back to article 'Child protection' database slammed as plod data mine

A new database purporting to help protect vulnerable children could be used by authorities to gather evidence against them for criminal prosecutions, it has emerged. The ContactPoint database is being promoted as a tool to ease cooperation between schools, social services and other authorites who hold information on kids. The …


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  1. Gilbert Wham

    Secretary of state OR local authority

    Well, that's alright then. Not like local councils will snoop on you for pettifogging & arbitrary reasons now, is it?

  2. Michael
    Black Helicopters

    Oh wow, a direct appeal to the local authority.

    Would these be the same local authorities who were recently encouraged to use their powers to snoop on the public more?

  3. Christoph

    The innocent have nothing to fear

    "police would have to make a special request directly to the Secretary of State or Local Authority"

    Anyone want to bet on how long it will be before the first police demand for easier access? Or how long it will take before they are allowed to stroll through the database at will and datamine it for easy targets?

  4. Whitter

    Dear editor

    Please don't use the term "slammed" in headlines, except where it would (likely unusually) be appropriate. You may be a "red top" by colour scheme but you don't need to follow the editorial guidelines thereof.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Function Creep

    This is absolutely diabolical. A database that was once stated will be used to provide a certain function, has since its inception evolved into something else.

    Requirements/function creep.

    And people think this will not happen with other large databases the government is planning?

    Yet more erosions of civil liberties. The sooner we kick this Labour government out the better: they've a very real threat to society, it's all about control.

  6. Bronek Kozicki

    "not for the protection of their children, it could be used to prosecute them"

    surely it's the same thing?

  7. AC
    Gates Halo

    24 and over

    Sounds like im safe then, let the kids get meddled, not my problem (;

  8. Lord Nikon

    But that was in the past!

    Well you thought it was!

    Haha. Where are all the 'I've got nothing to hide' lot? Yep, you might not have anything to hide, but your children might.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    An estimated 330,000 people...

    I hope the auditing and information governance security systems will be on there to watch what these 330,000 people are doing.... *sighs*

    Really though - they delay its release because of loss of data issues and then go and give a system to monitor every child to all these people.

    Surely the system just needs better Social Services links to the Police and Medical Systems to avoid another Victoria Climbié. The amount of "snow" of innocent children and parents on the system will detract from the actual real cases of abuse and could risk those children actually being missed.

    Surely the system just needs to track children who are at risk not every child.

    But then again we're in a surveilance society now aren't we?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    French commies are leaving Britain behind!

    Whilst usually leading western countries to a glorious and crime-free future, Britain's actions are, in that instance, disappointing. In an disgraceful move, the French have outpaced the British when it comes to helping children … go to prison.

    Since 2004, their “base-élève” system has been filled with detailed information on children's (and their families') problems and psycho-social background kindly provided on a daily basis by teachers and social workers. And for a year now, mayors are using this information to “prevent delinquency” in collaboration with the police. Now that's what I call “child protection”!

    I hope that Mr Brown will react swiftly to this disgrace. A large injection of cash and CapGemini's unqualified involvement may still allow Britain to catch up and show the southern Grand Frêre who Big Brother really is!

  11. micheal
    Dead Vulture

    and remember of course

    this wont show on their enhanced CRB check when they get older, honest, would the home secretary lie to you? Oh yes, and we'll have to keep the rumours and unfounded allegations, of course to show you commited that crime later in life, when you were 4, you trod on an ant....shows the pattern your life was taking, cant have criminals loose now.........pathetic government of our pathetic politically correct country

  12. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Dear Whitter

    Of course. Our apologies. We vow to give 'slammed' the chop forthwith.

    Or! Not.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Education Degree Drop-Out

    I just dropped out of an EYE Foundation Degree because I could not stomach mouthing the pap contained in the "Safeguarding Children" Module.

    Two points here :- On one hand they talk or "Rights" and "Privacy" while taking both away, and on the other every right should be balanced by a responsibility, the Do Gooders keep harping on about children's "Rights", but not once have I EVER heard mention children's responsibilities.

    Do they even know what they are???

    Mines the coat with the Worcester University ID Badge pinned to the collar.

  14. Tony

    Think about this

    "An estimated 330,000 people will have access to ContactPoint"

    This is a large number of people with access to a database that contains sensitive information. (I make it just over 1% of the adult population?)

    It also seems likely that that will be about one adult with access for every child in the database.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Teacher Smiths Naughty/Nice List

    So everything about every kid will be stored on a big database and made available to every official for every reason every-time it's wanted.

    And the kids don't get a say in it because they're too young to vote. And even when they're not too young it will still be stored regardless of their wishes for 6 further years.

    And it's important for the Head Teacher to know if the Rozzers moved you on from a street corner for hanging around, so he can issue some sort of punishment too.

    And it's important that your Headmaster knows if the social worker came round to check your home is happy so he can look at you in a suspicion manner too.

    And your dinner lady needs to know if your mum is on benefit or not, so she look down on you with an extra portion of chips.

    Or perhaps you have AIDS, the dinner lady needs to now that so she can wear gloves and step back in fear.

    Or perhaps it's just head lice you're being treated for, it's important the nit nurse knows this so she can warn the kids in the school.

    And the plastic policeman who demands your identity can check the database to see if you've been doing your homework and so should be curfewed.

    Yes kids, your NuLabour government cares for you, in the same way it cares for maximum security prisoners.

  16. myxiplx

    Not sure I see the problem?

    Kid commits a crime, police get to use known, accurate information on that kid to help prosecute them, saving time and money, and protecting the public.

    That's exactly the kind of information I want the police to have. Lets them get on with the job of policing instead of duplicating work gathering evidence.

  17. Richard Thomas

    Prior art

    Why are they paying for this to be developed at all? Wouldn't it be cheaper to just license it from the original developer - I think it was a Mr S. Claus, you can find him at the North Pole.

  18. Elmer Phud

    Function Creeps

    Now we just need to link the iffy databases to iffy face-recognition software running on iffy local CCTV and our kiddies are safe again.

    No, it's not 'for the children', it's for the developers, hardware sellers and investors. And local and national politicians who need to be seen to be 'doing something' - whatever that means.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There was a public outcry over base-élève (French version of this) and they did a major backtrack in June 2008. The parents rebelled, all but the most basic (emergency contact details etc.) of info was deleted from the database and controls put in as to who can see it. They're still not happy mind you, expect a few more burning cars yet....

    I can't find an English article but a mechanical translation is of a few relevant paras....

    "The Sinking of BE1D"… This could be a film title, where Xavier Darcos play the role of good commander, saving what remains of the ship BE1D (Base students of the first degree). ....

    Except that we are not in a movie, but in reality, seizing live in a statement, Thursday, June 12 at 19H23: Darcos will "expunge" the "basic students" everything that the mutineers demanded from the outset. ...

    "Mr. Darcos ensures that 'the new version of this tool will no longer show the profession and the social category of parents or family situation of the student, nor absentéïsme reported that no more data on special educational needs '. "

    For four years, the collective therefore request the Ministry of National Education and the Cnil to resolve these problems and failing to abandon 'base students, "delete the data potentially dangerous nationality, absenteeism, Special Needs Monitoring health or education for students in difficulty.

    Darcos had removed references to "nationality, date of entry into the territory, language spoken at home and culture of origin." This had resulted in May in a new declaration with the CNIL.

    Despite this, the collectives were mobilized more than ever.

    ...In addition to the new deletion of data, stopped being drafted will have "a strong normative value" and clarify "the prohibition to collect any data on the nationality and racial or ethnic origin of pupils and their parents or responsible... And there will be no use of previously collected data.

  20. Dave

    And what's your point?

    "Surely the system just needs better Social Services links to the Police and Medical Systems to avoid another Victoria Climbié. "

    Put aside the article's bias and isn't this exactly what this is?

  21. Steve Browne

    More mission creep

    Nice to know that all this innuendo will be around to haunt you for years afterwards.

    Bit like anti terror laws being used to stop people taking photographs in public. Only used in exceptional circumstances like plod getting his picture taken.

    Will someone rid us of this dreadful government and restore our liberty?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this also for "bad character evidence"

    The new type of 'evidence' the CPS introduced, where they can introduce 'evidence' that an accused person has been acquitted of charges before, inferring that there was something wrong with the acquitted...

    I wonder, could they use information from this database in the conviction of adults? Stuff like bad discipline record at work can be counted against you, I guess your school attendance record could be thrown in too to indicate a person of bad character..... plus of course any unsubstantiated and false allegations.

    I quote:

    "The definition of bad character is wide enough to apply to conduct arising out of a conviction, or conduct where there has been an acquittal"

    " ...and a person who has been charged with another offence, and a trial is pending, the use of the evidence relating to that charge in current proceedings."

    "'Reprehensible conduct' ...whether a particular kind of behaviour would be regarded as reprehensible by the public. The types of conduct that could come within this definition include: racism; bullying; a bad disciplinary record at work for misconduct; a parent who has had a child taken into care and of course minor pilfering from employers."

  23. Dave

    The far end of the bell curve

    It's almost certainly not politically correct to say so, but for a free society we have to accept the occasional case such as Victoria Climbié. The alternative is a system of regulatory oversight so draconian that no one would be able to do anything without approval from a government body. After all, we accept a certain level of death due to driving because to seriously reduce it would curtail personal freedom in a way that people would consider unacceptable. We accept a certain level of death in sport because by the nature of sport there's some element of danger - imagine the outcry if any sport with a hint of danger was banned (that would include football, cricket and rugby).

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yet another DataBase to lose


    Ladbrokes have opened a Book, on when the 1st reported "Loss" will occur.

    They've opened another one on when the 1st unreported "Loss" occured.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    The alternative... ?

    @ Dave,

    No; even with (even more) insane levels of state control, child abuse cases would still happen.

    The problem in the Victoria Climbié case was not that nobody had evidence. It was that - despite the almost entirely unaccountable powers they already had to take children from their parents under then-existing legislation - nobody did anything. One fairly junior social worker and the lack of a system to cover everyone's arses got the blame.

    We're getting the latter. It won't stop vile families torturing children to death. It may well act as a paedophile's address book. But at least it will provide lots of pretexts for official intervention in the lives of those who aren't so aggressive that the police are afraid of them (as with Climbié). And it will ensure that next time 300,000 people will each have such a tiny sliver of blame as their share that no-one will be able to point at anyone as having actual responsibility, or embarrass the child protection services, because a full audit trail of 'concerns' will be able to be produced to demonstrate everyone followed procedure.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Not fit for purpose.

    And still incompetent social workers will continue to allow children to die....

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I saw my local Council advertising for.....

    quote , "a Fat Child Catcher" wanted to help catch any child they think is overweight.Duties include surveillance of local streets ,catching kids and cleaning out the Pound after they are sent into care..." .

    Hmm, not long till this comes true by sounds of this Fascist Labour Govt.

  28. Gareth
    Thumb Down

    Databases are bad. Great example why.

    ""An estimated 330,000 people will have access to ContactPoint"

    This is a large number of people with access to a database that contains sensitive information. (I make it just over 1% of the adult population?)"

    Much as I dislike nonce-related hysteria, I vaguely remember a statistic that around 6% of males have paedophilic fantasies, so that's around 10,000 paedos with full access to children's details (assuming 50% of the users are male)... perhaps this could be used to launch a campaign against the database?

    It's a perfect example of why large, centralized government databases are a bad idea - this "safety database" thing's barely been open a few years and already it's being repurposed to be used against the people listed in it.

    Wonder how long it'll take before the national ID card database gets used for a similar purpose... 6 months? 1 year?

    I'm glad I left the UK (partly because I feared stuff like this)

  29. Anonymous Coward

    you dropped the trailing naught

    "But now The Telegraph reports that ContactPoint will also serve as an investigative data mine until young people reach their 24th birthday." I think they really mean until your 240th birthday. that should be just long enough with mission creep and government snooping and prying to get them by until national ID catched up with it. You have to believe that everyone and their mother (well, actually EXCEPT your mother or father) will have access to this database. I can see the local council popping around "just checking". ahahahahahahahaha

    Wonder how you can "opt-out" your sprog from this atrocity.

  30. Deryk Barker

    Of course minor pilfering from employers

    Of course!

    So any of us who has ever taken a pencil, paperclip, few sheets of A4, is of "bad character"?

    Why not simply decide that everyone is guilty of something unless they can prove their total innocence?

    Eric Blair, you should be living at this hour....

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    re the Victoria Climbié thing

    The likes of Victoria Climbié (informally adopted from abroad etc etc) are specifically excluded from the shiny new database, because they will make a mess of it. It's a local database for local people.

    The whole thing was set in motion by a guy who used to be chief bureaucrat at the DHSS, who, surprisingly, recommended more bureaucracy.

  32. Ian
    Thumb Up

    @ Whitter

    Agreed. Ms Bee, please also included "blasts" as well. Lots of people blast these days

  33. Wayland Sothcott
    Jobs Horns

    Slam and Blast

    With more powerful tools the authorities do seem to be making progress tackling crime. Or is that a perception fed to me by misleading government press releases? It feels like I am having my opinion changed, rather than changing my own mind.

    It has been suggested that with 300,000 people accessing the database that some of them may well be paedophiles. But then Jaqui Smith will be approving each one of them, if she can find the time. If a person likes children that much then they may gravitate to a profession where they get to work with children. Being investigated by a child protection official who likes to abuse children may well be an asset if you are a person abusing children.

    When we allow 'the proper authoritys' to have licenses for powers we don't have then we have allowed them a license to abuse. The paedophiles who get caught are the stupid ones, the smart ones become Child Protection officers.

    If social workers did not exist then the person reporting child abuse to a social worker would instead have done something about it themselves.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An estimated 330,000 people will have access to ContactPoint

    The headline is true. But what *everyone* fails to point out is that these 330k DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO EVERY RECORD in the database. For example, scocial services staff will only have access to records of children in their local authority geographic area; teachers will only have access to records of children attending their schools.

    Furthermore, all accesses are auditied so, again, for example, a social worker who accesses childrens' records when those children are not part of his/her caseload can be detected.

  35. Nile Heffernan

    Is there any point in having the word 'Confidential' in the dictionary?

    Linking-up personal data is almost always a bad idea: the inefficiency of needing to make 'phone calls and get authorisation to perform a task for one individual, when half-a-second's worth of cross-database SQL could do it for thousands, is actually a valuable safeguard. Because sometimes it's better not to join up the dots; to let it lie undisturbed.

    Now for some specifics, and a hypothetical... Just about *all* children with problems serious enough to need Social Services intervention and an entry on the 'At Risk' register get into trouble with the law at some point in their teenage years. I could wish that this wasn't the case, but it is.

    What we've created is a monster, like an overbearing Chief Constable who decides to raid the needle exchange schemes and seize the records at addiction clinics: it's class 'A' drugs, they're all criminals, and we've got to uphold the law, haven't we? Identify them, arrest them, prosecute them and give them all a criminal record. Yes, it happens: there are Daily Mail readers in the Police, too, and plenty of them on the Police Committee. Democratic accountability has a downside, and even the best policemen are sometimes forced to do stupid and damaging things.

    Now why would I call up such a shocking 'worst case' example of the misuse of power? Seeking help from Social Services - or, in the case of children on this new database, having help imposed on you - now carries a similar risk: nothing as overt as an immediate arrest, but if you ever were helped by the Social, you're an easy lookup on an all-too-convenient list of suspects and the Police can use the file to come knocking on your door every time they're short of the target for clear-up rates. And the courts will use it in evidence against you; your employers - prospective and present - will get hold of it; the press will get hold of it (Petition organiser has secret shame!!! Everyone who campaigns against our advertisers is a filthy pervert who was arrested at age 14!!!); blackmailers will get hold of it. Your wife's divorce lawyer will get hold of it. And all the time, you will have to declare it and answer intrusive questions, every time you interact with officialdom, justifying yourself over and over again.

    The core principle of our youth justice system is a belief - admittedly, somewhat naive - that the young are malleable, that young offenders can make a fresh start: what you did when you were legally a child will be dealt with *at the time* and that will be the end of the matter. Whatever it was, if it happened when you were legally a child, you are not deemed to be culpable to the same degree as an adult would be, and you will not be held to account throughout your adult life for your actions. Which is to say: the record is *closed* and the follies of your youth are a confidential matter between you and your guardians, and the law will leave it be.

    That freedom is now gone. We've just torn up an essential right to grow up, be declared an adult, and be free of a bad childhood. Three hundred and thirty thousand people will have all the access that they want, to everything you did before you were 18. That is to say: everyone who matters, everyone who has power over your life and work.

    Why not save all the consultancy fees and go back to branding them on the cheek?

    No, wait... Our barbaric forefathers didn't do that to children.

    Note, also, that although criminal offences are the point-of-access for this invasion, those three hundred thousand people will have access to everything you did. Criminal or not. Dealt with by the school, or the care home, or by referral to the Local Authority's educational psychology unit: everything.

    The word 'confidential' may as well be deleted from the dictionary. What a terrible price for being helped by the Social Services.

    As some readers have pointed out, you and I have nothing to fear. I sincerely hope that this was irony.

    Now for an ugly hypothetical: Social Workers are called-in, in all cases of incest and underage sex. This is probably he most sensitive work that anyone does, anywhere, and it, too, is surely on the database: this is, after all, a criminal matter. Take the worst case: school-age girls (and, in all probability, boys) working as prostitutes out of the care homes in a city in the Midlands. Yes, they got picked up by the Police. Repeatedly. Now what? Can the courts refer to them, years later, as 'A common Prostitute' if they are picked up by the Police, walking home alone in a dodgy area? Can the defence in a rape trial use this data?

    What will the less-scrupulous individuals on that third-of-a-million people with access to the 'confidential' data make of it?

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @Nile Heffernan

    Great speech, Nile.... what a shame that you have clearly never, ever undertaken any actual research about what you have set yourself on a soapbox about.

    ContactPoint is indeed a database... but it's a database of contact information (errmmm... hence the name...), not a database of case information. It's a meta-directory. Sure, a certain amount of information can be inferred simply from the existence of other information, but the most sensitive stuff is "cloaked", so that a "cloaked" contact is informed of an enquirer's enquiry about a nominal, without that enquirer being informed about that contact's existence. So a child or young person could be referred to a (say) a genito-urinary specialist medical practitioner because of a sexual health issue, and the latter could use ContactPoint to be informed if there were any later NHS enquiries without the NHS enquirer ever being aware of the sexual health specialist's involvement. The records show contact details only, nothing else.

    And the really, really funny part? There is no national case management system for the Child Protection officers in the 43 police forces in England and Wales: some forces use the same type of system, but none have common databases. There were plans for a national system, indeed Recommendation 104 of Lord Laming's enquiry into Victoria Climbie's death was specific about this. But it never happened, the project was cancelled due lack of funding by PITO, the Home Office NDPB that was subsumed into the NPIA in April 2007. So there's no direct access to ContactPoint *at all* by ANY police officer, and specialised Child Protection police officers can only find out if a child or young person is listed on ContactPoint by asking their Social Services colleagues.

    Thus, this simple fact also completely debunks about 75% of the utter shite in many of the posts in this thread. Looks like the national Press coverage also overlooked this interesting nugget of information. Never mind folks, you didn't let the facts get in the way of a good dose of paranoid mob-frenzy, did you...?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Circumventing vulnerability in PDS

    As i understand it, all children will be on this database, along with details of parents/guardians. Including their demographic details.

    In the NHS, PDS (Personal Demographic Service) holds the demographic details of everyone registered with a GP: but it is possible to have the address, phone number and registered GP withheld or concealed - which means you can't use Choose and Book!

    It is worth it for some people who legitimately do not want to be found - but don't qualify for witness protection.

    AFAIAA there is no possibility of any demographics, either of child or parent/guardian being concealed in the children's database.

    Regardless of risk.

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