Information-sharing puts pupils at risk

23rd November 2007 at 00:00
Vulnerable children have complained that a database to be launched by the Government next year could be accessed by paedophiles, putting them at risk.

The ContactPoint system will list all 11 million children in England, including their names, addresses, schools, GPs and whether they are receiving help from social services.

If parents or children give their consent, it could also include more sensitive information about whether children have accessed sexual or mental health services or had treatment for substance abuse.

The database will make it easier to share information and is designed to stop 3 to 18-year-olds falling between different services, as happened to Victoria Climbie, a victim of child abuse who died.

But vulnerable children have said they are worried about information falling into the wrong hands. Sixty-two children who live away from home or receive social care answered a survey or were consulted.

Roger Morgan, Children's Rights Director for England, said: "The children have told me that they are concerned about the safety of ContactPoint. They want to be assured that their information will remain safe and confidential and have asked specifically that the Government will never put a child's photograph or telephone number on the database. There will always be a need to keep security under review, as the repercussions of information falling into the wrong hands could be extremely dangerous."

The surveyed children were very concerned that paedophiles might try to access their details, the report said. They feared the system's security would be breached or its information shared inappropriately.

There was also concern that it would not contain data about those most at risk, such as runaways or the children of asylum-seekers.

ContactPoint will not contain specific information about the services children access, but should alert people if other organisations are working with the same child. It will be available to around 333,000 vetted users, including heads, GPs and social and youth workers.

Kevin Brennan, the Children's Minister, said children's concerns had already been addressed. "I think we should also bear in mind that other children have told us they are glad that ContactPoint is being brought in," he said.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now