MPs slam Home Office over lack of child protection IT

A Commons committee has slammed the Home Office for putting some of the UK's most vulnerable children at risk because a...

A Commons committee has slammed the Home Office for putting some of the UK's most vulnerable children at risk because a government agency set up to protect them lacks a vital computer system.

The Lord Chancellor's Department Select Committee, in a wide-ranging report on the Children and Family Court Advisory Service (Cafcass), said there was an urgent need for an integrated case management system.

"Cafcass is there to protect vulnerable children at a critical time in their lives. But its first two years have been close to disaster," said committee chairman Alan Beith.

Senior Cafcass executives told the committee they had cancelled a case management system project, fearing it would become "another government IT disaster".

MPs on the committee also questioned what happened to the money that was allocated for IT systems when Cafcass was established.

The committee said, "At set-up, some £6m was provided for the development of IT systems in Cafcass. We were told that work on a case management system had begun during the pre-Cafcass period. It is not clear what then happened to the money.

"Since work on the project was halted, minimal progress has been made on the development of appropriate IT systems. New hardware has been delivered to offices, and it is used for word processing, e-mail and other office applications. Crucially, however, there is still no software available that will enable this new hardware to manage and share information about live cases."

Commenting before the publication of the select committee report, a Cafcass representative said, "Cafcass will continue to run legacy systems until its networked case management application is delivered. It has now defined and issued to market specifications for this system and is considering suppliers' tenders."

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