(2) what guidance his Department has given to local authorities on the shielding of children's personal data on the ContactPoint database;
(3) what steps his Department is taking to ensure consistency across local authorities in their implementation of data shielding under ContactPoint;
(4) what recent estimate he has made of the number of records that will be subject to shielding on the ContactPoint database.
ContactPoint is an online tool to enable support for children and young people to be effectively coordinated and ensure that they do not slip through the net. It will contain basic identifying information about all children and young people in England, up to their 18th birthday, and contact details for their parents/carers and for services working with a child or young person and nothing more. ContactPoint will be the quick way for practitioners to find out who else is working with the same child.
Shielding of a small proportion of records on ContactPoint is an additional precautionary measure appropriate in the case of children who are at risk of significant harm if their whereabouts were to become known. Parents who believe this to be the case can contact their local authority and make a request for the record to be shielded on ContactPoint. Local authorities will apply the criteria set out in statutory guidance to determine whether it is appropriate to shield the record on ContactPoint. Such decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis and may take into account the level of threat posed, and the views of the child or young person in question, their parents or carers and any practitioners involved with the child.
Where the child, young person, parent/carer or practitioner disagrees with a shielding decision, they should follow existing procedures in the local authority for complaints and appeals.
Comprehensive national guidance on shielding policy and processes has been made available to all local authorities:
The ContactPoint Guidance, which was made available to local authorities in July 2008, sets out the policy on shielding.
Best Practice Processes: Manage Data, which was made available to local authorities in August 2008, sets out the recommended business processes for shielding.
Additional guidance, produced in response to specific questions asked by local authorities, was made available in December 2008.
The policy and processes for shielding have been informed by the experience of a range of bodies including the Children's Society, Women's Aid, the Greater London Domestic Violence Project, the National Police Improvement Agency and the Association of Chief Police Officers.
We are not in a position at this early point to provide a definitive figure for numbers of records that may be shielded. However, early indications are that between one and two hundred records on average may be shielded in each local authority.
The total costs for implementing the system are estimated at £224 million, unchanged since I announced in December 2005 that the Government would proceed with this project. These estimated costs include the costs of adapting systems that will supply the data to ContactPoint and adapting the day-to-day systems used by practitioners so they can access ContactPoint from their own systems. It also includes the costs to ensure security, data accuracy and staff training. Operating costs thereafter are estimated to be £41 million per year. Most of this will go directly to local authorities to fund staff to ensure the ongoing security, accuracy and audit of ContactPoint.
The following table shows actual and anticipated expenditure by year, broken down into set up costs and operating costs.
Set up Operating Total 2005-06 (pre-project) 2,157 0 2,157 2006-07 (actual) 28,337 0 28,337 2007-08 (actual) 64,823 0 64,823 2008-09 (forecast) 66,853 5,019 71,872 2009-10 (forecast) 51,181 43,844 95,025 2010-11 (forecast) 11,901 42,508 54,409 2011-12 (forecast) 0 38,898 38,898 Total 223,095 130,269 353,364