Council builds £2.8m shared database of vulnerable kids

What could possibly go wrong?

Derbyshire county council has announced plans to improve outcomes and reduce costs by installing a new £2.8m single database.

The system will allow a range of partner agencies, including the police, NHS and schools to share information on children and young adults at risk.

Derbyshire, which employs 16,675 employees, currently has 25 different databases in place. The authority said that having multiple systems has sometimes made it difficult for staff to get a clear overview of a single family or child as they have to log in to a number of different databases.

Andy Callow, head of service IT for children and young adults services at the council acknowledged that having multiple systems has been problematic at times.

"It relied on different practitioners' relationships with each other, and somebody looking over another person's shoulder," he told Guardian Government Computing. "Some people had access to five different software systems, and in terms of having to make quality decisions about children and families, it made it hard. It wasn't impossible, it was just difficult."

As part of a children's transformation programme at the council, Derbyshire decided to go to market for a new database to help support its aim of improving services. It has signed a five-year deal with technology firm CACI to deliver the new database.

The firm's ChildView solution will act as a single database supporting more than 40 modules, each with the same standard interface. In the coming weeks, the authority will start transferring information from all its different databases to the new system. Callow said that the transition to the new single database should be completed by July 2014.

He also said that he was confident that the system would be fully secure. Staff will be given restricted access based on the job that they carry out.

"What the system will allow us to do is be extremely flexible about what information people can access and who's using what," said Callow.

The authority hopes to see several benefits from installing the new database, including giving staff access to a wider breadth of information, so that they can make more informed decisions. Callow believes that it will also support early intervention.

"What we might see is a number of low level events that occur within a particular family or child's life that gives you an indication that if you offer support early there's a chance to avoid certain situations," he said.

"It will also allow us to evaluate our services and determine the effectiveness of different things. The work that happens in children's centres for example, we can actually link that to later outcomes in life."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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