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UK's 'secure' child protection database will be open to one million

Government underestimates, under pressure

Baroness Sue Miller, a Liberal Democrat peer with a special interest in data protection issues, said: "The ContactPoint system was dubious to start with. It would have been irrelevant to key cases such as that of Victoria Climbié. This latest revelation merely makes it at least three times worse."

Miller said she was not surprised that the debate on ContactPoint had been informed by incorrect figures, adding, "I do not think the government has necessarily set out to mislead; there is no evidence of that. However they have at least been careless in allowing such a gross under-estimate to circulate in debate."

Repeated failures

ContactPoint is the centrepeice of the government's Every Child Matters initiative, its response to abuse and murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbié in 2000. The inquiry into authorities' repeated failures to intervene in her case in part blamed poor information sharing and the lack of an easy way for the various doctors and social workers who visited the family to contact each other.

The system, which will be run by CapGemini, has been delayed twice. The first hold up was caused by the government-wide review of data security following the HMRC lost CDs debacle. ContactPoint was hit by a further delay in September, which ministers blamed on problems with its user interface.

Despite its imminent launch, the criteria to allow access to ContactPoint remain unclear. DCSF told The Register: "Before a search begins, all users will need to identify a reason for the search."

A spokeswoman said there will be no system for determining whether the reason is valid. To run a search users must enter either a first or a surname, an approximate age and a gender.

DCSF said if too many children's details are returned by the database then no results will be displayed, to reduce the risk of spurious searches and trawling. "We are currently working to determine what a sensible and practical limit is," it said.

Last night ministers ordered another review of child protection after a court heard that authorities in the same London borough as the Climbié tragedy had visited Baby P no less than 60 times before his abusers killed him. ®

Comment: How the gov's child protection database fails to add up


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