More ICS reforms needed to make system support staff

    Directors have welcomed reforms to the Integrated Children’s System but say the government should go further in tailoring the system to social workers’ needs.

    The Department for Children, Schools and Families has accepted the Social Work Task Force’s recommendations to overhaul the ICS (see panel, below).

    ICS hinders frontline work

    The “great majority” of frontline staff believed the ICS failed to support them, the task force said. The use of forms (known as exemplars) specifying how data should be inputted into the ICS, could “get in the way of a thoroughgoing analysis” of families’ needs, it said.

    The reforms recognised that the ICS must support social workers in a helpful and non-bureaucratic way, said Di Smith, chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services information systems and technology committee.

    The DCSF has also relaxed the October deadline for implementing stage 1C, which covers information on looked-after children, at the behest of the taskforce.

    Funding linked to ICS implementation

    Smith said that in the past government support to councils had been “over-prescriptive” and funding had been tied to compliance with the different stages of implementing the ICS.

    Funding should be made available to help councils “make their system work in their areas” rather than comply with central requirements, she said.

    There was a case for dropping compliance with 1C altogether, given the ambition of moving towards a less prescriptive system, she added.

    Integrated Children system reforms

    ● Councils to improve flexibility in recording by reviewing ICS forms.

    ● October 2009 deadline for implementing phase 1C of ICS relaxed. Councils to receive extra support on implementation.

    ● Usability survey to be carried out for each ICS IT product.

    ● Councils to receive more procurement support.

    ● DCSF to produce guidance on how ICS can support practice.

    ● No feasibility study into single national ICS, contrary to Laming’s recommendation.

    ● Further reforms set out in DCSF response to final taskforce report in October 2009.

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