The first web-based system to help councils meet new legal requirements for information sharing among teachers, social workers and healthcare professionals is due to go live this month.
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City of York Council is ready to introduce an "integrated children’s system" to meet the requirement for information sharing across agencies under the Children Bill and recommended the Lord Laming’s inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie.
The eight-year-old died from abuse and neglect in 2000 while living with her aunt and her aunt’s boyfriend. Lord Laming cited the failure to share information between professionals working in healthcare, social care and education as a contributory factor in Climbie’s death.
Peter Dwyer, assistant director of children’s services at City of York Council, said the integrated children’s system would help avoid a repeat of the tragedy and would also speed up the processing of assessments of vulnerable children in the York area.
"There is going to be a greater opportunity for organisations to contribute to assessments from very different fields, whether from schools, social services or GPs’ surgeries. It should speed up the processing and improve completion rates," he said.
York was one of four councils to pilot integrated childcare records in a project headed by the Department for Education and Skills.
Working in partnership with CareWorks, a specialist provider of social care software systems, the council has developed the system without capital expenditure. All UK councils are due to process all new work electronically by January 2006. The CareWorks system will meet about 80% of that requirement, Dwyer said.
The system holds details of about 1,200 vulnerable children in a database and will allow information of particular processes to cascade into the right format for social workers, teachers or healthcare professionals. This will avoid repeated data entry and ensure that data used by the different groups is up to date.
The Department for Education and Skills has mandated all councils to implement similar systems by the end of 2005. Earlier this year it provided £20m of funding for the systems.
Dwyer urged local authorities to start work early. "It is more significant than you might anticipate. You need high-level sign in, it is not cost neutral, and you might need to update equipment. You need agreement from staff working with the system about how interagency access will work. It all takes time and it all needs to be well project managed."