green paper.

In 2005, information commissioner Richard Thomas said he had “serious concerns” about how the information would be kept up-to-date and accurate.

Lib Dem shadow children’s secretary David Laws said: “The government has proven itself untrustworthy with large databases containing sensitive data. Parents have every right to demand that their children’s personal details are not put at risk.”

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