Integrated Children's System

Education and Skills written question – answered on 18th November 2004.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Minister (Children)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much money it will cost to implement the Integrated Children's System.

Photo of Margaret Hodge Margaret Hodge Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Children)

The Integrated Children's System (ICS) is derived from the social services functions under the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. It provides a national framework for social services to undertake their functions in a systematic manner. It does not impose any additional duties or responsibilities on them. Funding has been provided to assist local authorities upgrade their IT systems to help them perform their functions effectively. We do not gather information on the detailed costs for individual local authorities of developing and running the ICS or existing systems which support their social services functions.

The LASSL(2003)7 "Children's Social Services Funding 2004–05" set out the main aspects of the 2004–05 local government finance settlement which is relevant to the funding provided for children's social services. It announced a capital grant of £10 million to support the development of information technology systems for children's social services. The £10 million is the first tranche of a total grant of £30 million payable in 2004/05 and 2005/06.

LAC(2004)22 provided more detailed guidance. It required the grant to be spent on building the information technology systems required to support the implementation of the Integrated Children's System (ICS). This grant is therefore primarily concerned with enabling staff to record and manage electronically case record information about children being served in the context of the Children Act 1989. The Integrated Children's System (ICS) will be quite different from the information database(s). The ICS is a national framework for Councils with Social Services Responsibilities' (CSSRs') to help them work with children in need and their families. It provides a single approach for assessment, planning, intervention and reviewing based on an understanding of children's developmental needs in the context of their families and communities. It is signed to improve outcomes for children in need. The information gathered in the course of working with children and their families must be recorded by social services. These records have traditionally been paper-based but a growing number of councils have electronic record keeping systems in place. As part of implementing the integrated children's system, social service records will all be kept electronically, replacing paper-based systems. The ICS is simply a better way to maintain and meet existing record keeping requirements and, therefore, requires no legislative provision.

The ICS will provide a more effective way of keeping and accessing records relating to social services work with children and families than exists at present. This will help improve standards of service to children and families.

The grant, which was announced in LASSL(2003)7 "Children's Social Services Funding 2004–05", is allocated in a way that reflects the size of local children's social services operation. The FSS formula is used for this purpose. This grant is in addition to the Capital Grant for Improving Information Management supporting Information for Social Care described in Local Authority Circular LAC(2003)17. £25 million was paid in 2003–04 to CSSRs for the purposes of the developmental, improvement or acquisition of systems for improving information management.

In total, we have provided an extra £90 million this year to support councils in improving their services to safeguard children including responding to the recommendations made in Lord Laming's report and the Joint Chief Inspectors' Report, "Safeguarding Children". No conditions have been attached to this money to enable councils the freedom to choose how to target the extra resources so that they can maximise the outcome for children's services in their area. It is open to local authorities to use some of these resources to improving their IT and recording system, as well as for training their staff.

It is for local authorities to decide how best to provide support and services for all children in need in its area. There is no current specific earmarked funding for services; instead, Government funding is allocated to councils with social services responsibilities on the basis of the needs of their populations. A weighted capitation formula is used to determine each body's target fair share of available resources. It is, therefore, for councils, working in partnership with relevant local stakeholders, to determine their spending priorities on the basis of local needs.

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