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Children: ContactPoint

Volume 707: debated on Monday 26 January 2009

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I can confirm to the House that the first steps to activate the Government’s online directory of children’s services—ContactPoint—will begin today.

ContactPoint, developed in response to a key recommendation of the Laming inquiry into the tragic death of Victoria Climbié, is a directory to support better communication among practitioners across education, health, social care and youth offending 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. It is a vital tool to help keep children safe because it is absolutely crucial the right agencies are involved at the right time and get even better at sharing information. And it will also help practitioners to improve outcomes for all children.

Under current child safeguarding arrangements, if a professional believes a child is at risk they may have no immediate way of knowing whether other services are already in contact with that child. The Government believe a fully operational system could save at least 5 million hours of professionals’ time, currently wasted trying to track down who else, if anyone, is helping the child.

The first stage of delivery of ContactPoint will enable 19 early adopter organisations—17 local authorities in the north-west of England and two national voluntary sector partners, Barnardo’s and KIDS—to train their ContactPoint management teams. It also allows all local authorities to start to shield a small proportion of records on ContactPoint. This additional precautionary measure is appropriate for records of children who are at risk of significant harm. These might include children with particular vulnerable circumstances, such as children from families on police protection schemes, or where one parent has been the victim of domestic abuse, or in certain cases where the child has been adopted.

These are significant steps on the journey to making ContactPoint fully available. We are taking a steady and incremental approach to implementation, ensuring we evaluate as we progress and adapt our approach if required.

No information on children’s cases will be held on ContactPoint and it will not be possible to download content. It is a simple online tool containing:

minimal identifying information for each child in England: name, address, date of birth, gender, and contact details for parents or carers. Each child will also have a unique identifying number;

contact details for the child’s educational setting and GP practice and for other practitioners or services working with the child; and

an indication as to whether a service or practitioner holds an assessment under the common assessment framework, or whether they are a lead professional for that child.

Security is of paramount importance. We have put in place comprehensive arrangements to prevent inappropriate access to the information on the system and ongoing security will remain a priority.

ContactPoint is backed by major children’s organisations, such as Barnardo’s and Action for Children, teachers’ unions like NASUWT as well as the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Children’s Inter-Agency Group whose members include NSPCC, the LGA and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

I will provide an update to Parliament in the spring