The UK government has formally launched Contactpoint, a highly controversial database that will in the long-run contain the personal details of all children in the United Kingdom.
All British citizens under the age of 18 years will be registered on that database; this amounts to 11 million individuals and will have cost the taxpayers a staggering £224 million.
Contactpoint was devised after the murder in February 2000 of Victoria Climbié by her guardians in London and followed a report by Lord Laming which proved instrumental in getting the national database pushed ahead.
The project has already been delayed twice because of potential data security issues; a report by independent auditors also claims that Contactpoint would never be totally secure.
Once Contactpoint is rolled out, more than 390,000 across dozens of departments will be able to extract information albeit after extensive training on the system.
Details stored will include a unique ID number, the name, address, date of birth, gender as well as contact details for the parents or carers, school, GP practice and services working with the child.
A minority of the 11 million under-18 will have their identities shielded because they are considered vulnerable by the social services. Contactpoint is expected to allow workers across several governmental agencies to coordinate their actions more efficiently and ultimately, provide a better service to children in the UK.
However, Contactpoint which is launched almost a decade after the death of little Victoria Climbié comes too late for two children who suffered the same fate as her.
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The Laming report published back in February 2003 underlines other shortcomings in the failure of a system that is supposed to be caring for the most vulnerable members of the community. Yet, just as in the case of Baby P, it seems that the failure to care was systemic with senior management particularly oblivious to the needs of front line workers. Will Contactpoint change this? Probably not.
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