Council Builds Child Database

Somerset County Council is introducing a database as part of a government scheme to improve care of vulnerable children. The government introduced a national initiative following publication of the Victoria Climbie Inquiry in January 2003 that recommended establishing new ways to keep more reliable information on child welfare.

A policy from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) says local authorities must have an Integrated Children’s System (ICS) by January 2007.

The plan involves the establishment of 150 local authority registers, co-ordinated by a unifying system that will create a single identifying number for all children. Parties such as doctors or social workers will be able to add flags if there are concerns about a child’s welfare.

Carey Sherman, Somerset’s business and finance manager for children’s social care, says the council has created a system more advanced than that required by government.

‘Limiting ourselves to the government’s ICS requirements would confuse staff because some of the processes finished at an odd point and our social workers would have to operate two different systems,’ she said.

Other councils such as Lewisham have already commissioned an ICS, and say they will meet the 2007 deadline.

But some experts are concerned that the ICS initiative has not been properly thought through, and the government has failed to define how it will sit alongside other IT systems.

Socitm Consulting ’s children’s systems consultant, Anna Smallwood says many councils will not meet the 2007 deadline.

‘There is a lot of confusion around how the ICS relates to other government child care initiatives, such as the Common Assessment Framework and the Child Index,’ she said.

Training child social workers to use the new systems could also be a problem.

‘Social workers want better quality systems to help them analyse the information they are taking in, but some of them will need time to understand the new ways of doing things,’ said Smallwood.