The government must look at rolling out a single national IT system for children’s services because local IT systems are hampering progress with child protection, according to a report from Lord Laming.
Lord Laming’s latest review of child protection, commissioned in the wake of the Baby P tragedy, was published last week and all its recommendations have been accepted by the government.
The report, The Protection of Children in England: a progress report, says social workers and managers have no desire to return to paper-based case management.
However, it also says that the local IT systems used to support the Integrated Children’s System are hampering progress. Lord Laming said professional practice and judgement were being compromised by an over-complicated, lengthy and tick-box assessment and recording system.
His report adds: “The direct interaction and engagement with children and their families, which is at the core of social work, is said to be at risk as the needs of a work management tool overtake those of evidence-based assessment, sound analysis and professional judgement about risk of harm.”
Research published earlier this year also criticised the ICS, claiming it had the potential to undermine good social work.
Lord Laming has recommended that the Department for Children, Schools and Families should undertake a feasibility study within six months with a view to rolling out a single, national ICS.
He has also said that whether or not a national system is introduced, the DCSF should take steps to improve the utility of the ICS in consultation with social workers and their managers and ensure appropriate transfer of essential information across organisational boundaries.
Lord Laming’s latest report says the ContactPoint database, currently being implemented across England, would have “particular advantages in reducing the possibility of children for whom there are concerns going unnoticed.”
The creation of the database stemmed from his first report into child protection, published in 2003 following the death of Victoria Climbe. The database will provide demographic data on every child in the country, plus the name and address of any professional working with them.
Children’s secretary Ed Balls said the government welcomed Lord Laming’s report and accepted all of its recommendations. It also found that local authority chiefs and service managers are failing to give a high enough priority to child protection and that it remains a “Cinderella service.”
Balls said: “None of Lord Laming’s proposals alone could have prevented the death of Baby P. But all of them together add up to a step change in frontline child protection. No barrier, no bureaucracy, no buck-passing should ever get in the way of keeping children safe.”