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U-turn on children’s database

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:41 pm on 19 October, 2005.
Categories privacy and surveillance.
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The Guardian reports that the chairman of the Victoria Climbié Inquiry has backtracked on his call for a database that would contain details of all children under 16 in the UK:

Plans for a multi-million pound computer system containing every child’s details are “too complex to be effective”, the chairman of the inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié said today.

Lord Laming had previously recommended the creation of a universal database - containing details of children under 16 - in a bid to improve multi-agency working and record sharing to safeguard children. But he today backtracked on the call and suggested such a system would be unworkable.

The Laming inquiry followed the death of eight-year-old Victoria, who was murdered by her great-aunt and the aunt’s boyfriend. The inquiry found serious failings by health staff, education officials, the police and social workers.

The Department for Education and Skills is currently reviewing Lord Laming’s recommendation to develop a database that would contain the details of every child in the UK, which could be accessed by child protection professionals such as social workers, police officers and doctors.

Staff would be able to record notes about a child and flag up concerns they have.

But experts have already warned the cost of developing the system could run into hundreds of millions of pounds and it could be swamped with concern warnings.

Lord Laming has now joined the ranks of doubters as he suggested the recommendation, made two years ago, was unworkable and likely to breach data protection rules, according to an interview published today on social care and health professionals’ information website, Care and Health.

It was more important that frontline child protection staff in different agencies met regularly, he said.

Professionals should instead work to ensure every child is registered with their school and GP, with a home address, and make clear what each organisation should do.

Note that the Children Act 2004 enabled the creation of such a database, as well as enabling local authorities to create databases of their own.

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