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MPs question validity of child protection IT

Lindsay Clark

Government plans for councils to create child index databases are not likely to offer better protection to children at risk, according to a group of MPs.

Following the death of Victoria Climbie at the hands of an abusive aunt, and an enquiry into the tragedy by Lord Laming, the government proposed that all councils set up a child index, containing basic data about children in their care and the professionals they come into contact with.

In a report published yesterday [April 5th], The House of Commons Education and Skills Committee said, "The evidence we have received has left us with doubts about whether investment in child indexes can currently be justified in terms of the contribution it is likely to make to improving outcomes for children."

The committee said uncertainty over the costs of building databases, which one expert estimated could reach £1bn, combined with the government's record on major IT projects were the main sources of concern. Professional practice, rather than technology for information sharing, was a major factor in the Climbie tragedy.

"We are not convinced that sufficient evidence currently exists to justify the commissioning of the proposed IT-based child indexes," the report said. "We have significant reservations about whether this will represent the best use of resources and very significant concerns about critical issues such as security, confidentiality and access arrangements.

"We are concerned in particular that the current research evidence does not conclusively demonstrate that expenditure in this area is the best way of improving outcomes for children."


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