back to article Council builds £2.8m shared database of vulnerable kids

Derbyshire county council has announced plans to improve outcomes and reduce costs by installing a new £2.8m single database. The system will allow a range of partner agencies, including the police, NHS and schools to share information on children and young adults at risk. Derbyshire, which employs 16,675 employees, currently …

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Anonymous Coward

Because vulnerable people...

... belong in vulnerable databases.

I can't help but wonder when TfL will start to offer paid sensitive data storage services. Maybe as an integrated part of G-Cloud or something. I mean, why not monetise something that's happening anyhow already?

Coat? The one with the USB sticks in the pockets. Can't find it? Oh my, I did come here by bus, didn't I?

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Anonymous Coward

So

Shared = vulnerable

Government IT

Sort of apt isn't it.

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Meh

If

If it is completed on time I will eat my toe nail clippings.

If it actually works I'll eat my fingernail clippings.

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Re: If

What if it is completed on budget?

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Cost

Does it really need to cost £2.8M?

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Black Helicopters

Is that how much a database costs? Re: Cost

Derbyshire has around 750k population, roughly one third of those in Derby City itself, and roughly 20% of that population is 0 to 16, so that is 150,000 youngsters plus (say) 10,000 troubled later teens (all from Census data on the Derbyshire Council Web site which is well presented and easy to navigate).

About 17000 children in the UK are on formal Child Protection plans (Guardian, 2010 reference) out of roughly 10 million children, so I make that 0.17% nationally so roughly 300 kids on formal plans in Derbyshire unless there is more than the average trouble/misery there.

What kind of recording are they doing for the ones not on formal plans? How many transactions a week are they expecting? What is the ratio of safeguarding 'disclosures' to those on formal child protection plans? Why are there '40 modules' on this database? Can people see what is being recorded about their family?

Disclaimer: I know very little about IT/Business apps at this scale, anyone care to enlighten me?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cost

Exactly. The UK population is less than 70 million. Only a minority of that population are children and not all of those live in Derbyshire.

If you can stretch the cost of doing this job properly to £10,000 you should expect to be accused of padding the budget a bit.

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Re: Is that how much a database costs? Cost

I can't enlighten you, but I can guarantee if you asked those sorts of questions at one of their planning meetings, you wouldn't be invited to the next one.

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Re: Cost

"Does it really cost £2.8M?"

- yes, 300k development and licencing costs; 2.5M in legal fees and penalties for when they cock it up and the sensitive data ends up in the public domain.

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Anonymous Coward

Security?

Well, to be fair, whilst some might consider it more secure to have 25 databases dotted about the place each with *some* information, that's just security through obscurity, which isn't really security at all.

One system, whilst being more catastrophic if it's compromised, is a single point of focus for those tasked with ensuring its security - so it ought to be a simpler process to keep it secured.

Added to that, the great majority of kids and vulnerable adults that are abused get that abuse from someone within their immediate or extended family, not from someone who's gained data from some agency. If a single system is designed to help in some way to reduce the risk to those that might be abused, then it's to be applauded.

Of course, whether the project results in a working solution or not is another matter.

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Black Helicopters

Define vulnerable

There is something kind of worrying about having 25 different databases that might contain "similar" data.

In one database you might be listed as "slightly" vulnerable, in another "extremely vulnerable" and in yet another you might actualy only be a "third party" to another vulnerable character.

When data consolidation begins it will be a "problem" to determine which "level" of vulnerability someone might actually belong to.

Maybe we should create a "Minister of Vulnerability".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Define vulnerable

so is that a problem with

a) the 25 databases?

b) the new database?

c) the consolidation process?

You're making an assumption - that there's one single "vulnerability level" column in the new database. Perhaps your assumption is completely wrong.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Define vulnerable

OK, let's go effing mad and call it a percentage.

What do we get for the other £2,799,999.50?

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Re: Define vulnerable

The answer would be both A & C.

It is very difficult to believe that the same Specifications Document was used for the 25 databases. The importance here being that they all deal with roughly the same subject but were probably developed with differing objectives, different budgets and most importantly different people.

It is therefore easy enough to conclude that they all have one or more fields which describe the "vulnerability", and that the levels of classification are probably different for each database - herein lies the problem.

What are the chances that everyone is using exactly the same criteria in order to classify "vulnerability", almost none.

Therefore during the consolidation process how are they going to consolidate the "vulnerability classification". You can't mix oranges and apples and produce "appanges" or "orapples."

If they keep all the varying classifications from all databases this will lead to mass confusion.

If they decide to adopt a new classifcation system then how will they make the decision as to classifcation that should be implemented, errors at this stage could have very serious consequences for the concerned individuals.

Mapping even "one" level of classification between 25 different systems is difficult. If there are, as you suggest, more than one level then the project will very likely become incoherent.

I would suggest that they analyse the 25 databases and possibly consolidate those that can easilly be consolidated and attempt to reduce the total number of systems down to maybe 6 systems.

These 6 systems could then possibly be updated, adapted so that they share a common reporting interface. This would remove some of the confusion from the end user point of view.

In the long term the 6 "might" eventually be able to consolidated into 1 system.

One step at a time........

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Define vulnerable

that assumes the database has a field "vulnerable" with a yes/no option.

more likely the different databases record interactions with different agencies/organisations.

The social worker checks all these various contacts to see if there is information that taken together indicates possible "vulnerabilitiy".

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Skip to the end.

Can we just skip ahead to the part were the DB does not work, has corrupted or incorrect data, millions of pounds over budget, and the information is left in the back seat of a taxi or is left in a pub.

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Trollface

Re: Skip to the end.

This is a council, not a government department. Aren't they more likely to print out the entire database and leave it IN a skip?

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Silver badge

Similar/Related News ....

Police in Manchester are making attempts to get direct access to the NHS database of 'sexual-health' of teenage girls in the area:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/police-want-to-see-teenage-girls-sexual-health-data-7814694.html

I assume they want to do the job because they are so much better than quaified medical researchers at analysing medical data to establish patterns and predicting possible causes. I also assume they can effectively spread the word to young girls that these details will not be used against them in any way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Similar/Related News ....

Second bit first - You overlooked the phrase "anonymised data" ?

First bit second - health officials are interested in different patterns and causes, infection rates and clear-up rates, or cost of testing. Police are looking for unusual testing rates - possibly the sort of data that a researcher would eliminate as an outlier or not relevant.

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Re: Similar/Related News ....

Second bit: No, I can guess the long term security of 'anonymised data' and I can predict 'mission creep' once the police get a toe-hold in the database. Once the first girl is pulled in for questioning, she'll tell all her friends, word will spread and they'll stop going to clinics.

First bit: Would it be that difficult to 'train' an experienced medical researcher, or even an ordinary GUM doctor, to detect and flag up unusual testing rates for individuals or groups in an area?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Similar/Related News ....

"Police are looking for unusual testing rates..."

Or they could actually take action on reports of rape of under age girls (especially when they are provided with DNA evidence) rather than deciding to do nothing, in case they are accused of racism? That would be simpler and quicker than trawling through a database.

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Anonymous Coward

£2.8m for a copy of excel?

Hosted on a gold plated server?

several people with the skills and security clearance for this data setup and migration would not even break £500K including hardware.

How much of it is FujitSercoHPAtosPhoenix profit / maintenance charge?

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Re: £2.8m for a copy of excel?

When they said platinum service they had now idea they meant making the sever out of actual platinum . Diamond keyboard to.

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Stop

National survey

My 11 year old brought home a letter a few months back asking permission for him to be included in a national survey into weight trends among the UK population. The weigh-ins would be carried out by an external agency and compiled nationally (presumably to highlight child obesity hot spots).

Not a bad objective in theory, except any nugget can tell if their kid is fat. It's whether you do anything about it that matters.

The worst of it was that the external agency also required the full name, date of birth, full postal address, telephone number, names of parents for each child (referring to it as standard contact information). The reason given was so that they could write to parents with the 'result' of the weigh-in.

Naturally, I refused to allow my child to be included and wrote to the agency carrying out the 'survey' to query why they needed identity theft levels of data for a simple weight survey. They didn't see a problem with it.

The first USB stick-in-a-coat-pocket-on-a-bus comment here says it all for me.

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So did you report them to the ICO?

What did the ICO say about it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: National survey

So knowing a kid is "fat" is sufficient to determine a trend. How fat, though compared to average/median etc. Hence numbers are more effective than yes/no.

As to "naturally" you refused - are you assuming that level of naturalness extends to the rest of the populace?

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Facepalm

Re: National survey

The actual weight measurement wasn't the issue.

The problem was them asking for large amounts of irrelevant data - both parent's full names, dates of birth, full address and phone number?

Is all of that really required for the described intent? Could you justify all of that data to a judge?

Put simply, the school can contact the parent(s). The 3rd party agency doesn't need to know anything at all about the child or parents outside of the data strictly necessary for the study.

They need weight, sex, year and month of birth and that's it. If they really want to do fine-grained geo-location on the data, the full postcode is already too fine-grained for useful statistical analysis.

The phone number is certainly far too much - and even the name is unnecessary.

They probably sold the data on to some other party to use - imagine the phone calls "We sell weight loss plans for your children!" (And we already know they need it...)

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Devil

'Vulnerable' is how the social workers define it

"What we might see is a number of low level events that occur within a particular family or child's life"

He was once exposed to Rock music - he's obviously vulnerable to Satanic Ritual Abuse, we'd better do a midnight raid to snatch him away from his parents.

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Anonymous Coward

Doomed to fail

I don't know the exact details, but can imagine.

There will be probably about 3 reporting servers cos different national bodies (home office etc) will want slightly different sets of odd stats. Then about another 3 reporting services for various managers in the process who wanted to make a name for themselves, so bought some magic reporting tools from a shiny suited sales droid promising that will revolutionize the department and can easily talk to all your databases. These tools of course are full of middleware and create their own databases to add to the hell. But they do produce some nice looking graphs of Key Performance Indicators.

What people in 'the real world' won't understand is that these databses will be used to tell operative exactly what to do next in a step 1, step 2, step 3 way. It isn't simple data entry and retrieval, everything will be going through a bunch of rules to make sure operative does the right thing. Most don't understand their own job as far as processes go so they have to be told. Sad but true. Don't believe me. try implementing a business process in a local government dept and ask for a clear process map - they won't know . So implementer has to go through hell of getting the department to work out their own policies and procedures so they can be mapped to the IT system.

Then different databases for slightly different bodies with slightly different roles (dealing with mentally disturbed parents, mentally disturbed kids, housing associations, police, carers, regional, national). Internal refusal to migrate onto new platforms means you're going to have different staff some using 'the old system' some 'the new system;. Having a consult-everyone culture and internal customer concept and all that get-nothing-done public sector 'IT as a service' BS and no tidying up will have been done of undead sytems.

So magic uberproject comes along to sweep away all the entrenched positions and take onboard all the requirements. Of course making it utterly impossible to do as too big and nobody in the project teams will understand the nuances of what they will 'lose' from the 25-database setup. Supplier will know this and have to take the cost of lengthy bitter courtcase into the costing when quoting.

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Stop

shudder

The first thought that went through my mind was "shopping list". I don't trust local authorities to keep this sort of thing accurate and secure enough. I bet even primary school secretaries will end up with access.

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This guy sadmits that staff

allow people access to the data via "shoulder surfing"?

The IT manager admits they currently left staff from agencies read data "over someones shoulder"?

Would someone like to explain to me how he and the other rmanagement consider this valid, moral or legal, Ignoring the very basic fact that there would be no possible audit trail?

IMHO sack him, the staff who continue to let unauthorised people look at vunerable kids data and sack the management who allow them to do this - no pay and NO PENSION!

Getting rid of anyone who treats vunerable kids data like this should save the council some dosh!

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Re: valid, moral or legal

Depending on the data that is shoulder surfed, why is this necessarily a problem? There may, for example, be a legal requirement to share certain data and if they currently live on a system that includes non-shareable stuff then your available options are:

i) fail to share the data

ii) get someone who is authorised to search the database to find the data and then exclude the non-shareable parts before letting the recipient shoulder-surf

iii) Build a new unified database that applies a more fine-grained security model.

Since (i) is illegal, I have some sympathy with a council that does "(ii) until we can implement (iii)".

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I see the future...

... twenty SIX databases.

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Anonymous Coward

My brother's a poor council worker...

...He saves fallen women from sin.

He'll save you a blonde for a guinea,

My God how the money rolls in...

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Anonymous Coward

Internet Access

As the people who need to use this are the NHS/Police (as well as the council workers) then I hope that the DB is only accessible either locally or across the GSI and N3 (via the councils GCSX and N3 connections) and NOT accessible across the Internet.....we shall see.

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