Steeped in DNA

May 22, 2007

If we’re a bit quiet at the moment, it’s because we’ve been working hard on children’s DNA retention. Still no figures from the Home Office but, having pulled together all the data we have so far, Genewatch has done some impressive stuff with calculators while we effete, artsy types looked on in humble admiration.

The outcome is this press release:

In a briefing published today based on Home Office figures, GeneWatch UK and Action on Rights for Children calculate that the National DNA Database contains the records of at least 100,000 children and young people who have not committed any criminal offence(1). In the past year alone, more than 80,000 innocent children and young people were arrested in England and Wales and added to the database. (continue reading)

The briefing is here.


Pass it on

May 22, 2007

Today is the last day to sign up to this petition:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to legislate to require all UK Police forces to delete DNA data from persons not convicted of an offence.


May 20, 2007

This seems to be becoming such a regular feature that I abbreviated the title. I’ve just been sent a link to HM Revenue and Customs’ evidence to the Public Accounts Committee (No! Come back! I promise you it’s fascinating!) on the tax credits fiasco that has so far cost us around £2bn.

There are several contributory factors, including the famously insecure website that allowed a £50m fraud to be perpetrated, and a catalogue of software problems, as this excerpt from the evidence explains:

Q72 Mr Williams: … I switch again to the software errors. We are told that 199 software errors are still not remedied. That sounds to me like a lot. Who supplied the software?

Mr Gray: The majority of the software would have been supplied under the Inland Revenue’s former contract with EDS—

[ ]

Q74 Mr Williams: How long have the software errors been identified but not remedied?

Mr Gray: They were progressively identified over the first two or three years of the operation of Tax Credits.

Q75 Mr Williams: So how many were in total there originally, then?

Mr Gray: There were significantly more than that originally, but I am afraid I do not—

Q76 Mr Williams: There must have been, if it took three or four years, but how many? You know that there are 199 outstanding; how many have been dealt with?

Mr Gray: Quite a large number—

Mr Williams: No, not “quite a large number”. “Quite a large number” is an insignificant answer. How many errors have been addressed?

Mr Gray: I cannot give you a precise figure. I can certainly let you have that figure separately. What we have done very deliberately in the early years of the system is to seek to address those errors that were having the biggest impact in the system. That might have been a relatively small number of errors but they were having the most significant impact on the operation of the system.

Q77 Mr Williams: I would like a note off you giving a precise indication of what errors have been dealt with, in addition to those that have not been. Having identified them all—you do not remember a grand total at all—was any penalty clause invoked against the supplier?

Mr Gray: Well, I think—

Mr Williams: Other than saying, “Come and put it right”?

Mr Gray: As you are aware from an earlier hearing, Mr Williams, we have reached a settlement with EDS in relation to errors in the initial building of the Tax Credits computer system and it is in the process of paying us total compensation of £71.25 million.

Mr Williams: £71 million.

Mr Gray: £71.25 million.

Q78 Mr Williams: Out of a total contract price of?

Mr Gray: Sorry. Again, I do not have that figure, but I can let you have it.

In answer to that last question, a footnote adds:

The EDS contract ran for 10 years and the total revenues under it were of the order of £2,500 million as was explained at the Committee’s hearing in December 2005 (Q212-213) in the 15 months to 30 June 2004 EDS earned revenue of £504.6 million from the contract and this gave rise to a profit of £121.3 million.

Still on the subject of Tax Credits, there’s also this from a few days ago:

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has apologised to 8,000 tax credit claimants for sending their bank details to other claimants.

They do seem to be having trouble with this new-fangled IT malarkey.

Protection v welfare

May 20, 2007

We’ve written several times about one of the core problems with the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda – the confusion of child protection with more general child welfare. Via Carlotta comes this eloquent quote expressing exactly the concerns of child protection specialists:

Those at the top promote the view that the role of the children’s social worker is to support families and provides services for those in need. In recent years social services departments have been re-focusing services from child protection to family support. The new organisational frameworks being put in place by the Every Child Matters agenda aims to develop a needs-led approach but this has been associated with a loss of clarity and focus on child protection matters.

In practice this means that more initial referrals are treated as child-care problem enquiries as opposed to child protection investigations. However, it may be hard for the social worker doing an initial assessment to shift the focus to a child protection investigation, if new information emerges. This is a difficult task as the emotional tendency to resist changing direction is very strong, especially if social workers see themselves as having a caring role. Whilst integration of protection and support may often be beneficial, child protection investigations, which require a certain emotional detachment and a more probing approach, would benefit from being separated out.

Safe in their hands (5)

May 19, 2007

From the Register:

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has closed its online service for visa applicants from India while it investigates a security breach that made the personal details of visa applicants available online…

The security hole was originally reported to both VFS and the British High Commission more than a year ago but no action was taken.

The systems in Russia and Nigeria have also been taken down.

Damian Green, immigration shadow, said:

“This government cannot even run a simple online visa application system without betraying all the sensitive information. What hope has it got of protecting the integrity of the National Identity Card Register which will hold dozens of pieces of sensitive information of every adult in the country?”

Yes, or ‘ContactPoint’, or the eCAF system, which will hold the in-depth personal profile of 1 in 3 children – a darned sight more than ‘dozens’ of pieces of sensitive data.

Turkeys disapply Xmas

May 18, 2007

Head over to Blogzilla for some truly appalling news.

Quick, look busy!

May 18, 2007

In the past, we’ve certainly mentioned the total waste of time and money over the past few years on truancy sweeps. As truancy figures continue to climb,new DfES guidance on sweeps contains the following:

Truancy sweeps can provide an opportunity to promote the importance of regular school attendance and can act as an effective preventative measure. They provide an opportunity to demonstrate that those involved in sweeps are taking action to reduce truancy

Given that there’s no evidence for the first two assertions, it’s understandable that they qualify them with the word ‘can’. (As in:‘This product can improve the appearance of wrinkles’.) As for that last sentence, roughly translated, it means: “well at least it looks as if we’re doing something”.