Every child in England to go on safety list database

Details of every child in England will be kept on an electronic database as part of an overhaul of children's services in the wake of the Victoria Climbie murder.

Professionals such as GPs, social workers, teachers and the police will be able to log any concerns about the 11 million children on the electronic record under the £100m plan.

Outlining plans for new legislation to protect children yesterday, Margaret Hodge, the Children's minister, stressed: "It will have the child's name, date of birth, where they go to school and who their GP is.

"If, for example, a GP is worried about a low birth weight, they will be able to log their concern on the record. Then, if, say, a nursery nurse becomes worried that the child is withdrawn or anxious, they would be able to log their concern and the two professionals could talk about it."

One of the criticisms made in the inquiry by Lord Laming into the death of Victoria Climbie, the eight-year-old Haringey girl who was tortured to death by her aunt and her lover, was the failure of various branches of children's services to communicate with each other. Mrs Hodge said yesterday she believed professionals sharing information was essential to any attempt to avoid a repeat of the Climbie tragedy. She added that failure to do so was a key element in most of the 50 reports she had read about the deaths of children because of neglect over the past 25 years.

But concerns were raised during consultation on the Bill about client confidentiality and the impact of data protection legislation. GPs, in particular, were worried about disclosing health information about children in their care. As a result, the Government is stressing that they need only register a concern about the child - not details of the complaint the child was suffering from.

Other measures announced yesterday include appointing a Children's Commissioner who will liaise with children to give them a say in policies and carry out inquiries on the orders of the Government where faults in services have been uncovered.

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, said of the move: "This will be an independent appointment. The commissioner will be able to report publicly."

The legislation also calls on all local authorities to appoint by 2008 a Director of Children's Services, who will have responsibility for education and social services, and to set up a Children's Trust to run the budgets for all children's services. In addition, Ofsted, the education standards watchdog, will be given a wider remit to inspect all children's services. If they are found to be failing, emergency powers would be brought in to take the service out of the hands of the local council.

Social workers will also be placed in schools and will be available for children to visit all year round.

Children's charities gave a cautious welcome to the Bill yesterday but said it did not go far enough. Carolyne Willow, national co-ordinator of the Children's Rights Alliance, said the proposed powers for the Children's Commissioner did not go as far as in other parts of the UK.

"Without independent powers to access information, to enter establishments, to subpoena witnesses and to meet children in private, the commissioner will be indistinguishable from children's charities," she said. "England's 11 million children need a powerful body that is truly independent from government to protect their rights."

John Dunford, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "[We] will want the commissioner to take into account the needs of the majority as well as those of the individual. This is especially important in dealing with difficult behaviour issues, which sometimes lead to exclusion from school, where the head is seeking to protect the interests of the majority."

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