ICS freedoms ‘undermined by data collection rules’

The freedom to tailor integrated children's systems (ICS) to local needs could be under threat from government proposals on national performance data collection, a leading provider has claimed.

The freedom to tailor integrated children’s systems (ICS) to local needs could be under threat from government proposals on national performance data collection, a leading provider has claimed.

The government has promised to draw up a list of performance information based on Professor Eileen Munro’s suggestions. Included will be data on social worker caseloads, the percentage of child protection plans lasting two years or longer, and the percentage of children judged to be below the child-in-need threshold.

However, experts are warning that the process could place a greater bureaucratic burden on child protection IT.

“Most local authorities will want to exercise more local discretion in the design of their procedures, but greater local control may be limited if the centre has these new requirements around performance data,” said David Grigsby, director of sales and strategy at ICS provider Liquidlogic.

“Everyone is assuming there will be a lighter touch from the centre, but these new requirements could impact on what data authorities have to collect and could even affect the processes they have to run.”

Other providers have said Munro was right to suggest these indicators, saying they provide authorities with a necessary foundation for their locally developed ICS.

“The performance information is helpful because it tells local authorities where the bottom line is and the authorities I’ve been working with have welcomed Munro’s proposals about this,” said Isobel Freeman, senior business consultant at ICS provider OLM. “It’s much less prescriptive than the original ICS requirements outlined by government.”

Freeman added that the removal of assessment deadlines by the end of this year would make ICS more useful to practitioners because data would be more accurate and practitioners would be less tempted to manipulate data in order to meet targets.

“You do need to have certain outcomes and information on things like timescales, even thought the government has removed a lot of those statutory requirements,” she said. “Munro points out that what people did to meet these government targets was subvert the process by closing cases prematurely or altering other records. I hope there won’t be that kind of behaviour anymore and the data recorded will be more accurate as a result. This will give local authorities a much better picture of what’s really going on and what they can do better.”

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