The Integrated Children’s System expert panel looks set to be replaced by smaller regional groups focused on improving practice.
The panel, which has only been existence for seven months, was created to ensure the system had better input from frontline social workers. However, the government recently claimed it wanted local authorities to take greater ownership of ICS systems. The panel could be replaced within 12 months.
The panel works in partnership with a group of nominated local authority representatives (NLARs). It focuses on practice, while the NLARs advise on technical issues.
Steve Liddicott, chair of the ICS expert panel, told Community Care that groups similar to NLARs, with a focus on practice, might be created to replace the panel.
“There are a few elements we’re still discussing, one of which is about the shape of the future improvement programme,” said Liddicott. “The expert panel was never set up as a permanent fixture and once it has served its purpose it will be disbanded.”
The current NLAR group is made up of representatives from different regions. These representatives are chosen by their “provider groups”, which are groups of local authorities that use the same ICS provider.
Liddicott said out of the nine regions in England, just one currently had a regional group focused on practice. He estimated that it would take a minimum of a year for the others to do the same.
“We have eight still to go so I would think it’s going to take the best part of a year,” he said. “Recent discussions with the DCSF have save said the expert panel has about a year left of life.”
Councils will not be able to scrap their ICS based on the £15m grant from government, according to Liddicott.
The £15m funding was announced by the Department for Children, Schools and Families as part of the government’s Social Work Task Force recommendations implementation plan.
“Nobody’s going to get anything like enough money to scrap their existing system,” Liddicott told Community Care. “There’s nothing stopping local authorities from going out and getting new systems, but the DCSF grant isn’t going to pay for them to that – once you divide it among all the councils, it just isn’t enough.”
Liddicott said the majority of councils were likely to spend the money on improving the systems they already had. Others, he said, might use it to take developments they have already made to the next level.