Skip to main content

DNA: Databases

Volume 495: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many young people aged under 16 years have their details recorded on the ONSET database; and how many such details have been added in the last 12 months; (283051)

(2) which (a) organisations and (b) individuals have access to the information contained in his Department’s ONSET database;

(3) what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the ONSET database in predicting levels of future criminal activity;

(4) what rights of access an individual has to their personal information held on the ONSET database;

(5) how many people have had personal information held on his Department’s ONSET database removed in each year since its inception;

(6) for how long personal information held on his Department’s ONSET database is retained; and what criteria apply for its earlier deletion from the database;

(7) what his most recent estimate is of the average annual cost of the operation of his Department’s ONSET database; and how much has been spent on the ONSET database since the commencement of the project.

I have been asked to reply.

ONSET is a set of assessment and referral tools designed by the Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford, for use by local authorities’ youth offending teams to support their work to prevent crime. ONSET identifies whether a child or young person would benefit from an early intervention in order to help prevent antisocial behaviour and offending.

ONSET also helps to ensure the effectiveness of the intervention by determining the risk factors that should be reduced and the protective factors that should be enhanced in any given case based on the individual’s assessment. In 2008-09, youth offending teams reported to the Youth Justice Board that 15,752 children and young people had an ONSET assessment.

The profiles generated by ONSET are stored on the electronic and paper record systems used by local authorities. These systems can be accessed only by the multi-agency staff working for youth offending teams, such as health workers, police officers, social workers, probation officers and housing officers. Access to and sharing of such information is subject to the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998. The Youth Justice Board has issued guidance to youth offending teams on compliance with the Act and on effective record keeping and information sharing practice. Children, young people and their parents can have access to the information on request. The guidance also advises on the periods for which certain data should be retained. The length of time ONSET data might be retained will depend on local authorities’ own data retention policies and on issues such as whether the young person goes on to offend, the nature of the offence and the disposal applied.