Information-sharing systems in disarray as funding problems bite

Government IT schemes designed to revolutionise how 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 that work
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 recently until March 2005.

Co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services
children and families committee John Coughlan said councils had
been slow to spend the money because of the complexity of the

Meanwhile, because of funding shortfalls, all 16 three-star
councils look set to miss the October deadline for implementing an
electronic social care record system (ESCR) which holds information
on individuals. This information is currently kept in paper files
and correspondence such as e-mails. All departments are expected to
operate the new system by October 2006.

The Association of Directors of Social Services and a handful of IT
suppliers are lobbying the government for £1m for each council
to fund the ESCR and the single assessment process. ADSSpresident
and Leicester social services director Andrew Cozens estimated it
would cost his department £1m to ensure all staff have their
own computer.

The business development director of one of the IT companies
lobbying for money, Tony Barron at Anite, said the government was
expecting councils 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

A Department of Health spokesperson said £75m had been given
to social care for IT, but this had not been ringfenced for
implementing the ESCR system.

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