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Gov't child database costs spiral

ContactPoint to cost additional £41m per year

The government has revealed that a database containing information and carers' contact details for every child in England will cost £41m a year to run on top of its £224 million implementation costs.

Capgemini was awarded the £40m, seven-year contract to set up and manage the ContactPoint database and online directory last week.

But children's minister Kevin Brennan has revealed that the ongoing costs of the database - accessible to more than 330,000 education, health, social care and youth justice professionals - will dwarf the contract price.

ContactPoint will contain basic identifying information about all children in England from birth until age 18, along with contact details for their parents or carers and for professionals providing support services to them.

Brennan confirmed that the total costs of implementing the system are estimated at £224m, with £28.4m already spent on the project in 2006-07 and a further £11.2m in the first three months of 2007-08.

The implementation costs include the price of adapting the government IT systems that will supply the data and the adapting of systems used by professionals working with children so they can access ContactPoint, Brennan said in a parliamentary written answer. It also includes the cost of ensuring security and data accuracy, along with staff training.

"Running costs thereafter are estimated to be £41 million per year. Most of this will go directly to local authorities to fund staff to ensure the ongoing security, accuracy and audit of ContactPoint," Brennan said in response to questions from shadow children's minister Tim Loughton.

By the end of next year, ContactPoint is expected to be available to all English local authorities, child protection agencies and a group of children's charities.

An initial deployment will roll out the database to 17 early adopter authorities and Barnardo's in April. "Progress towards readiness to receive access to ContactPoint is on track" among local authorities, Brennan said.

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