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Civil servants' pro-Labour memo reignites child data controversy

Tories ask questions on civil service impartiality

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The memo in full

As posted by Ideal Government

CONTACTPOINT - UNIVERSAL SYSTEM VS SELECTIVE SYSTEM

The Conservatives propose to replace ContactPoint with a selective system covering only vulnerable children, such as those in care, on the child protection register or with backgrounds of domestic violence. This is similar to the approach being developed in Scotland – Getting it right for every child - and is more akin to what the electronic Common Assessment Framework (eCAF) and the Integrated Children's System (ICS) projects are seeking to achieve in England, than it is to ContactPoint.

ContactPoint has a different, wider purpose. It is, principally, about supporting early intervention for children who need additional services (30% at any one time and 50% during their lives) and is universal by design.

A 'universal' system recognises that children move in and out of the spectrum of need and that it is not possible to predict the need for, or timing of, additional services. It is much less stigmatising - no judgement is required about who should be included or not. With a selective system, such as that proposed by the Conservatives, practitioners may make decisions about the needs or vulnerability of a child in absence of all of the available information, because they can only contact and speak to practitioners they can identify and locate, rather than all those known to be working with the child.

Holding records only for children judged to be 'vulnerable' would require subjective judgments about whether the threshold for inclusion on the system had been met and, importantly, further judgments about when to remove records from the system. It is proportionate to hold a small amount of information on all children, rather than continually making threshold decisions about which children to put onto a system and which to take off.

Without ContactPoint, being able to identify and contact others working with the same child is a frustrating and time consuming process. Practitioners would much rather invest time in providing services to children, young people and families. A survey of nearly 3,000 said that, on average, practitioners need to make contact with other services 107 times a year, averaging 4 hours each time.

Universality: in the light of the case of Victoria Climbié Victoria’s Aunt was claiming child benefit and had registered Victoria with two GPs. On both counts, Victoria’s details would have been supplied to ContactPoint and so would have been available to authorised users, regardless of any cause for concern. Had ContactPoint existed, social workers who came into contact with Victoria and had looked up her details, would have found that she was known as a child living in England and was registered with a GP. She would also have been listed in a Children Missing Education report and her absence from education would have been followed up by her local authority. Consequently, she may have been placed in a school, where her condition would have been observed daily and a Common Assessment may have been undertaken as a result.

Victoria was not assessed, by those who saw her as a child with additional needs. It is questionable whether she would have appeared on a selective system of vulnerable children.

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