The Integrated Children’s System, commonly known as ICS, has been a point of controversy in children’s social care since its creation.
Initially, the government was very prescriptive with its ICS requirements, but regulation has since relaxed, leaving councils freer to adapt the system according to local needs.
Although many practitioners welcome the idea in principle, opinions have not been so high in practice.
Problems started when the system’s implementation was behind schedule and more complex than the government predicted.
Some councils refused initial government funding and the prescriptive design that went with it and struck out on their own to develop their own systems. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, however, has so far been the only one to do this successfully.
In 2009, the government set up an ICS expert panel to address the system’s issues and help councils achieve better outcomes when using it.
The panel releases ICS guidance on a regular basis. Panel suggestions have included making the system more user-friendly and improving social workers’ ability to record family assessments within the system.
The panel has also defended the system, saying it is not as flawed as some say.
The panel was always intended to be temporary, brought to a close when the necessary changes had been identified. There has been talk that, when dissolved, the expert panel will be replaced by smaller, regional groups focused on improving practice.
The last government set aside £15m for the scrappage and renewal of ICS throughout the country.
Experts argued, however, that £15m was not enough to re-do the entire system.
The problem never needed to be addressed, however, because the coalition government scrapped the £15m funding.
Professor Eileen Munro is considering the state of ICS in her review of children’s services in England. Although she has acknowledged the system is problematic, she will not make any formal recommendations until the second and third instalments of her report, due in 2011.
You may also like Community Care’s Children’s Services blog, which covers the latest news, views, gossip and analysis in children’s social care. It is aimed at professionals working with these children, young people and their families.
The blog is written by children’s editor, Judy Cooper, senior journalist Molly Garboden and journalist Camilla Pemberton.
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