Tuesday, 24 March 2009

ContactPoint on hold

This has not been a good week for those at the DCSF responsible for ContactPoint. The project has been overtaken by human rights issues and security fears, which have resulted in its national implementation being postponed.

Yesterday, the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust published a report Database State [Executive summary; Full Report] which gave ContactPoint a red flag indicating
that a database is almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law and should be scrapped or substantially redesigned. The collection and sharing of sensitive personal data may be disproportionate, or done without our consent, or without a proper legal basis; or there may be other major privacy or operational problems. Most of these systems already have a high public profile.
Then today, it became apparent that they had found a number of security loopholes in the pilot studies that are taking place in the North West [See Daily Telegraph 24/03/2009].

Independent Schools are required by law to provide data for ContactPoint but, as yet, the Secretary of State has not declared the timescale on which the data needs to be provided. The Independent Schools Council [ISC] is actively involved in discussions with the DCSF on the issue and is currently working on three fronts: lobbying against ContactPoint, working on providing a simple way in which the legally required data can be provided to Local Authorities and working on how the provision of specialist services applies to the independent school sector.

Many [the ISC included] are hoping that the ContactPoint project will be delayed until the next election in the likelihood that a Conservative Government would scrap it This not only would represent an enormous waste of tax-payers money [£224m!] but is likely to be opposed by key groups such as Barnado's and Kidscape who are strong advocates of ContactPoint.

Politics aside, there is one aspect of the ContactPoint project which I hope will not be lost. At present the Government cannot distinguish between those children who have always been educated in independent schools and those who have never been registered for a school. This latter group constitutes some of the most vulnerable children in our country and, one way or another, it is important that the Government [regardless of colour] is able to identify them if it is to be able to exercise its duty of care to these innocents. ContactPoint or no ContactPoint, independent schools should work with the DCSF to help them identify these vulnerable young people.

No comments:

Post a Comment