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Action to protect children at risk; System launched after tragedy inquiry.

Byline: By EXAMINER News Correspondent

A CONTROVERSIAL database containing details of every child in England will be rolled out today.

The aim is to ensure "faster contact" between doctors, social workers and police if they suspect a child is at risk.

Contact Point, a pounds 224m directory, will contain the name, address, date of birth, GP and school of all under-18s, as well as the name and contact details of any professional working with that child.

The database was set up in response to a key recommendation of the Laming Inquiry into the tragic death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in 2000.

But the project has been subject to several delays due to concerns over data security and technical issues.

It has also attracted controversy from the outset, with civil liberties groups, children's campaigners and the Office of the Information Commissioner expressing concerns about its scope and role.

The database has been devised to help professionals share information on young people so that children do not fall into gaps between different services.

No case information will be held on ContactPoint and it will be impossible to download its contents.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls said it would help those who work with children to prevent problems getting worse. He said recent cases had shown that a "lack of proper and timely information sharing" could have tragic consequences.

The rollout comes after the horrific death of 17-month-old boy Baby P in August, 2007. He suffered a catalogue of abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend.

Baby P was on an at-risk register and had been seen some 60 times by social workers, doctors and welfare groups.

The death took place in Haringey, north London, where Victoria Climbie had been murdered seven years earlier by her great aunt and the woman's boyfriend.

Under current arrangements if a professional believes a child is at risk there is no immediate way of knowing whether other services are already in contact with that child.

Mr Balls said: "It is good news, that after very careful planning, we can now actively start to deliver Lord Laming's crucial recommendation from the Victoria Climbie inquiry."
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jan 26, 2009
Words:358
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