ContactPoint replacement could be tried in hospitals

Hospital accident and emergency departments may pilot the national signposting system that will replace ContactPoint, according to children’s minister Tim Loughton.

The minister disclosed the plan in a letter to Professor Eileen Munro, who is undertaking a national review of children’s services.

Loughton said the scale of need for the new database could be assessed through small-scale pilots in busy A&Es as well as local authorities.

He wrote: “The Department [for Education] will support your consideration [of the new system] by gathering evidence by a variety of means, including in-depth studies in frontline settings and other forms of stakeholder engagement, and undertaking analysis.

“There will be no fixed assumption that ContactPoint assets should be re-used.”

Loughton emphasised the scope of the new system would be more limited than that of ContactPoint.

He said children entered into the database should be restricted to: those who are looked after, those with child protection plans and, subject to further consideration of legal issues particularly relating to consent, those who have been the subject of section 47 child protection investigations.

“It is important that any database only contains details of children known to be at risk, otherwise it could fall into disrepute,” the letter said. “Clear criteria would also need to be in place for the removal of a child’s details from the database.”

Loughton re-stated that the new system would not necessarily be IT-based, saying “uncertainty over costs” made it “problematic to commit” to a computer-based project.

Loughton’s letter was sent in November and released on Monday in response to a written parliamentary question by Tory MP Charlotte Leslie.

The second instalment of Munro’s review of child protection services is due at the end of this month. Her final recommendations, which will include those about ContactPoint, are due in the spring.

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