The Department for Children, Schools and Families has stalled the implementation of the ContactPoint children’s database after concerns were raised about the security of data concerning vulnerable children.
The DCSF said councils had raised concerns about the process of “shielding”, where access to certain records is restricted to prevent children or adults being placed at increased risk of serious harm, or adoptive placements being put at risk.
Since January, two officials in every English council have been trained in and started shielding records, but the process has prompted concerns about security.
Shielded records include just the child’s name, gender, date of birth and identification number, not their address and the names and contact details of their parents, school, GP practice or other services. Only certain ContactPoint managers can access shielded information, while social workers and other child protection staff may also be granted access.
ContactPoint is being created from information drawn from other data sources. In some cases, information uploaded about a shielded child has not matched with their existing record, meaning a second, unshielded record has been created.
A DCSF spokesperson said the process of uploading data had been paused pending an investigation, adding: “We will not restart it if there is a risk of introducing unmatched records for children whose existing ContactPoint records have been shielded.”
Adoptive placement risks
The department also admitted that there had been problems concerning the shielding of children in adoptive placements, who have been listed under both their birth and adopted surnames.
Besides the shielding progress, 17 councils and two charities, Barnardo’s and Kids, have started testing ContactPoint, ahead of a national roll-out later this year.
However, the DCSF spokesperson added: “We will not extend ContactPoint to all local authorities until we, and they, are satisfied that these issues have been addressed.”
The concerns follow a report this week from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which called for ContactPoint to be scrapped or “substantially redesigned” because of problems with shielding.
DCSF information on ContactPoint