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A number of childrens' charities are supporting the introduction this week of ContactPoint, the government database which is to contain the data of 11 million children in England.
Up to 800 frontline practitioners including social workers, health professionals and head teachers will start using the system this week. They are based in 17 local authorities in the North West and backed by major children's organisations, such as the NSPCC, Barnardo's, Action for Children and KIDS.
For the first time, professionals, who have all been through security training, can see in one place some of the different services involved with a child they are working with.
Martin Narey, Chief Executive of Barnardo's said: "We believe that the directory will provide a quick way for professionals to find out who else is working with a child; making it easier to deliver better co-ordinated services. Ultimately ContactPoint has the potential to make the world a safer place for vulnerable children."
The ContactPoint database will contain the names, ages, addresses and information of all children under 18 as well as information about their parents, schools and medical records. The database was announced following the death of Victoria Climbié, who was murdered after various opportunities to intervene were missed by the authorities.
The database is intended to prevent children slipping through the safety net by allowing social workers, schools, GPs and other professionals to share information if they suspect a child is in danger.
However the database has come under criticism for not being secure enough, running over budget and for numerous delays to its launch date.
The delays were caused by concerns over access to the database following a report into the project in 2007by auditors Deloitte and Touche who said it could never be totally secure.
ContactPoint will be continuously updated until a child's eighteenth birthday. The stored information will then remain on the system for a further six years before it is destroyed. Those who have learning difficulties or who are in care will remain on the live system until they turn 25, so their archived records will be available until they are 31.
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