Previous Section Index Home Page

3 Dec 2007 : Column 926W—continued

Children: Databases

Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what estimate he has made of the number of people who will be able to access information from eCaf. [167444]

Kevin Brennan [holding answer 22 November 2007]: We are to commission a detailed survey of the number of practitioners who will need to have access to the eCAF system.

However, it should be noted that security arrangements within the eCAF system will ensure that practitioners will only be allowed access to the entries for children with whom they are, legitimately, working and even then, only with the informed, explicit consent of the child or young person (or their parent/carer where appropriate).

James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many officials in (a) his Department and (b) other Departments and Government agencies are eligible to have access to the entire content of the ContactPoint database. [167971]

Kevin Brennan: No officials from the Department will have access to records held on ContactPoint. Once ContactPoint is deployed, local authority data controllers will have responsibility for the accuracy of records of children and young people ordinarily resident in their areas. Government Departments, local authorities and agencies—for example the NHS, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP), and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS)—whose staff are responsible for safeguarding children and ensuring their well-being, and who need to use ContactPoint as part of their job, will be able to access and amend child records for children with whom they are working. The significant majority of users will be children's services practitioners, not government officials.

We have contracted with Capgemini for the purposes of operating the national system, maintaining data quality and technical system support. The computer system will be in a secure location, physically removed from the Department.

There are a number of tests that must be carried out prior to the deployment of ContactPoint in respect of data management, user acceptance, and security which will involve a small number of local authority data managers and data specialists from within the ContactPoint project.

Everyone involved in the tests will be subject to an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check before they access any live data. The majority of these tests will be carried out using ‘synthetic’ test data. Where live data are used, the tests will be carried out in a physically isolated, secure test environment.

Access to ContactPoint will be strictly limited to those who need it to do their job. The number of users is estimated to be around 330,000 and will include small teams of data administrators in each local authority area and practitioners from education, Connexions, health, social care, youth offending services, police and the voluntary sector. These persons are clearly specified in regulation 9 and schedule 3 of the Children Act 2004 Information Database (England) Regulations 2007, and will be able to access individual records after providing a legitimate reason to do so, but will not be able to view or download the entire database.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what account he plans to take of the findings of the Making ContactPoint Work initiative conducted by the Children’s Rights Director for England in the development of ContactPoint; [168727]

(2) if he will review the number of people to whom his Department will make the details stored on ContactPoint available with a view to reducing risks of deliberate and inadvertent misuse of personal data; [168728]

(3) if he will reduce the number of children on whom ContactPoint will store information; [168922]

(4) what discussions his Department has had on access to ContactPoint since 15 November 2007. [168923]

3 Dec 2007 : Column 927W

Kevin Brennan: We welcome the report ‘Making ContactPoint Work’, published last week by the Children’s Rights Director for England, Roger Morgan. In fact, my Department specifically requested Roger Morgan to ask children what they thought of the proposals set out in draft Government guidance about ContactPoint. We acknowledge fully and understand that children and young people quite reasonably want reassurances about security and access.

The views of children and young people are central to the development of ContactPoint. In fact, ‘Making ContactPoint Work’, representing the views of 62 children, is a small part of the overall consultation DCSF has undertaken with children and young people. More than 1,000 children have already been consulted about ContactPoint and overall findings have shown that, once young people understand what ContactPoint is, they usually agree it is a positive thing. The views and issues they raise have played, and continue to play, an important role in the development of ContactPoint. Further consultation with young people and parents and carers is planned.

Access to ContactPoint will be limited strictly to those who need it to do their job (currently estimated at around 330,000 practitioners). All users will be subject to stringent security controls and, before being granted access, must have completed mandatory face-to-face training, have obtained security clearance (including enhanced Criminal Records Bureau clearance) and have a user name, a password, a PIN and a security token to control their access to ContactPoint. Mandatory face-to-face training will include the safe and secure use of ContactPoint and the importance of compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and Human Rights Act 1998.

To gain access to a child’s record, all users will have to state clear reasons why they are accessing ContactPoint. All use of the system will be monitored and audited and every access to a child’s record will be detailed in the ContactPoint audit trail. This will be regularly monitored by local authorities, using online User Activity Reports, to ensure that any misuse is detected and that appropriate action is taken.

ContactPoint will include all children in England because it is not possible to predict accurately, in advance, which children will need additional services. Any child or young person could require the support of additional services at any time in their childhood. We want to support early intervention for children to help prevent situations becoming critical.

Officials at the DCSF were briefed, on 20 November, by Treasury colleagues about the loss of the data at the HMRC. DCSF Ministers have been kept closely informed about how the issue is being dealt with at HMRC and the other agencies involved.

As soon as we were aware of the issue, we made contact with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and HM Treasury to identify any potential children’s welfare issues. As child safety and welfare issues are an absolute priority for us, we are maintaining close contact with the agencies involved to ensure that we all remain vigilant to any child welfare issues that may arise.

3 Dec 2007 : Column 928W

On Tuesday 20 November, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, asked the Department’s Permanent Secretary to conduct an immediate assessment of how personal data are stored and protected in the Department. The Permanent Secretary reported back within 24 hours to confirm the Department is confident that we have very robust procedures in place. In light of the security breach at the HMRC, we are continuing to check our procedures to ensure standards are as high as they can be. On Wednesday 21 November, the Prime Minister confirmed this approach when he asked all Departments to check their procedures for the storage and use of data. Given the obvious importance of ensuring that ContactPoint has extremely robust security measures in place, the Secretary of State, also on Tuesday 20 November, asked for an independent assessment of its security procedures, which will be conducted by Deloitte.

Children: Day Care

Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what child care provisions are available for refugee and asylum-seeking women who are taking English for speakers of other languages classes; and if he will make a statement. [162226]

Caroline Flint: I have been asked to reply.

It is up to local authorities to ensure there are sufficient child care places available to meet local demand. They receive funding from the Department for Children, Schools and Families which can be used to secure sufficient child care in line with local needs.

Subject to their individual circumstances, refugees have access to the full range of benefits and services provided by the Department for Work and Pensions. This includes Jobcentre Plus customers on New Deal for Lone Parents or New Deal for Partners, who can access child care to allow them to participate in the provision. This includes English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) training.

More generally, ESOL classes are provided by the Learning and Skills Council. Attendance for ESOL training is voluntary and while attending such courses, there are a number of ways that learners can access child care provision. DWP’s Employability Skills Programme learners in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance and undertaking a programme of a minimum of 20 hours per week are eligible for help with child care costs. The discretionary Learner Support Fund allocated to providers by the Learning and Skills Council can be used to support child care costs for learners aged 20 and above. Some local European Social Funding allocations can also be used to support child care costs. This varies from project to project depending on the scope and purpose of the project. In addition to this, learning undertaken by parents through Family Literacy, Language and Numeracy can also offer child care provision in some places. This support is not mandatory but informal arrangements are made by a number of providers.

None of the funding available from Department for Work and Pensions or the Learning and Skills Council is available to asylum seekers; The Border and
3 Dec 2007 : Column 929W
Immigration Agency (BIA) provide support to asylum seekers, and their dependants, who are destitute or likely to become destitute in the immediate future. No specific child care provision for asylum-seeking women who are taking English for speakers of other languages classes is given.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what data his Department collects on the take-up of child care by families on low incomes. [169309]

Beverley Hughes: The Parents’ Childcare Survey collects information on take-up of child care by household income. The 2004 survey .showed that higher income families were more likely to have used child care in the last week than lower income families; 73 per cent. of families with a yearly income over £32,000 had used any child care in the last week, compared with 56 per cent. of families with a yearly income of under £10,000(1).

Under £10,000 £10,000 to £19,999 £20,000 to £31,999 £32,000+

Used any child care





Used formal care





Used informal care





By 2008, the Department aims to increase the number of children in lower-income working families using formal child care by 120,000 children from the 2004-05 baseline of 614,000 children. This baseline is estimated from the 2004 Parents’ Childcare Survey data.

This forms part of the PSA target to ‘Safeguard children and young people, improve their life outcomes and general well-being, and break cycles of deprivation’ and will contribute to achieving this target by helping to reduce the proportion of children living in households where no-one is working.

The figures showing progress towards this target will be available in February 2008 when the results of the 2007 Parents’ Childcare Survey will be published.

Children: Disability Aids

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what discussions he has had with Ministerial colleagues on the provision of alternative and augmentative communication equipment aids for children with disabilities. [168778]

Jim Knight: The Government recently launched the Bercow Review, which is an independent review of speech and language provision, led by John Bercow MP and supported by officials from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the
3 Dec 2007 : Column 930W
Department of Health (DH). One of the specific issues to be considered by the review will be the effective provision of assistive and augmentative communication (AAC) technology.

The review is currently seeking evidence from all interested groups and individuals, including through a focus group facilitated by Scope which will consider the provision of alternative and augmentative communication equipment aids. The Government will respond to the Review’s findings and recommendations following publication of the final report in July 2008.

Also, the Department of Health are leading on a review on community equipment, launched together with the wheelchair services review in June 2006. On completion of the review, the Government plan to deliver a radical reform of community equipment, with full consideration of and provision for the needs of children. On completion of the community equipment review, my Department will work closely with the Department of Health to assist in the implementation of the recommendations.

Children: Sexual Offences

Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps have been taken by his Department to tackle child sexual exploitation. [167547]

Kevin Brennan: The Department has taken a number of steps to tackle child sexual exploitation, including publication in April 2006 of the updated ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’, the main inter-agency guide to working together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. ‘Working Together’ stresses the need to treat children involved in prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation primarily as the victims of abuse and advises that agencies should work together to develop local protocols. It also includes guidance for practitioners on sharing information with children’s social care and the police about underage sexual activity, in response to recommendation 13 of the Bichard Inquiry Report, and sets out a number of considerations that practitioners should take into account in assessing when and how to share information about underage sexual activity. These include indicators of possible sexual exploitation. We have also established Local Safeguarding Children Boards, which have a role in co-ordinating work to safeguard children from sexual exploitation in each local area; and have published draft guidance to help agencies safeguard children who may have been trafficked. We are currently updating ‘Safeguarding Children involved in prostitution’, which was originally published in 2000 as supplementary guidance to the 1999 edition of ‘Working Together’. The revised guidance will have a wider scope and cover safeguarding children from sexual exploitation more generally.

Departmental Correspondence

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what percentage of inquiries received by his Department from the public were responded to within (a) one week, (b) 14 days, (c) 28 days, (d) two months and (e) three months in the last period for which figures are available; and in what percentage of cases it took (i) over three months and (ii) over one year to respond. [167379]

3 Dec 2007 : Column 931W

Kevin Brennan: This Department does not hold the information in the format required. Our performance for correspondence from MPs and Peers is published annually by way of a written ministerial statement. The Department for Children, Schools and Families has only been in existence since June 2007; performance figures for the Department for Education and Skills for 2006 were published on 28 March 2007, Official Report, column 101WS. Information for DfES and DCSF for 2007 will be published as soon as it is ready after the end of the calendar year.

Overall performance for all correspondence (MPs, Peers and the public) is given in the Department’s annual report. The DfES Annual Report for 2007 was published in May this year and is available on the Department’s website:

Departmental Manpower

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many people aged (a) 30 to 39, (b) 40 to 49, (c) 50 to 59 and (d) 60 to 69 years have (i) applied for jobs, (ii) received interviews and (iii) gained (A) temporary and (B) permanent jobs in his Department in 2007. [165103]

Kevin Brennan: The Department was formed as part of the Machinery of Government changes on 28 June 2007. Numbers of staff recruited to the new Department since then have been small. The figures are set out by the relevant age bands in the following table:

Age range Permanent Temporary

under 30















Detailed information on applicants and interviews is held by individual teams and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Next Section Index Home Page