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Teenagers wary of new children's database

Confidentiality and security concerns

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Lack of trust may hinder the children's index, according to a new survey.

Teenagers have said they might stop telling practitioners about their problems because they do not trust the confidentiality of the new national children's database.

Research by the Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) has revealed that the Children's Information Sharing Index is causing anxiety and arousing suspicion.

Young people, aged 14 to 20, polled by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children for the OCC, said they may be deterred from using family planning and mental health services if they thought information about their use was not confidential. They also said they are worried about the security of the index and the "potential risks" of having such a huge amount of information in one place.

"Several commented that every system has its weaknesses and that they expected there would eventually be a breach of security," the report says.

The teenagers also expressed anxieties that data about them would not always be accurately recorded and kept up to date.

Many of those polled were adamant that teachers should not have use of the system, citing examples of teachers sharing information about bullying which may place them at "greater risk".

The report recommends that the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), which is in charge of the index, and other government departments give serious consideration to maintaining data quality.

An OCC spokesperson told GC News: "(Practitioners) only get limited access to the index and the DfES has just launched a consultation so they can get the views of young people."

The index will be launched in 2008 in England and Wales at an initial cost of £224m. The government says to protect young people the state must gather records on 12m children and their families.

Information held in separate local databases, family doctors' records, nursery reports, and children's examinations will be put into one system.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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