Children’s services professionals across England will today start learning how to operate ContactPoint, the national children’s database.
The computerised system will go live in 17 pilot local authorities in the North West, and children’s charities Barnardo’s and Kids this spring, before being rolled out nationally in the summer.
Training officers have been appointed to support council staff in using the database, which holds records of all children in England and the services and professionals they are in contact with.
Two officials from every local authority will learn how to shield information in the database about vulnerable children from the estimated 390,000 professionals who will have access.
An official from the Department for Children, Schools and Families estimated that hundreds of children will need shielding in each local authority.
Children’s minister Delyth Morgan described the training in shielding as “a very important pre-requisite before the system can be fully deployed”.
The system includes basic information about 11 million under-18s and contact details of professionals who are working with them. No case information will be held on the database.
The £224 million system will cost £41 million a year to run. Opposition parties have called for the delayed system to be scrapped, citing security concerns.
The database, originally scheduled to launch last April, has been hit by a series of delays in the past year.
Opposition politicians called for it to be scrapped due to concerns about potential security breaches.
However, IT contractor Capgemini has ensured it will be “impossible to download the contents of ContactPoint”, according to the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Children’s secretary Ed Balls said the database would prove an invaluable resource in safeguarding children.
“ContactPoint will help those who work with children to intervene earlier and prevent problems escalating and will help make sure no child slips through the net of support services,” he added.
Balls said that recent serious case reviews into child deaths had illustrated the tragic consequences that poor information-sharing between agencies can have.
“No system can ever guarantee that all children will be safe but we know ContactPoint will make a real difference,” he added.
ContactPoint – information from the Every Child Matters website