The government has scrapped the £15m promised by the previous government to help local authorities improve their integrated children’s systems (ICS) under further budget cuts announced by the Department for Education.
In a letter to directors of children’s services and local authority chief executives this week, education secretary Michael Gove said councils should continue to address IT problems causing problems for social workers locally. However, the money for this should be taken from the £23m social work improvement fund, which the previous government announced as the “first step” in implementing the recommendations of the Social Work Reform Board.
Other cuts announced included £13m (or half of the budget) from the youth capital fund and £24m sliced off the £200m co-location fund, which was supporting 101 pilots to increase integration within children’s services. Those projects “where progress has not been satisfactory” would be scrapped the letter stated.
Steve Liddicott, chair of the ICS expert panel, said since the grant was announced just before the election, most councils would not have had time to make firm plans on the expectation of the grant.
“The issue is how much people were expecting it. It was never enough for people to be able to commission a new IT system but I know some people were intending to use it for improvements or to fund an advisory post acting as a link between developers and users.”
Liddicott said he felt it would now be down to local authorities to negotiate better deals with suppliers over how to improve systems.
“I don’t necessarily think it needs to come with a big price tag as a lot of the improvements needed could be made as part of a standard upgrading process. All suppliers want to be in the position of being able to offer the most usable product to clients,” he added.
An LGA spokeswoman agreed that most councils had not had time to become reliant on the expectation of the grant and in the “grand scheme of things this is just one more cut”.