Where the real danger lies

7th March 2008 at 00:00
Themselves from dangerous adults.

Councils, police, local residents and other organisations are working to create places where all children could thrive, he said. This meant safer streets and play areas, access to travel to and from school, and advice to prevent accidents in the home. "This is a challenge, particularly in more disadvantaged areas," said Mr Lawrence. "It is everyone's responsibility to ensure children are protected from harm."

London Play, a charity funded by the National Lottery and local councils, has been developing safer areas for children to play and to walk to school, including home zones, streets where traffic is controlled and parking is redesigned.

London Play receives an annual grant of pound;150,000 from local authorities, plus extra lottery funding of pound;226,000. But this pales in comparison with the millions spent on vetting adults who work with children. As well as the Independent Safeguarding Authority, pound;224 million is being spent on ContactPoint, a database which will be launched in the autumn. It will contain personal information about all England's children, allowing school leaders, police, doctors and social workers to see who else is working with the children or has raised concerns about them.

The system is designed to prevent young people like Victoria Climbie from slipping through the net. But children themselves fear that it will break down or suffer a security breach, with serious consequences. This was one of the findings of Dr Roger Morgan, Children's Rights Director for England, who interviewed 62 children who were living away from home or receiving social care services.

And last month an independent Deloitte review of the database also called for tighter security, prompting calls from opposition parties for the project to be abandoned.

The challenge for the officials responsible will be to ensure that, while trying to combat the threat of child abuse and neglect, they do not jeopardise children's safety by allowing the release of private information. Recent incidents - such as the loss of Revenue and Customs CDs containing 25 million child benefit details - suggest this may not be straightforward.

Trying to protect children too much in one area can make them more vulnerable elsewhere in their lives. Marcus Bailie, chief inspector of the Adventure Activities Licensing Service, said: "Most fatal accidents to children result from them not having learned how to look after themselves."

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