tip of the iceberg


The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) is busily putting all 11 million children in England on the ContactPoint database. According to the DCSF 390,000 people will have access to the database (others say could be up to 1 million.) Details to be recorded consist of:
Name, address, gender, date of birth and a unique identifying number.

Name and contact details for a child's parent(s) or carer(s).
Contact details for services working with a child: as a minimum, educational setting (e.g. school) and GP practice. ( Wherever possible, ContactPoint will be automatically updated from existing systems eg new GP and address.)
Contact details for other service providers where appropriate, for example a health visitor or social worker; and whether a practitioner is a lead professional and if they have undertaken an assessment under the Common Assessment Framework.

The DCSF estimates show that 3-4 million children and young people will need additional services at any one time and hence up to 36% of the child population of England needs extra help at any on time. In order to provide this help a Common Assessment Framework will need to be filled in. This is a 8 page document see here (right click on mouse) and you can easily see why bureaucrats spend hours trying to fit information into boxes.

This form covers anything that you could possibly think to say about any child from birth to 18 divided into arbitrary sections and boxes. For example under Health we have language development: questioning, games, stories and songs... Under Emotional and Social Development we have: feeling special, phobias and fears ... Under Identity, self-esteem and self-image we have: sense of belonging; experiences of discrimination due to race, religion, age, gender, sexuality and disability (sigh). Under Self-care skills we have: boundaries, rules, decision making, dressing ...........Similarly voluminous information about parents and carers and finally :conclusions, solutions, actions, review dates and so on. Finally the form filler explains why information sharing is a good thing and no doubt usually obtains consent to this We are told that the forms are also available in Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese.

So, at any one time up to 36% of the English population under 18 has their personal details on some sort of database. I have been told that teachers are busily filling in these forms. We are told that there are some children with no identified additional needs who don't require assessments but who can doubt that most children will eventually have one, necessitating reviews and updates and lots and lots of work. You might have thought that this was it, there must be sufficient information but no.
If the child has complex as opposed to additional needs there are statutory or specialist assessments to be tucked in under the Integrated Children's System ICS.

Then we have The electronic social care record ESCR for children brings together all relevant information for a social care user in one place. It holds three types of information:

* Structured information, which typically includes:
- national forms, such as those used for recording children’s information
- local forms
- forms completed by service users, such as self-referral or financial assessment forms.
* Unstructured information which covers all other recording including:
- letters
- emails
- records of phone calls
- meetings notes
- video clips.
* Coded data which is mainly for management and statistical reports.

The numbers of forms are breathtaking see here ContactPoint will be the register informing people as to whether other assessments have been made and by whom. Then there are the records held by Connexions and
the Youth Offending Teams. Children in England subject to child protection plans (formerly on the child protection register) numbered 29,000 in 2008. Hence, at the cost of £224 million set up and £40 million annual running costs ContactPoint will provide just the tip of the iceberg of personal information kept on our children. Naturally databases are required for certain children but for every single one? Surely the costs in time and money will detract from the amount of attention that could be paid to those in need? We are creating a need culture whereby virtually every child will have some sort of need and the attendant record, assessment and monitoring.

Do you, as a parent, have a choice in the matter? Were you asked to give your permission? No and you cannot opt out. You can merely have your details 'shielded' but only if you fit certain criteria, not if you just want to opt out. Hence we have a National Identity Record by default. Every child given a number, having their GP and new address updated automatically and you have no say in the matter.

Already ContactPoint has had to be temporarily closed down. Teething problems have meant that the 'shielding' system has not worked. Oh dear.

And despite all of this we have the department of Health acknowledging that as regards FGM female genital mutilation:

in some communities, within the UK as well as abroad, the practice is still condoned or even accepted, with many individuals taking young girls abroad for the procedure.

Further the department says:

FORWARD (a small charity) is educating people in the practising communities that this is unacceptable.

This is not unacceptable this is a serious crime and somewhere amongst all the millions of reports we shall perhaps find coded, hushed mention of this practice yet in the 24 years that the law has been in place declaring FGM illegal no-one has ever been convicted of mutilating small girls.