Thursday, 11 June 2009

A quarter of the adult population on ISA database

The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) database which will hold information on the 11.3 million people who have contact with children or vulnerable adults, has been delayed again until July 2010. This database is designed to build on the existing system of Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. However, the CRB, which will provide intelligence to ISA, makes thousands of errors every year - 12,225 people have disputed the results of a criminal record check and had their complaint upheld in the last five years.

The ISA database includes a criminal record check as well as data from "List 99" which can include cautions and dropped charges. It will also include a list of those considered unsuitable to work with children maintained by the Department of Education and another list of those barred from working with vulnerable adults.

From July 2009 everyone on the scheme will be subject to continuous monitoring - the database will check all entries against any new information from police or other sources. Registering on the database will cost £64 unless you are an unpaid volunteer.

Richard Thomas, who is stepping down after more than six years as Britain’s first Information Commissioner, has serious concerns about the system. He says the database would contain:

"allegations, some rumour, some speculation ....... if (officials) start making wrong decisions or allow the data to get into the wrong hands the scope for damage to be done both to individuals and the system as a whole is quite considerable."

Mr Thomas said the combination of treating rumours as relevant and the power to ban an individual from a job had the capacity to damage an innocent person in their career, financially and socially. The case of John Pinnington is one such example.

The outgoing commissioner also criticised the creation of the ContactPoint database, which contains records on all 11million children in England.He said it had similarities with the ISA system, in that both contained masses of material potentially irrelevant to the stated aim of protecting vulnerable children, and both were a ‘step too far’ for freedom.

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