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Tories plan streamlined children's database

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An incoming Conservative government would replace the ContactPoint database of all children in England with a system covering only those seen as vulnerable.

Its central system would cover only groups such as those in care, on the child protection register or with backgrounds of domestic violence, according to Tim Loughton, the shadow minister for children and young people.

Loughton told GC News that this would cost "substantially less" than the government's ContactPoint system, which has a budget of £224m and is planned to open in January. The number of children on the database would probably go into the hundred thousands.

"What we favour is putting the resources into better, beefed-up data sharing between the different agencies," he said, adding that this would involve direct data sharing between professionals at a local level.

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove announced the Conservative Party's intention to scrap ContactPoint at the party's conference in late September.

Its slimmed down national system would act as a signpost for children who move between local authorities, so professionals in their new area would have someone to contact to gather background information. "That way you would safeguard children moving over council boundaries, which would be particularly relevant in London," said Loughton.

The party is working on the detail of its policy, and this will be released before the next election. Loughton said he is involved in meetings with local authority practitioners to discuss this. However, the plans are based on a rejected amendment he made to the Children Act 2004.

Loughton said that he originally opposed ContactPoint on the basis that it will dilute efforts across all children, rather than focusing on the vulnerable. It could also discourage teenagers from accessing pregnancy and sexual health clinics, as their involvement with a service would be recorded.

He has since become concerned over the security of the system, the idea that the children of celebrities and MPs will not be on it and the question of which professional groups will have access. "The most recent concern is over the police having access in their enquiries," he said. "That was never considered when the legislation was passed."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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