Children's database launched despite delays and opposition

The roll out of a massive database of children in the UK began yesterday, despite opposition to the project and following several delays.

The roll out of a massive database of children in the UK began yesterday, despite opposition to the project and following several delays.

Contactpoint will contain details of every child in the country, with the aim of improving communications between staff involved in child protection.

Charity workers, doctors, nurses, police officers and social workers will have access to the online directory of basic details.

It was recommended by Lord Laming's enquiry after the death of 8-year-old Victoria Climbie, who was killed by her aunt after a catalogue of mistakes by those who were supposed to help her.

He admitted today that the new directory will not stop child abuse. He said, "ContactPoint will not change the world. It will not replace the need for children's services organisations to ensure effective working across teams, across services and agencies, including sharing information where this is appropriate. But, in time, I believe ContactPoint will be an important tool in supporting this practice, helping practitioners to know who else is working with a particular child."

The department for children, schools and families awarded the contract to Capgemini in July 2007. It was supposed to be rolled out in April 2008, but the project suffered two delays - the first until October last year, and then until today.

Privacy campaigners have raised concerns about the database, saying it is intrusive and that the government's track record with sensitive data is poor.

From today, two members of staff from local authorities all over England will begin the training necessary to operate the system. The system will be "more intensively piloted" in the north west, where training is starting in 17 councils as well as two charities - Barnardo's and KIDS.

Staff will start operating the system in spring and summer of this year.

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