West Lothian Council shares information to prevent child abuse

West Lothian Council has set up a shared information system to improve the way it deals with child abuse.

West Lothian Council has set up a shared information system to improve the way it deals with child abuse.

The council says the system will help it avoid high-profile cases like that of Victoria Climbie, which have attracted criticism in the past.

Eight-year-old Victoria, from north London, was killed in 2000 by her great-aunt and her boyfriend. A public inquiry said poor communication and co-ordination between services contributed to her death, and said that these problems were not unique to Haringey council but were present nationwide.

A number of tragic cases have led to the government to push for more data sharing.

West Lothian's answer was to build a system reaching across social services, the NHS, educational services, the police and the Scottish Children's Reporters Office.

The C-ME system, implemented by Visionware in May 2006, won them a Intellect-Soctim Local Government IT Excellence award.

David Richards, senior officer for information sharing, said, "This was not a knee-jerk reaction, but it was a response to the general situation.

"The main aim is to improve services for children."

The system allows a chronology of intervention to be built up, enabling workers to see an entire case history, improving communication and preventing children from being asked difficult questions more than once.

It means cross-agency collaboration can continue in the office as well as on the ground and during scheduled meetings. Richards said that less time spent briefing other agencies means more time for working on cases.

The system enables workers to message one another securely about cases, and contact details of every worker on a case are provided in the files.

Richards said, "Children can be known to one agency, but the agency who needs to act may not know about them.

"We wanted to avoid vulnerable children slipping through the net."

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