eGov Monitor reports that
"Panning from MPs results only in promise to 'go steady'
The Government is to press ahead with plans for a national network of 'child indexes' despite serious warnings from MPs.
However ministers are now pledging to take a "steady, phased approach" to the project after the Commons' Education and Skills Select Committee urged them to proceed only "with upmost caution".
Back in April MPs on the Parliamentary committee vigorously criticised the Government's proposals to set up an electronic file on every child in England. The move forms part of reforms to child welfare services."
The Committee's concerns about the planned centralised databases of all children and their parents/guardians:
"19. We are not convinced that sufficient evidence currently exists to hustify the commissioning of the proposed IT-based child indexes. We have significant reservations about whether this will represent the best use of resources and very significant concerns about critical issues such as security, confidentiality and access arrangements. We are concerned in particular that the current research evidence does not conclusively demonstrate that expenditure in this area is the best way of improving outcomes for children.
20. We welcome the news that further evaluative work on the impact of indexes in Trailblazer areas is now being planned, and that the results of this will be used to inform the business case for implementation. This research should analyse the comparative benefit of the indexes as a means of improving outcomes and other ways of improving information-sharing within and between professionals."
The Government's response:
"The Government believes that indexes offer an important tool to make frontline services more effective. They can facilitate communication among practitioners to help ensure that all children get the services and support they need at the earliest possible stage. However, the Government is committed to a steady, staged approach. It has made clear in Every Child Matters: Change for Children that the decision to proceed to implementation will depend upon Ministers being satisfied that a robust business case, analysing costs and benefits, has been made for the investment and that the necessary resources are available. That business case will be informed by evidence from the experience of the nine Trailblazer local authorities that have implemented index solutions on a trial basis.
The Government is pleased to see that the Committee has welcomed the further evaluative work now underway on the impact of indexes in Trailblazer areas. This work will place particular emphasis on how the Trailblazers are realising the benefits both in terms of service delivery and practitioner practice – especially in a multi-agency environment.
The Government will ensure that any index solution it supports will be technically robust. Security controls will be subject to independent scrutiny and audit, both at design stage and after implementation and security standards will be in line with industry and Government best practice. Built-in audit trails will ensure authorised and appropriate use of the index."
Exactly as with the NuLabour Government's for a centralised biometric ID card database, the audit trail can either be a vital privacy and security protection, or it could also be part of the problem itself, by revealing sensitive information by inference. e.g. if a particular medical specialist or other professional advisor is seen to have accessed a particular child's record, then other people will assume that that child must be suffereing from a particular medical condition or a particular social problem.
"The Government is announcing its response to consultation on how practitioners would record and access the provision of sensitive services and record a concern on the index alongside this response.
The Government has listened closely to views expressed on these very important issues of index operation and our response to the consultation demonstrates our commitment to client confidentiality and confidence in the system."
The only way to secure a database on 12 million children, accessible by literally tens of thousands of authorised user insiders, is not to build it in the first place.