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UK.gov child data-sharing scheme delayed (again)

Controversial ContactPoint hit by 'user interface problems'

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ContactPoint, the government's planned database to cover every child in England and Wales, has been delayed again, but officials said fears over the potential for massive data losses were not to blame this time.

The scheme had been scheduled to go live in April this year, but was delayed until October by government-wide inquiries into repeated data losses, most notably by HMRC. Yesterday the Department for Children, Schools and Families said user interface problems now mean ContactPoint won't be ready until January.

Brennan told MPs: "We have identified some issues as a result of recent system tests which we are working urgently to address." ContactPoint has been built by CapGemini.

The database will store and share contact details between schools, social services, doctors and other agencies who have contact with and keep records on children.

It won't contain specific case details, but will keep a record of when a child is seen, and allow workers to get in touch with each other if they believe it is necessary. Critics have argued that provisions allowing "for the prevention or detection of crime" will mean police and prosecutors could use ContactPoint to trawl for suspects or to stigmatise young people based on their history.

The Conservatives scorned government claims the latest delay was not caused by security problems. Shadow families minister Maria Miller said: "There were clear indications in February of significant security concerns with this database. Only now, with just weeks to go until the project is supposed to go live, have they finally agreed to pull back to try to iron out some of the problems. Ministers now need to come clean and confirm whether this delay is because children's personal information is at risk."

The Liberal Democrats called for the project to be scrapped altogether, saying the HMRC data loss reviews proved the government could not be trusted on security.

ContactPoint is the flagship of the "Every Child Matters" initiative launched by the government following the murder of Victoria Climbié. An inquiry found her abuse could have been stopped if departments who held information on her case had communicated. ®

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