Scrapping of ContactPoint database begins

Logins for the multi-million-pound database, which contains details of 11 million children in the UK, were deleted at noon on Friday
Written by David Meyer, Contributor on

The Department for Education deleted the logins for the ContactPoint database at noon on Friday, ahead of the deletion of the entire database of details of 11 million UK children.

ContactPoint, an information-sharing project that was established in the wake of the Victoria Climbié child abuse scandal, was marked for scrapping as soon as the coalition government took power. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats always opposed it, as did privacy campaigners who expressed fears over the security of a centralised, comprehensive database of every child in the country.

Tim Loughton, the minister for children and families, said on Friday morning's Today programme that almost 15,000 people had access to ContactPoint. If the database were to be rolled out in its entirety — as it was supposed to be under Labour's original plans — it would be accessible to 390,000 people, Loughton told the BBC Radio 4 team.

"We don't think that spreading very thinly a resource which contains details of all 11 million children in the entire country — more than 90 percent of which will never come into contact with Children's Services — is... the best way of safeguarding genuinely vulnerable children," Loughton said.

According to a spokesman for the Department for Education (DfE), the whole database — the cost of which was projected to be £227m between 2010 and 2015 — will be deleted "as soon as possible".

"The disks will be wiped clean and destroyed," the DfE spokesman said. "This is a thorough process — all the back-ups are going to be destroyed."

Guy Herbert, the general secretary of privacy campaigners No2ID, said on Friday that his organisation was "plainly quite pleased" at the end of ContactPoint.

"Having a system to share case information is perfectly sensible, but having a system that automatically includes everybody and is designed to share information more widely is really not on," he told ZDNet UK.

However, Herbert warned that ContactPoint is "in some ways just the icing on the cake".

"There is the whole problem of the electronic Common Assessment Framework, which is still being rolled out, which is a vastly more comprehensive database state piece of machinery," Herbert said, referring to another IT system set up by Labour to support child protection workers. "It doesn't apply to everybody, but it does apply to a very high proportion of the population."

"[The end of ContactPoint] is a step in the right direction, but it's still a long way from proper privacy for children and families," he added.

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