It would be nice to say we’ve been dozing on a beach in the Maldives for the past three months, but in fact we’ve been travelling to Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool… the closest we came to the sea was Cardiff, where it rained so hard that we could only watch the waves breaking on Penarth beach by keeping the windscreen wipers going.
All in a good cause, though. In the course of our project to investigate whether children can consent to having their sensitive data shared, we’ve met lawyers and legal academics from all over the country. It’s been a fascinating Summer. Next comes the really hard bit: knuckling down to produce a report that does justice to the expertise of our generous and eminent interviewees.
Meanwhile, as the introduction of Contactpoint approached – and then receded, various problems made it into the papers. First of all, the media noticed that the police will have access to Contactpoint. Not a huge surprise, given that they were made partners in the children’s service authorities by Part 2 of the Children Act 2004.
The next problem concerned the ‘shielding’ proposals. Children and families who could be put at more risk than usual by the inevitable security breaches are meant to have their records hidden on Contactpoint. The problem is that the government doesn’t appear to have realised that if they populate the entire database but leave the shielding to local authorities as they join the scheme, it potentially puts a hell of a lot of people in danger. The Guardian and The Register have the full story – though the Guardian’s decision that such a serious story only merited entry in the education supplement was, well, surprising – and it had disappeared from the front page within 24 hours of publication.
The latest revelation concerns PA Consulting. That’s right, the same PA Consulting that has just been sacked by the Home Office after losing a memory stick containing the unencrypted details of 84,000 prisoners. The Home Office vote of no confidence doesn’t appear to have dented the optimism of DCSF:
…the firm is being allowed to continue working on the highly sensitive £224million ContactPoint scheme to create a computerised record of the names, addresses, dates of birth, parents, schools and GPs of all 11 million children in England
“We have confidence in PA Consulting to provide client-side services to the ContactPoint project.”
And PA Consulting said:
“PA Consulting remains confident that we can complete our work on ContactPoint.”
Is it me, or does that read a bit like a ‘Janet and John’ book?
PS Recommended reading: Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom has plenty to say about Contactpoint