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Child protection project hit by delays

Deadline could be overshot by six months

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A large number of local authorities in England with social care responsibilities will miss the government's deadline for implementing the Integrated Children's System (ICS), a project for sharing information about vulnerable young people.

In a statement, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) said it was working closely with IT suppliers and local authorities to ensure implementation as soon as possible.

"We are confident that the vast majority of authorities will implement the basic ICS (Phase 1) by 31 March 2008, but the department will of course monitor those that have not done so. The next set of requirements (Phase 1b) is being implemented now for completion in 2008-09," the department said.

Colin Gunner, a consultant at the Society of Information Technology Management, told GC News: "Quite a lot of councils will miss the deadline for Phase 1 by a little, but some by six months." He said it could be August or September before some authorities had fully implemented the system.

Gunner said although the government changed the specification for the ICS, it also changed the deadline for completion from the end of last year to the end of March this year, in order to allow more time.

"I would not point a finger of blame at anyone person, this situation has arisen because of a combination of factors," he said.

Gunner said that the introduction of ICS, aimed at providing uniformity of care for children, and the upgrade from Phase 1 to Phase 1b with a series of enhancements such as a child protection plan, presented a significant challenge for many authorities.

"And there is more to come," he added. "There are plans for this year and next year, and for some councils making these changes is no small thing."

The DCSF said that it was considering the future development of ICS after the completion of Phase 1b, and expects to provide a separate update on this in the next few weeks.

Peter Houselander, director of health and social care at Anite, one of the IT suppliers involved the ICS roll out, said the company is on target. "The key thing is that we have a plan with the DCSF for an end of May release. The solution is working very well."

The Integrated Children's System is part of a wider government programme to reform local services for children and their families and to redress some of the problems in previous recording systems. Its development follows the recommendations of the Laming inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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