The “permanent record” bit is a long running joke in the US. Every kid at some point figures out that there really isn’t a permanent record of childhood transgressions that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
ContactPoint will include the names, ages and addresses of all 11 million under-18s in England as well as information on their parents, GPs, schools and support services such as social workers.
The £224 million computer system was announced in the wake of the death of Victoria Climbié, who was abused and then murdered after a string of missed opportunities to intervene by the authorities, as a way to connect the different services dealing with children.
It has always been portrayed as a way for professionals to find out which other agencies are working with a particular child, to make their work easier and provide a better service for young people.
However, it has now emerged that police officers, council staff, head teachers, doctors and care workers will use the records to search for evidence of criminality and wrongdoing to help them launch prosecutions against those on the database – even long after they have reached adulthood.
It is ironic that in the country that gave us George Orwell this would be tolerated. The words “search for criminality and wrongdoing” should send shudders down the spine of anyone who would think these things through. But it will probably be met with a collective shrug of indifference. After all, once you have meekly accepted so many intrusions, what’s one more?
Britain has more CCTV cameras than any other country, and its local authorities are increasingly using powers designed to prevent terrorism to spy on people suspected of petty crimes such as littering and failing to pick up dog mess. Ministers are also pressing ahead with a £20 billion scheme to issue all UK residents over the age of 16 with ID cards.
Those concerned about access control for such sensitive information will be relieved to know that a mere 330,000 people will have access to the database:
An estimated 330,000 people will have access to the data stored on ContactPoint, which is due to launch this autumn despite fears the Government’s poor record on data security will mean it puts children at risk from paedophiles.
The records will be updated until children turn 18 then kept in an archive for six years before being destroyed, meaning they can be accessed until a young person reaches 24. 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 into their 30s.