Baby P authority boss sounds alarm after children-at-risk register is axed

18th March 2011 at 00:00

The director of children's services in Haringey, the council castigated following the murder of Baby P, has issued a warning about the abolition of the ContactPoint database, which helped teachers and social workers to identify children at risk.

Peter Lewis, who took over the role at the council in 2008 in the aftermath of the case, said he was concerned about the loss of shared intelligence about families and children experiencing domestic problems.

Established after the death of Victoria Climbie, ContactPoint was a #163;224 million database of all 11 million children in England and was designed to give social workers and senior teachers a heads-up on whether children could be at risk.

Accessed by heads, deputies and education welfare officers, it was switched off by the coalition Government last August, after concerns about the security of the information and its effectiveness as a warning system.

But Mr Lewis, speaking at a 4Children conference on early years, warned of problems in continuing the early identification of at-risk children.

"The fact is, ContactPoint, for all its many failings, did offer a single point of reference where we could identify there was a risk. It was a prompt to have a conversation that might otherwise not have been had.

"I think we're in serious danger of losing that intelligence."

His comments echo those of the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS), which argued last year that the agencies involved with child protection needed to know what each other was doing.

ADCS president Marion Davis said then that the benefits of the database had not had a chance to be realised. "We would be concerned if all of this effort were to be wasted, particularly if a different solution were proposed," she said.

ContactPoint was commissioned as a result of Lord Laming's review of the Victoria Climbie case. Climbie was eight years old when she died in 2000 at the hands of her carers, who had subjected her to abuse and neglect. The inquiry found she could have been saved on 12 occasions and highlighted the failure of professionals to share information.

In August 2007, 17-month-old Baby P died while on the child protection register. He had suffered more than 50 injuries despite receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over an eight-month period. A review by Lord Laming following the case said that progress on child protection was being hampered by the lack of a centralised computer system.

When the database was closed down by children's minister Tim Loughton, he said he opposed the idea of a database of all children that could be accessed by thousands of individuals.

Some 90 per cent of children never come into contact with children's services, he argued, and therefore should not be on it.

Mr Loughton said the Government was looking at establishing a national service focusing on helping people to find out who has worked with a child in another authority.

The latest Ofsted report on Haringey Council's safeguarding services - published last month - found good progress, increased morale and robust leadership.

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