Sunday, August 06, 2006

#11 The Children's Index

And finally: The Children’s Index. Also known as ‘Information Sharing and Assessment’ (ISA) or just plain ‘IS’. s12 of the Children Act 2004 gives the Secretary of State for education the power to create a database (or databases) of everyone in England who is aged under 18. The actual detail of what information can be collected may be specified in regulations. Similar provision is made for Wales, although the power is devolved to the Welsh Assembly.

The intended database has come to be known as the Children's Index, and is the one that most people are aware of. I hope it’s now become clear why we have left this until last: the Index is the file-front that serves the whole range of agencies that may be involved with a child. It is intended to provide a complete directory of all children from birth, together with a list of the agencies with which s/he is in contact. It won’t hold any case records, but will enable practitioners to contact each other in order to share information.

Think of it like a bicycle wheel: the various databases that hold different kinds of information about children are spaced around the circumference, linked by spokes to a central hub - the Children's Index.

Currently pilots are taking place in 12 local authorities to assess what data should be used for the Index.
Regulations to allow these pilots to take place provide for the following information to be collected:
  • name
  • address
  • gender
  • date of birth
  • parent contact details
  • name and contact details of any educational institution attended by the person
  • name and contact details of any specialist service provided by the local authority
  • name and contact details of primary health care provider
  • child benefit claimant details
An accompanying memorandum indicates the government’s intention to hold a public consultation before bringing in final regulations during the autumn to allow the Index to be set up across England. A more recent statement from the Children’s Minister says that the consultation will take place during the summer holidays.

It has also been confirmed that details of ‘sensitive’ services – where the mere presence of the details reveals sensitive information (eg drug treatment or mental health) - will for the time being only be included on the Index with consent.

You may find this briefing on the way that CAF, ICS and ISA
fit together useful.

ID Card Database
A recent development with regard to the Children’s Index is that consideration is being given to using information from it, together with data from the National Identity Register (NIR), to create a single 'master list' of the population. See our
other blog for more information. The final report of the Citizen’s Information Project says:
The Department for Education and Skills is developing an Information Sharing Index which, when completed, will have some of the characteristics of a child population register covering England. This appears worth examining further as a possible strategic option to deliver benefits similar to, and fitting alongside, those from the NIR.
We’ve finished outlining the systems now, and will turn to the thorny issues around consent to information-sharing.


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