Fears that children's home addresses could fall into the hands of paedophiles under a new Government database containing details for every child in England, a report warned today.
Dr Roger Morgan, the children’s rights director, found widespread concerns that sensitive information on the £224 million computer system could be vulnerable to security breaches.
He urged ministers to keep security for the new ContactPoint database under constant review. The report followed the major security breach at HM Revenue and Customs in which computer discs containing personal records for 25 million people went missing.
Dr Morgan, who is based at Ofsted, said: "The children have told me that they are concerned about the safety of ContactPoint.
"Children want to be assured that their information will remain safe and confidential and have asked specifically that the Government will never in the future put a child’s photograph or telephone number on the database.
"The Government has undertaken to listen to the children’s views and concerns.
"There will always be a need to keep security under review, as the repercussions of information falling into the wrong hands could be extremely dangerous."
ContactPoint will be a new computerised list of every child in England.
It will contain details for each child including their name, address, date of birth, contact details for parents, details of school, doctor and professionals working with the child.
The aim is that social workers, doctors and schools will share information on young people to stop children falling into gaps between different services.
Dr Morgan’s research involved questions and discussions with 62 children who lived in children’s homes or foster care or were receiving help from social services.
His report said: "The children in our discussion meeting were very concerned that ContactPoint, being a list of all the children in the country with details like where they live and how old they are, would always attract paedophiles to try to get at that information.
"They thought that paedophiles would spend a lot of time and effort trying to break into ContactPoint.
"They thought that one day, eventually, the system would either break down, or its security would be breached, and that would have very bad consequences for children and, they thought, for the Government."
Children thought that even with password-protected systems, some staff would share their sign-on details with other people.
This would immediately open up the database to people who had not been approved to access the information.
Most children agreed with the proposal that they should be able to ask their council to see the information about them contained on the database and correct it if necessary.
But the report continued: "The children in our discussion group thought, overall, that the extra help some children might get because of ContactPoint might be outweighed by the dangers that could face many children if the wrong people managed to break into ContactPoint."
Dr Morgan gave "the last word" in his report to a child who wrote a message to the Government.
The child said: "U can’t put too much trust in a machine... just my opinion but you know better than I do, good luck."