Police are to be given access to the Government’s new children’s database, in order to search for evidence of criminal activity.
The Government confirmed last night that police would be able to apply for access to the system, which was originally conceived as a means to help protect every child in England from the risk of harm or abuse.
However, in a move likely to dismay privacy campaigners, police will be able to request archived data for a number of reasons, such as “the prevention or detection of crime” and “the prosecution of offenders”.
The £224m ContactPoint system, being developed by CapGemini, is due to launch this autumn. The system will hold data on all children under 18 in England.
The national children’s database was conceived after the Victoria Climbie case to allow social workers, schools, GPs and other professionals to share information if they suspect a child is in danger.
The mandatory national database will include children’s names, their ages and addresses, plus details of their parents, schools, GP and social workers.
The database will also include demographic data from the national NHS Spine personal demographic record. A Connecting for Health spokesperson told E-Health Insider this would not include any clinical information and be limited to demographic details.
The government says the system will not include case information on children but will detail whether they have contact with a Youth Offending Team or other services such as drug rehabilitation.
A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families told the Times newspaper: “To access ContactPoint for the purposes of prevention or detection of crime or for the prosecution of offenders, police would have to make a special request directly to the Secretary of State or the local authority.”
The government says it will connect the different services dealing with children to allow police, council staff, head teachers, doctors and care and probation workers to more easily see if a child is at risk.
ContactPoint records will be updated until children turn 18 then kept in an archive for six years before being destroyed, meaning they can be accessed until a young person reaches 24. Those who have learning difficulties or who are in care will remain on the live system until they turn 25, so their archived records will be available into their 30s.
The government’s decision to press ahead with ContactPoint comes despite a November 2007 report it commissioned from Deloite and Touche that identified a “significant risk” to the system due to differing security procedures from organisations who will access the data.
The review was commissioned following the November 2007 security failure by HM Revenue and Customs (HRMC) on child benefit data.