Information sharing systems in disarray over funding and guidance

Major government IT initiatives designed to revolutionise the
way information is stored and shared by social services departments
are in danger of stalling because of a lack of funding and
confusion over how they should operate.

Trailblazer pilots for Information Sharing and Assessment
(previously Identification Referral and Tracking) have been delayed
by a year, Community Care has learned. It is meant to test systems
for information sharing between agencies working with children,
culminating in the shared children’s database outlined in the
Children Bill.

The 10 pilots were each given £1m to spend on the database
by March this year but the deadline was extended until September
and then again until March 2005.

Co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services
children and families committee and director of social services at
Telford and Wrekin John Coughlan said councils had been slow to
spend the money because of the complexity of the projects.   

Meanwhile, all X three-star councils missed the deadline this
week for implementing an electronic social care record system –
designed to hold information on individuals previously kept in
paper files and correspondence such as emails – because of a
lack of funding. All departments are expected to have these
established by October 2006.

The Association of Directors of Social Services and a handful of
IT suppliers are lobbying the government for £1m for each
authority to fund the ESCR and the single assessment process.

President Andrew Cozens, who is also director of social services
at Leicester Council, estimated it would cost his department
£1m to ensure all staff had their own computer.

Business development director at Anite Tony Barron, one of the
IT companies lobbying for money, said the government was expecting
local authorities to implement the new system on a

“There is no national funding for ESCR but other parts of
councils, such as revenue and benefits which have set up similar
systems, have had funding from the Department for Work and
Pensions,” he said.

He added that the Department of Health had not been clear enough
on the national standards for the system, including how the
information should be stored and kept secure.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said.

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