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back to article Government yet to set ContactPoint closure date

The Department for Education has yet to set a timetable to abolish the controversial database of all children in England. A spokesperson for the department told GC News that, unlike ID cards and the National Identity Register, the abolition of ContactPoint does not require primary legislation. She said that necessary changes to …

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Brilliant idea

Yes Contactpoint was a brilliant idea...on paper! Social services would benefit some sharing info and hopefully we might stand a chance of avoiding the horrendous things that have happened due to lack of shared info.

Sadly the whole thing got put into operation by CapGem and some UK Gov quango, ( read: load of MPs and their bent mates on the make! ) and it was f**ked before the sys admins even had a chance to get the cellophane of the software!

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Anonymous Coward

Why f**ked?

I'm not sure why you think it's f**cked.

All the feedback I've heard has been exceedingly positive.

Practitioners are able to find information far quicker than they used to and in one local case at least, the time saving was measurable in weeks.

There have been some teething issues but as far as UK Gov IT projects go it has been a resounding success so far.

The main problem has been the misinformation spread by "privacy lobbyists [concerned] about what it would store and who would be allowed access."

It's not perfect but, in my opinion, it sits comfortably on the 'benefits outweigh the risks' side of any argument thrown at it so far.

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if it is so innocuous . . .

. . . from a privacy stand-point, then why were MP's and celebrities children left off of it ??

Or are MP's and celeb's above the law ?

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Black Helicopters

MPs and celebrities children

This is the type of mis-information that has surrounded ContactPoint, it is a totally false statement.

All children and young people in England are held within the system, some children are deemed to be so at risk if their information is found that they can be 'shielded'. The criteria around this shielding is very strict and the majority of MPs will not meet these criteria. They are mainly there to guard against risk of injury or death, such as domestic violence or honour killings and can include siblings or other children at that address.

Since ContactPoint has come into effect there has been much scrutiny of how Local Authorities hold data across multiple systems, and much best practice has now put in place to make sure sensitive information, such as that related to shielded information, is cascaded across all the local systems. It has had a positive effect so far.

Remember this system is about the early intervention & safeguarding of Children by aiding information sharing in a very tightly controlled way between professional practitioners, all the arguments I have read so far are concerned about the rights of the adults never the rights of the child.

Any parent or child (who can meet the fraser guidelines) can ask to see, through a Subject Access Request, the information that is held about their child.

In the LA that i work in we were expecting to make between £250,000 and £350,000 a year saving by reducing the number of hours wasted when a practitioner (and think more than social workers here!) starts to look for information around a child they are working with.

This is a conservative estimate and is based on a full survey taking less than a month ago, the figure is is assuming we can reduce the problem by around 35-40%! So you can imagine the money that is lost each year.

In one section that have been trained so far they have reduced their backlog by a third in just one day by using this system (due to the fact it covers England and not just the LA), and we have had nothing by praise from all concerned.

I have a full ICT background, from developer, sys-admin, ICT project manager and can state with hand on heart that this is the most secure system I have come up against, more than any health system, more than any social work system. The argument about lack of security are very poor when stood on the side lines shouting in.

When the Gov is talking about reducing the deficit and then remove a prime example of a system that is working and can achieve a cost saving it smacks of Political points rather than having an objective understanding of the system.

Take this quote for example:

"We will spend less on vast centralised IT databases which always go expensively wrong, such as the misguided effort to log every child in the country through the Contactpoint system.

I say every child but of course the children of celebrities and MPs will be able to be excluded in case of security breaches. Well if the system isn’t secure enough for me it isn’t secure enough for you so it must go"

This was taking from the now Minister for the Department for Education, Michael Gove MP, http://www.michaelgove.com/content/comprehensive_programme_state_education (near the end).

How can you be sure he is acting in the best interests of the Children when he hasn't full understanding of the system and is peddling the same lies and mis-information.

Please be objective with your criticism of the system, if you have concerns, read the Lord Laming report as to why this system came about. Read the serious case reviews about the constant lack of information sharing between trained professionals (Doctors, Social Workers, et al), the reviews into cases such as the tragic Baby P and then come back and hit me with your arguments, I will do my best not to defend the system but to provide the truth, something that is lacking from many peoples understanding of ContactPoint. If you are still concerned, give your local council a call, ask for the ContactPoint team and ask them the questions. Be nice to them though, the majority are very knowledgeable about the system and may provide the answers quickly.

Ready for a right royal flaming now...

And the black hawks are for the expected knock on the door tonight after I have spoke against our new masters and overlords.

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WTF?

It's in the Telegraph so it must be true..?

The children of MPs and celebrities weren't left off (unless you have evidence to the contrary?).

It's just another piece of misinformation that's been repeatedly printed to make people think there's something sinister going on.

Similarly - if the police had powers to raid the database for possible prosecutable offences (drug misuse etc.) then surely the source of that information is just as open to 'police abuse'.

ContactPoint doesn't contain any information that isn't available elsewhere (and is probably easier to get hold of elsewhere if you're that way inclined). The only extra thing it does is make the child demographic and practitioner data available to other practitioners nationally (with certain sensitive services hidden from view).

If that in and of itself is a bad thing then say so; then argue that case. Don't make something up (or regurgitate stuff other people have made up; without first checking the facts) and then use that as the basis for your complaint.

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ContactPoint is universal there are few exclusions

The children of MPs and celebrities are not excluded. Shielding (protected records) can be requested but records are only shielded exceptionally and in particular circumstances, when by not doing so would place a child at increased risk of significant harm or

place an adult at risk of significant harm, for example a child or family who are fleeing from abuse or domestic violence, a child who has been adopted, a child or adult who is subject to police protection.

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Eloquent reply, but....

still no explanation of why every single child requires to be on it.

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Anonymous Coward

"Due course" presumably meaning...

..."I don't WANT to and I'm going to hold my breath until you change your mind. So there!"

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Why wait?

I'm sure if you invited some privacy campaigners to visit the building where the servers and local backups were kept and supplied them with axes and a fire accelerant, they'd provide a closure date within minutes. Add in a mystery tour to where the off-site backups are kept for good measure and this scourge on our privacy would be gone in a day.

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Costs?

Difficult to make sense of what is here. Much has been spent on ContactPoint over several years including staff appointed in all local authorities. It is likely that little will be saved or any possible benefits extracted from the massive outlay. £ 24 mn looks suspiciously low for what has already been spent.

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Still looking to get a clean feed into the NIR

I seem to recall this database was meant to be *only* for children that were on various (including the police) agencies and departments radar.

Then *someone* decided *all* children should be on it

And by "child" they meant IIRC up to 25. A nice overlap when it comes to feeding the National Identity Register.

Much better than the 10 year census the Nazis (assisted by IBM Deutschland) had to work with when it decided to start performing "surgery on society."

Like most of the madder of Labor's database plans it *might* have a *very* small justification.

But nothing like that needed to justify the scale they *wanted* it used on.

Black helos for obvious reasons.

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@AC

AC is obviously a leftie.

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Saving hours

The idea that ContactPoint saves millions of hours of time is a complete lie.

Yes, it saves time of the professionals working with children, the doctors, the police.

But, the database is complete overkill, there's a considerable amount of effort on the part of the councils in uploading the records and keeping them up-to-date.

In principle ContactPoint is a good idea, it is little more than a glorified address/telephone book. To that end it serves a very useful purpose.

What Labour did wrong was to insist on putting records of every child in the country onto it where the alternative was to simply upload records of children that at risk.

I wouldn't like to guess what the difference is between those two figures but I'd bet is quite literally millions, many millions.

That's the problem!

Either a)Labour were completely stupid and couldn't understand this, or b) they've got alterior motives and wanted that data for other purposes.

For b), Labour would try to claim it's part of the "Every Child Counts" idea, the framework., which in reality was nothing other than a scheme to track almost everything about children and I suspect with the goal of keeping tabs on every individual in the country - every adult was once a child.

Trust Labour with that? Never.

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Oh dear...

Removing Contact Point, will actually halt several far more important systems being developed for child care, protection and education, well either that, or the child point data base will have to be borged into those systems at additional cost.

Government is crying out in general for clean and accurate sources of information about the people it serves, and as soon as one appears, it tends to be integrated into the plans of other departments and agencies, to improve services, they really don't like sending stuff to dead people, pets or tax demands to infants. Contact point has a code of connection, as do all government systems, which means that when another agency wants to use the data, which governs what information may be asked for, and how it may then be used, and government data owners are religious about sticking to these rules, as are the recipients, even those who legally don't have to be.

Most of the negative points seem to come from people who really don't understand how the government protects and uses data, and those of us who actually work in this area aren't allowed to say too much about what is held and how it is used, lest the wrong person finds out how many toilet rolls are used in the Cabinet Office. I can also only assume that they think that the UK government's computing capability far exceeds anything that is realistically possible even given unlimited funds. If you think that any government department rolls over and gives up data to another just because they are asked, think again, the first thing they say is no, even if it's the security services, then if pushed they say why, push harder, they say well ok, you'll have to pay for the work needed, and then what's in it for us and on and on, until you have conclusively proved that you need it for a legitimate purpose.

Oh, and the idea that MP's really hold much sway with SIs is laughable, they know very little about how government works, and are the biggest reason it doesn't. If undue influence or corruption is used by one contractor, then it is very, very difficult to hide it from the others, and there isn't that much business around that any one would let it go. The only type of corruption, you do get, is the nepotistic behaviours of some private sector cheif executives who come in and immediately bring their friends in as consultants to make them feel comfortable and safe, which by the way is exactly what they do in the private sector, because they don't feel they can automatically trust their inherited colleagues to tell them the truth, with generally, good reason.

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Bronze badge

The surveillance mentality

It may be because of its association with RYOGENS and similar intrusive developments that Contactpoint is so disliked.

Although it may appeal to statist control freaks, the idea of predicting children's criminality using computerised details of their everyday behaviour fills most people with apprehension.

http://www.archrights.org.uk/issues/databases/predicting_offending.htm

Perhaps a measure of public trust in supposedly benign systems like Contactpoint could be regained if they were to be Open Source, so that reasonably independent opinions could surface about what they do, how they do it and how reliable they seem, and if they were to include user tracking, so that members of the public could see who had been looking up whose details and why.

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Translations

It works! Its fantastic! - "Please, I really need this job."

Load of old tosh! - Everybody else.

Was it ever so?

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Contradictions

Let's look at some of the claims made, shall we?

The article says that "ContactPoint, designed by Capgemini, holds basic information on children, including name, address, and an identifying number, along with names and contact details of parents or cares, but not private records or subjective information" but Mr Coward claims that "Practitioners are able to find information far quicker than they used to and in one local case at least, the time saving was measurable in weeks."

It's intriguing to think of a situation in which it would take a social worker weeks to find out the name, address and carers of a child with whom they were already working. Assuming that it is true - chaotic lives, extended families and so on - why does the social worker trust the information on ContactPoint? Did someone else spend the necessary weeks finding out and checking? If so, it's hardly time saving since the same process must have been gone through for all the children in whom Social Services never need to take an interest. If not, the social worker will have to recheck it all anyway.

So that's contradiction one: when the information is hard to discover, ContactPoint would not have been reliable anyway. The second one is on data security. One one hand Mr Coward tell us that "this is the most secure system I have come up against, more than any health system, more than any social work system" and on the other he boast about how easy it is for practitioners to get information out of it. Well, which is it - secure or generally available to practitioners? It cannot possibly be both.

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@Ian Johnston re. Contradictions

ContactPoint puts social workers in touch with other people working with a child; including previous social workers from other local authorities, GPs etc.

Prior to ContactPoint it was VERY difficult to find out who was dealing with a child if the parents didn't know where the child had been dealt with previously ("I lived in London" isn't very helpful). If a child can be matched on ContactPoint then not only do practitioners get instant access to previous case-workers; they also get details of previous interventions and case data once they've spoken to the previous case-workers (note that this data IS NOT held on ContactPoint).

This means that time is saved when a new initial assessment is no longer needed; care package details are transferred rather than being drawn up from scratch; false positives in terms of care are not re-tried (i.e. types of care that have been tried but didn't work aren't tried again as a case progresses from scratch) etc.

More importantly, the child doesn't miss out on care whilst the full process is restarted. Information sharing in this respect is vital when trying to maintain a sufficient level of care.

It's not the case information per se that is hard to discover, but who has it... That is the hole that ContactPoint plugs.

As for security, I'm not sure what point you're making (I think you're confusing two definitions of the word security: something which has limited access vs something which is locked away). The system can ONLY be accessed by practitioners (and other qualifying personnel) - it is therefore secure in that it isn't generally available to anyone who fancies a trawl through the data. The system is well engineered which makes it easy (or easier than it was) for practitioners to find the data they need.

The two aren't related - the security model works and the system model is usable.

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Alert

surveillance in the guise of child protection lie

There have been significant developments since this blogpost was written - it does however spell out how tragic abuse cases have been exploited to sell the pan-european e-goverment agenda.

http://www.home-education.biz/blog/civil-liberties/id-cards-for-babies-the-rest-will-follow

"The Getting It Right For Every Child agenda, along with raft of other associated initiatives, has been publicly presented as a response to the inquiry following the death of Danielle Reid, released to the public by Highland Child Protection Committee on 7 March 2006.

Dr Jean Herbison, the author of this report, refers to similarities to Lord Laming’s report into the death of Victoria Climbie:

In England, Lord Laming has published his report into the death of Victoria Climbié, who died on 25th February 2000. His recommendations were the most detailed in relation to system change and professional practice throughout the United Kingdom. The reader of this report in relation to Danielle Reid will be struck by similarities in all these reports. The findings reveal serious gaps in service provision to the vulnerable and at risk child. There has been an identification of lack of robust systems in place early enough to protect Scotland’s children.

Lord Laming’s report following the Victoria Climbie inquiry, which is cited as the catalyst for children’s services reform in England in a similar way to the Danielle Reid report in Scotland, was published on 28 January 2003.

Policies and legislation do differ north and south of the border, but the similarities far outnumber the differences. Getting It Right For Every Child is the Scottish equivalent to Every Child Matters in England, just as the Integrated Assessment Framework in Scotland corresponds with the Common Assessment Framework.

Privacy and data-sharing: the way forward for public services ( http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/cabinetoffice/strategy/assets/piu%20data.pdf) – a performance and innovation report dated 2002 – was published by the UK Government and set out (among other intended reforms) changes to children’s services which the public and professionals were led to believe were being instigated as a result of the Laming or Herbison reports."

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