Death knell sounds for controversial ContactPoint database

The new coalition government has announced that it will be closing down the controversial ContactPoint database next month.

The news has been welcomed by action rights groups, which have described the database as a “highly intrusive system that damages the privacy of children and their families.”

The closure was announced by Children’s Minister Tim Loughton today. However he said the  government was still committed to information sharing among children’s professionals, particularly those in different council areas although he said a “more proportionate approach” was needed.  

ContactPoint  held records on every child under 18, their family and details of their GPs, which Loughton admitted was unjustifiable.

He said: “We are exploring the practicality of a new national signposting service, which would focus on helping practitioners find out whether another practitioner is working, or has previously worked, in another authority area with the same vulnerable child.

“Social workers in particular, and potentially other key services like the police or accident and emergency departments, may need this information very quickly.

“The government believes that the existing database is not needed for the development of this alternative system and it will be switched off next month. A process of decommissioning will then take place with all data removed and destroyed.”

The £224million database, which was developed in response to the Victoria Climbié tragedy as a way to help safeguarding professionals work together, has been in and out of the press since it was launched in November 2009.

At the time there were delays on the launch following concerns over privacy and the way the database was laid out. And the problems didn’t end there. In June this year a government “security review” showed that that vulnerable young people could have been put at greater risk by ContactPoint, rather than being protected by it.

However, the death bell has finally sounded for the database, much to the pleasure of action group Action on Rights for Children. Terri Dowty, Director of ARCH, which has worked hard during the past 6 years to prevent the deployment of Contactpoint, said: “Contactpoint is a highly intrusive system that damages the privacy of children and their families. It is clear from the security report that we have obtained that it also has the potential to do a great deal of harm.

“Getting rid of it is a sensible decision, and we hope that it is the first of many. An enormous range of systems has been developed for monitoring children in an attempt to predict whether they will become criminals, get pregnant or fail their exams. These must also go, so that we can turn our attention back to genuine child protection.”