Feeds

DCSF reins in ContactPoint scope for police and A&E staff

Frontline access frozen by political fears

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The Department for Children, Schools and Families is resisting broadening access to the ContactPoint database for police officers and A&E staff, two groups most people would consider to be the frontline of spotting child abuse.

Staff from the department admitted that this was for politcal expediency rather that to prevent overly wide access to the controversial database.

ACPO raised concerns at a meeting of the Information Sharing Advisory Group in August that "children will slip through the net" unless police had broad access to the system. The meeting also heard how the ContactPoint Database will not be made available to NHS staff working in A&E departments.

A representative for the Department for Children, Schools and Families suggested at the meeting that using the ContactPoint system to check on every child was likely to be unnecessary.

This is in spite of the fact that the DCSF has repeatedly argued that total inclusiveness is absolutely necessary to improve detection of child abuse. It also undermines ministerial contentions that ContactPoint will help to avoid a repeat of the Victoria Climbié case, which was characterised by the child being brought at different times to different casualty departments.

The DCSF went on to resist pressure from an ACPO representative for greater availability to serving Police Officers on what look suspiciously like political grounds.

Responding to Police concerns that access to ContactPoint was too restricted, the DCSF observed that "the department would find it hard to go back to Parliament to say that 200,000 police officers would now like access".

It was at this point that the ACPO spokesperson expressed their concern that children might slip through the net and wonít be safeguarded. The DCSF response was: "You could not guarantee this anyway".

At the same meeting, a representative from the Office of the Information Commissioner raised the issue of how ContactPoint could be made available in a busy A&E department without compromising security.

A member of the Barts and London Trust questioned how checking on children in such circumstances could be possible. Various other committee members suggested ways in which wider access in A&E could either help support detection of issues of child abuse or help improve the use of resources.

However, the DCSF made it clear that agreement had been reached with the Department of Health for A&E visits to be recorded on the NHS System and that A&E visits tended to be for minor concerns anyway.

Responding to the above revelations, Maria Miller MP, Conservative spokesperson on this issue, said: "The government has a poor record when it comes to setting up and managing large databases and is unable to give an undertaking that highly sensitive data about children will be 100 per cent safe.

"The welfare of children has to be our paramount consideration and that is why we would scrap Contact Point and ensure safer collection of data at the local level with a focus on protecting the most vulnerable children."

This debate would suggest that the inevitable cracks are finally begining to appear in the ContactPoint project. The logic of ContactPoint - and the original justification for it - suggests that it should be as widely accessible as possible

However, public concerns over government handling of data mean that it is no longer acceptable to give it the degree of access it needs. Instead, each category of user is likely to have to feed their requests through local gatekeepers.

This will make it less effective - and also impact on the cost savings the government claimed ContactPoint would bring about. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.