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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 15:10 GMT
Call to scrap children's database
Children
The database will list the details of every child in England
The government faces calls to scrap a database containing the details of every child in England after a report said it could never be secure.

The report, by accountants Deloitte and Touche, was ordered after last year's missing data discs crisis.

Ministers say they accept its call for "further controls" on the 224m ContactPoint child protection system.

But they have come under fire from the Lib Dems and Tories for refusing to publish the full report.

ContactPoint will begin operation in September or October this year, five months later than planned.

It will list the name, address and date of birth of every child in England and contact details for their parents, doctors and schools.

We will not, therefore, publish the full report in order to minimise the kind of security risk our procedures are designed to prevent
Kevin Brennan
Children's minister

Every child will be given a "unique identifying number".

The aim is that health, education and social workers will share information on young people to stop children being missed by different services.

'Practical steps'

The Deloitte report identified "a significant risk" to ContactPoint from the security procedures of local councils and other organisations accessing the database.

The report said: "It should be noted that risk can only be managed, not eliminated, and therefore there will always be a risk of data security incidents occurring.

Given the government's record of incompetence in keeping data safe it is difficult to trust their decision not to publish this report in full
Maria Miller
Conservatives

"What is important is that all practical steps to reduce the risk of incidents occurring are taken and, when an incident occurs, that it is handled and managed effectively."

It added: "We recommend that further controls are introduced over the access to data by central system users such as database administrators and report programmers."

Children's minister Kevin Brennan said he accepted the report's recommendations.

Impact assessment

In a written statement, Mr Brennan told MPs: "The review has correctly identified that we have significant controls in place to ensure the security of the core database but has identified some areas in which these could be further improved.

"The ContactPoint project will undertake a rapid impact assessment to determine the most effective approach in our specific context, and will build this into the deployment plan."

This intrusive project should be scrapped.
Annette Brooke
Lib Dems

But the government has been attacked by the Conservatives and Lib Dems for its refusal to publish the Deloitte report in full, releasing only a five-page summary.

Shadow Families Minister Maria Miller said: "The government did not say that the Deloitte report would be confidential when it was announced in November last year and it is unacceptable for (schools secretary) Ed Balls to decide to withhold the findings now.

"Given the government's record of incompetence in keeping data safe it is difficult to trust their decision not to publish this report in full.

"ContactPoint cannot be allowed to go ahead when such fundamental problems have been uncovered"

Annette Brooke, Lib Dem spokeswoman on children, young people and families, said the report undermined all of the government's previous assurances that the database would be secure.

She added: "This intrusive project should be scrapped.

"Instead of paying for expensive consultants, ministers should have listened to what I and many organisations were saying when the plans were debated last July."

Mr Brennan said the report had not been published in full for security reasons.

"The main body of the report necessarily includes information about the security arrangements for ContactPoint.

"We will not, therefore, publish the full report in order to minimise the kind of security risk our procedures are designed to prevent."

SEE ALSO
Anger over pupils database plan
13 Feb 08 |  UK Politics
Child database system postponed
27 Nov 07 |  Education
Concern at pupil data microchips
23 Nov 07 |  Education
Data minister 'not told of discs'
26 Nov 07 |  UK Politics

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