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Minister promises to limit child protection reform

Children’s services will not be radically reformed by the new government, the children’s minister has confirmed.

Tim Loughton said that the Department for Education, which has appointed professor Eileen Munro to undertake a review of child protection and will soon shut down the children’s database ContactPoint, was not planning an overhaul of the entire system.

“We are not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater” he said. “The last thing we need is wholesale reform.” Speaking at a London event organised by children’s charity Barnardo’s, Mr Loughton said that the review of child protection was intended to look at ways that social workers could spend more time with children and families rather than being “surgically attached to a computer.”

He added: “I think the child protection system has become in danger of protecting the child protection system rather than children.”

ContactPoint, the controversial database that holds information on every child in England, would be “switched off” in the coming weeks and replaced with another “signposting system” designed to carry details only on the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children. Mr Loughton said the £220m spent on ContactPoint could have paid for 7,500 extra social workers.

“I would trust 7,500 social workers to do a better job of identifying these [at risk] children than relying on a computer database,” he said. The new database, unlike ContactPoint, would alert professionals to children who move across geographical boundaries.

Mr Loughton warned that the Spending Review, due in October, would be tough and only programmes that could evidence their impact were likely to survive. “I will be fighting to maximise the bang we get for our buck but it isn’t going to be easy,” he said.