On 26 January, I announced to the House the first steps to deploy the Government’s online directory—ContactPoint. I can today provide an update on progress in delivering ContactPoint, and outline the next steps.
ContactPoint has been developed in response to a key recommendation of Lord Laming’s inquiry into the tragic death of Victoria Climbié and is a vital tool designed to help keep children safe. In order to protect children it is crucial to ensure that the right agencies are involved at the right time and to improve the sharing of information between practitioners. ContactPoint will also help practitioners to improve outcomes for all children. It is a tool for practitioners to support better communication among practitioners working with children and young people across education, health, social care and youth offending services in the statutory and voluntary sectors. It will provide a quick way for those practitioners to find out who else is working with the same child or young person and ensure their best interests are promoted.
Under current arrangements, if a practitioner believes that a child is at risk or may need additional support, for example if they have a disability, they may have no way of knowing whether other services have been, or are already in contact with that child. In addressing these issues, the Government estimate that ContactPoint, when fully operational, can save at least 5 million hours of professionals’ time, currently spent trying to track down who else, if anyone, is helping the child. Supporting professionals in this way is an important element of the plan of action I announced last week in response to Lord Laming’s report on child protection. Lord Laming said in that report: “The new ContactPoint system will have particular advantages in reducing the possibility of children for whom there are concerns going unnoticed”.
Since January, important progress has been made. Seventeen early adopter local authorities in the north west of England, along with leading national charities, Barnardo’s and KIDS, now have trained management teams in preparation for practitioners to start to use the system. At the same time, as part of the extensive ContactPoint security arrangements, local authorities have shielded the records of children who are potentially at greater risk if their whereabouts were to become known, to provide an additional layer of security, (for example, if a child is fleeing domestic violence or is under witness protection, or in some cases where children have been adopted). Approximately 52,000 records have now been shielded on ContactPoint.
Building on this work, we will continue to take an incremental and steady approach to delivery. We are now moving ahead with the second phase of delivery. From 18 May, and over a period of several weeks, ContactPoint early adopters will train around 800 practitioners to use ContactPoint. They have been hand-picked to ensure they reflect the broad range of professionals working for children’s services organisations who will use ContactPoint when the directory is fully rolled out. We will carefully monitor the activity of those practitioners considering what further improvements may be required in the light of their experience of using the system.
From June to August, we will train management teams in the other local authorities and national partners. This will allow them to prepare for deployment of ContactPoint more widely in due course.
Throughout this second phase, we will continue to evaluate the experience of early adopters. This will ensure that the deployment of ContactPoint continues to take account of the experience of new users in the next stages of delivery.
ContactPoint continues to be supported by major children’s organisations, such as NSPCC, Barnardo’s, Action for Children and KIDS, teachers’ unions including NASUWT, as well as the Association of Chief Police Officers, the British Association of Social Workers, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Children’s Inter-Agency Group whose members include the LGA and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.