Security assessment of Contactpoint

We’re not holding our breath, but:

An independent security check is to be carried out on a Whitehall database carrying details of every child in England after the loss of discs holding personal data on 25 million people, it was revealed today.

The children’s secretary, Ed Balls, ordered an external assessment of the ContactPoint system on Tuesday, as the loss of child benefit data by HM Revenue and Customs was made public.

So far, interesting. And then we get the same old mindless cut’n’paste:

The £224m computer system was set up following a recommendation of the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié to better coordinate work by different agencies involved in child protection.

Come on, get with the programme. Even the government has stopped pretending this is about Victoria Climbie. From their Contactpoint Q&A sheet (pdf):

Is ContactPoint all about child protection?

No, ContactPoint is principally about supporting early intervention for the 30-50% of children who at some point in their lives need additional services to ensure they achieve good outcomes. But it will also aid communication about children identified as being at risk of significant harm.

A child identified as at risk of significant harm will, of course, already have been referred immediately to social workers, as per the government’s ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ guidance.

I’ve just tracked down a briefing I prepared on the early plans for Contactpoint, back in 2003 when I did some work for the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.

CRAE recommends that a fully independent body be commissioned to undertake a thorough risk assessment of the data-matching system that the Government proposes to use, and that the findings are made public, before there is any further development of plans for the electronic storage and sharing of children’s information.

It’s been a long four years. At some point my hair turned grey.


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