Children and young people have safety fears about the new ContactPoint database for children in England

Children and young people are worried that information on the new ContactPoint database that will list details about all children in England, including their age and where they live, could attract paedophiles and others that should not have access to their personal details.

ContactPoint was previously known by the working title of the 'information sharing index'. It will be the quick way for a practitioner (e.g. social worker) to find out who else is working with the same child or young person, making it easier to deliver more coordinated support.

Children and young people living away from home were consulted about the rules that the government is proposing to put in place for running the new system.

They expressed concern over safety and thought that, eventually, ContactPoint would either break down or its security would be breached with serious consequences for the children listed as well as the government.

Making ContactPoint Work, published today by Children's Rights Director for England, Dr Roger Morgan, found that the vast majority of children (83%) agreed that information should be kept safe on ContactPoint, and anyone wanting to see information about a child should have to give a good reason.

The children felt that one of the big risks will be that, even with electronic security tags and passwords, some staff will pass data on to other people and that could give unauthorised outsiders access to their information.

Dr Roger Morgan, Children's Rights Director for England, said:

"The children have told me that they are concerned about the safety of ContactPoint. Children want to be assured that their information will remain safe and confidential and have asked specifically that the government will never in the future put a child's photograph or telephone number on the database.

"The government has undertaken to listen to the children's views and concerns. 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. "

Children felt that the very strong security measures that are planned, more extreme than those required for bank accounts, sounded good. But they felt these measures would not prevent people from trying to access their information.

Another issue raised was how much information someone would need to have about a child, before they could look up more details about them on the database. They were worried that someone would not need to know a lot of information about a child to be able to get access to their details which could be dangerous for children.

The children consulted said that only people with a high level of knowledge about a child beforehand should be permitted to use the database to find out more information. It should be made difficult for those with limited knowledge to have access.

Children were concerned that ContactPoint would not carry information about the children and young people that needed it most, such as asylum seeking children or those who had run away or were living on the streets.

They also felt that it might be hard to find an approved person quickly to look up information in an emergency, for example when a child might be brought into a hospital by ambulance after an accident. They also said there would not be much useful information on ContactPoint about children who came to this country from abroad to go to boarding schools or further education colleges.

Children and young people agreed with the proposed law that information about a child on the ContactPoint computer should be factually accurate.

Also published today by the Children's Rights Director is the Children's Messages on Care report. It is a summary of key messages from children living away from home or receiving social care services. The findings are based on consultation with children and young people over the past year.

Related links

Notes for Editors

1. The report, Making ContactPoint Work is published on the Ofsted website, www.ofsted.gov.uk

2. This report sets out the views of 62 children who gave us their views on the key rules the Government is proposing.

3. The Children's Rights Director for England has a personal statutory duty to ascertain the views of children living away from home or receiving social care services. He is now based in Ofsted.

4. From 1 April 2007 a new single inspectorate for children and learners came into being. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) has the responsibility for the inspection of adult learning and training - work formerly undertaken by the Adult Learning Inspectorate; the regulation and inspection of children's social care - work formerly undertaken by the Commission for Social Care Inspection; the inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service - work formerly undertaken by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration; and the existing regulatory and inspection activities of Ofsted.