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UK.gov rejects calls to open up on ContactPoint security

Report on child database kept under wraps

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The UK government has turned down an opposition request to explain why it has refused to publish a full security report into ContactPoint, the controversial child protection database.

Deloitte carried out of a security audit of the scheme but the government only published an executive summary, rather than the whole report, back in February. Repeated requests by the opposition Conservatives to publish the full report were turned down, so the Tories put in a Freedom of Information request, seeking to uncover the rationale behind the decision to keep the details of the report secret.

This request has also been turned down on the grounds that advice to ministers ought to remain confidential or else advisers would hold back from giving their honest opinion in future. The Tories rejected this justification.

Shadow Children's Minister, Tim Loughton, expressed frustration and anger over the decision not to publish the report.

"It's outrageous that the Government will not publish the full security report into ContactPoint," Loughton said. "And it's completely absurd that a minister should personally block any information relating to that decision not to publish."

"We can only assume that the full report reflects the concerns of security experts and details how insecure and potentially dangerous this latest Government database really is. What has the Government got to hide?"

The ContactPoint system is due to include names and addresses of every child under 18 in England. Around 11 million records will be included in the planned database, which is being created in response to the murder of Victoria Climbié by her abusive guardians in 2000.

The system is designed to provide social workers, police and hospitals with common access to contact details on children and other professionals that might be working with them. Case history files will be left off the database which will only include details such as the name, address, date of birth, gender, and contact information for parents or guardian for children. Information on a child’s school, family doctor and other carers working with the youngster will also appear in database entries.

Contact details regarding an estimated 52,000 at-risk children will be shielded. Security experts have warned that the size of the database and the large number of people who will have access to it makes information leaks almost inevitable.

ContactPoint will cost an estimated £224m to establish, with annual running costs of around £44m. The scheme falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Children, Schools and Families.

A national rollout of the database, following limited trials, was announced on 6 November.

The Conservatives are opposed to the scheme on both cost and privacy risk grounds. The Tories have promised to scrap the program, if elected in a general election that must happen next year. In the meantime the opposition is challenging the government of the security and cost implications of the database, which it argues is unnecessary.

In parliamentary questions earlier this month, ministers were asked to explain how reports of security breaches on the database would be handled. Dawn Primarolo, minister of state, responded that users with access to the database will be vetted and an audit trail will be maintained to ensure that incidents can be investigated.

Her full reply is recorded in Hansard. ®

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