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Electronic Children's Database

Volume 449: debated on Tuesday 25 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to the answer of 6 July 2006, Official Report, column 1384W, on the Electronic Children’s Database (1) what plans he has to prevent accidental loss or theft of data stored in the index; (86889)

(2) what plans there are (a) to link and (b) to enable data-sharing between the Information Sharing Index and the National Identity Register;

(3) what rights (a) children, (b) their parents and (c) children on the index who have reached adulthood will have to view their personal data stored on the Information Sharing Index;

(4) what legal requirement there will be permanently to delete information from the Information Sharing Index once (a) the child reaches adulthood and (b) a set period of time has passed;

(5) whether the Information Sharing Index will hold (a) fields and (b) information for Audit Trail log files on which organisations or individuals have been examining or amending individual records;

(6) what the differences are between the Information Sharing Index database and Integrated Children’s system database;

(7) what plans he has to introduce offences for the misuse or abuse of the database;

(8) whether he plans to establish the statutory limitation on what data the Information Sharing Index will hold and which public sector bodies can access the database by means of (a) primary legislation and (b) secondary legislation.

In relation to questions 86889 and 86903, the Information Sharing Index will be designed to ensure a high level of physical and environmental security to protect against natural hazards that could interrupt service. Arrangements will be in place to enable operations to continue effectively, notwithstanding any system component failures. There will be an effective and tested contingency plan that would, for example, ensure that a back-up system is in place.

We see no need to introduce specific offences as there are already measures in criminal law which impose penalties for theft or misuse of data or unauthorised access to computer records. Mandatory training for all users and operators of the index will stipulate that the Data Protection Act provides that a serious offence, with a penalty of a fine up to the statutory maximum, will be committed where personal data is unlawfully obtained or disclosed without the consent of the data controller. The Computer Misuse Act 1990 provides that unauthorised access, or attempted unauthorised access to a program or data held on a computer may be punishable by imprisonment.

In relation to question 86901, all index use will be monitored through the creation of an audit trail record. Users will be required to supply a valid reason when searching for and viewing an index record. All access to any record will be recorded and reviewed regularly for suspicious patterns of access. Misuse of the index will therefore be detected and dealt with through internal disciplinary procedures or the criminal measures referred to.

In relation to question 86890, the index will not be linked to the National Identity Register, nor are there plans for data-sharing between them.

In relation to questions 86892 and 86891, the Children Act 2004 provides that records of children and young people will remain on the index until they reach age 18. There is also provision for records of young people who receive additional services—for example, care leavers and those with learning disabilities—to remain on the index, with their consent, up to age 25 in order to provide continued support in the transition to adult services. We will be consulting over the autumn on draft regulations that will, among other issues, propose a period of time during which records will be kept in a secure archive before permanent destruction.

Children, young people, and parents when acting on their behalf, have rights under the Data Protection Act to see the data that is held about them on the index and to request that incorrect data is corrected or removed.

In relation to question 86902, the Information Sharing Index is a central database containing a basic record on all children in England, with contact details of practitioners working with them. There will be no case information on the index record. The Integrated Children’s System (ICS) is not a database. ICS is a framework that provides a set of principles for case record management by local practitioners working with individual children in need (as defined under the Children Act 1989) and looked-after children. ICS is not itself an IT system, but it is IT-enabled to help practitioners carry out their key tasks effectively.

In relation to question 86978, section 12 of the Children Act 2004, and affirmative resolution regulations to be made under section 12, will set out the information that must or may be included on the index and specify the types of practitioner whose role would make it appropriate for them to have access. Consultation on the draft regulations will run over the autumn.