ICS panel says criticism of system is unfair

The integrated children’s system (ICS) is being blamed unfairly for management problems, according to members of the ICS expert panel.

At a meeting this week, attended exclusively by Community Care, panel members admitted the system was not perfect but expressed frustration that ICS was often blamed for problems unrelated to IT.

“ICS isn’t the root of all evil,” said panel chair Steve Liddicott. “It’s important to remember that planning for children in care before ICS was hit and miss. It was very variable between local authorities and inconsistent. It’s so much better now.

“People have to remember there wasn’t a halcyon day sometime in the 1990s when all social work records were absolutely perfect.”

Insufficient training, disorganised assessment frameworks and a lack of computer literacy were among concerns that have been submitted to the panel, but are outside its power to fix.

“We can’t fix the whole world,” said Liddicott. “So the first phase we had to go through was simply saying ‘that’s not the fault of ICS’.”

Panel member Patrick Dodds said some of the issues would take care of themselves as the workforce evolved.

“I do think that, as younger workers come through, some of the IT issues are tending to disappear because people are more efficient and take things as read,” he said.

The panel is compiling a strategic manager’s guide outlining best practice for ICS implementation. The guide will address the lack of understanding among some social workers of the framework ICS is supposed to support.

“It’s not necessarily about the design of ICS, but about whether we’re clear enough on how social workers look at risk generally through the assessment framework,” said panel member Ida Cohen. “If what you’re doing isn’t clear in the framework, it isn’t going to be clear when you translate it into a computerised system.”

However, Cohen said the frustrations of practitioners and their complaints were being noted.

“There are limitations in how fast you can change something that’s rolled out nationally and has different systems involved in it,” she said. “Change is coming, but you may experience some this year, some the next year, some the year after. It’s an evolving process.”

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