Problems with the Integrated Children’s System (ICS) have cropped up as a common theme in many of the recent unannounced children’s safeguarding inspections from Ofsted.
Of 13 unannounced inspections, six found a need to improve electronic recording systems. Also, an “inadequate” rating of Sandwell’s safeguarding and services for looked-after children included the point that its ICS system did not sufficiently focus on risk, which was influencing social worker’s assessment methods.
Nottingham, Middlesborough, Coventry, East Riding, Stockton-on-Tees and South Tyneside all had electronic recording systems seen as cumbersome, time-consuming and having a negative impact on social worker assessments.
It follows Kensington and Chelsea’s reciept of a government e-award for their in-house ICS system after it rejected the specification and funding for an ICS system, devised by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). The council is now exploring marketing the system to other councils.
However, chair of the ICS expert panel, Steve Liddicott, denied the council’s success was a blow to the government specifications.
“Councils have now been given the freedom to develop systems that work for them, so the fact Kensington and Chelsea have struck out on their own doesn’t matter either way. Although other authorities have commented positively on Kensington and Chelsea’s design, I’m not aware of any taking it up.”
He said many councils would have already invested money in their own systems, adding that the upkeep of such personalised systems could be difficult.
“The advantage with in-house development is that you get what you want. But in the past there have been authorities with in-house systems who overestimated their ability to keep them up.”
Ofsted also crticised Rochdale for having a significantly higher number than average of child protection case conferences held outside the required timescales, and Coventry for social workers having too many cases on their books. Hull was seen to have weak partnership working with some GPs reluctant to share information with child protection team and East Riding was admonished for a lack of clarity around thresholds for assessment. Stockton-on-Tees had poor information-sharing on convicted adults who posed a risk to children.