Legal Powers for Children’s Database Wales

To make it compulsory for health boards and family doctors to share children’s information the Welsh government plans to bring into force the database provisions set out in section 29 of the Children Act 2004. The attraction for the government is that technically this could be achieved through secondary or subordinate legislation which is quicker and easier than trying to pass a new law. (My introductory page about the database proposals is here https://edyourself.org/wales-cme-database-consultation/ The consultation closes on April 25th 2024)

Section 29 of the Children Act 2004 is the equivalent for Wales of section 12 of the Act for England. Section 12 was the legislation underpinning ContactPoint for England which was scrapped in 2010. The WHOLE of section 12 is on the books for England but at present NONE of the corresponding section 29 is on the books for Wales, its status remains “Prospective” and it needs to be “commenced” – or brought into force by a government Order – which is explained here https://www.legislation.gov.uk/developer/glossary

Section 29 contains more powers than are needed for the proposed Children Missing Education database but at present we do not know how much of s29 the government will want or choose to bring into force. For example, as explained here, the draft CME database regulations says that only the child’s name, date of birth, address and gender will be passed on by health boards and family GPs.

However, the database itself will contain EXTRA information: “the name, address and postcode, telephone number and email address of all parents of the child; the name and address of the person providing all or part of the education” plus “any additional learning needs that the child may have and any additional learning provision that is called for.” It is not made clear how this further information will be obtained.

As can be seen below, section 29(4) also provides for YET MORE information to be obtained and kept on the child’s record than is currently being proposed, such as details of any education being received and contact details for the family doctor, plus any “concerns” about the child. 29(4) also allows the government to add contact details of people providing support the family, and there is a provision for adding more data fields.

Section 29(1) allows the government in Wales to make regulations requiring local authorities to establish and operate databases. A children’s database can be made under section 25 or 28 of the Children Act 2004 or under section 175 of the Education Act 2002. Section 175 EA2002 is mentioned in the CME consultation document. Section 29(3) imposes restrictions on the contents of the database which must not go beyond the provisions set out in 29(4) – with the caveat about 29(4)(h) any other information.

Section 29(4) lists the information which can potentially be included in a children’s database: name; address; gender; date of birth [source = s29 (4)(a)]; identity number [s 29 (4)(b)]; person(s) with parental responsibility [s29 (4)(c)]; details of any education being received including the name and contact details of any educational institution attended [29 (4)(d)]; family doctor [s29 (4)(e)]; other persons providing support if specified by the government [s29 (4)(f)]; any concerns [s29 (4)(g)]; any other information “not including medical records or other personal records” [s29 (4)(h)]

Section 29(5) and (6) gives the Welsh government “regulation-making powers” setting out who is required to provide information [source = s29 (6)(b)] and who is permitted to provide information [s29 (6)(c)] as well as permitting or requiring which information is to be supplied [s29 (6)(d)] plus who has access to the database [s29 (6)(e)-(f)] how long the information must be held or is allowed to be held [s29 (6)(g] and measures for ensuring accuracy of information held [s29 (6)(g]

Section 29(7) lists the people who are required to provide information for the database. S29(7)(a) covers everyone listed in section 28 (1) which includes Local Health Boards (and NHS Trusts in Wales) but not family doctors. Proprietors of independent schools are specified at s29(7)(e). If there is anyone not already specified up to s29(7)(e) then s29(7)(f) helpfully provides the power to add “a person or body of such other description as the Assembly may by regulations specify”; I think this is where family doctors might be added because the draft regulations for the database refer to ” “A Local Health Board and GMS contractor ” and this link https://www.bma.org.uk/pay-and-contracts/contracts/gp-contract/welsh-unified-gms-contract-202324 refers to service contracts for GPs.

Section 29(8) lists the people who are permitted but not required to provide information, mirroring 29(6)(c) above. It includes childminders, voluntary organisations, the Inland Revenue, social housing providers, and at s29(8)(e) the power to add “a person or body of such other description as the Assembly may by regulations specify.”

Section 29(11) gives the government power to make regulations allowing information to be shared “notwithstanding any rule of common law which prohibits or restricts the disclosure of information”

The proposals as currently drafted will have a significant impact on home educated children already known to the local authority, read more here https://edyourself.org/wales-database-impact-children-already-known/

Related Database Pages Wales