Thursday, 17 June 2010

After ContactPoint

Sadly the Government has not abolished ContactPoint forthwith and seems to favour a gradual phasing out. An article in Children and Young People Now (16 June 2010) quotes Department for Education civil servant Tom Jeffrey as saying that it will be axed "... as soon as practicable ... " and that a replacement system "... will help practitioners find out if others are working with vulnerable children...."

A lot depends on what is meant by "vulnerable children". The problem with ContactPoint is that it appeared to be based on the assumption that all children were in some sense vulnerable. There is clearly a great danger that unless "vulnerable" is given a clear  and unambiguous definition we will have son-of-ContactPoint by the back door.

I believe that there is only one group of children and young people for whom there is an unequivocal need for a national database. These are children who have been formally recognised as being at risk of significant harm by being made subject to a Child Protection Plan (what we used to call being on the Child Protection Register). A national database of such children which was available to Children's Social Care, hospital A&E departments and the police would mean that any such child - for example presenting at an A & E department in another city - would be picked-up quickly. And when I say national I mean UK wide, unlike ContactPoint, which was only to be introduced in England.

Hopefully the hardware infrastructure of ContactPoint could be used for this purpose and the limited user-ship would make it more secure.