Child welfare IT hit by delays

Child welfare IT hit by delays

More than 30 councils could miss next week's deadline as software is late

At least one in five local authorities in England will miss a vital deadline for the implementation of information sharing systems for social care professionals who work with vulnerable children.

The Integrated Children’s System (ICS) is part of Every Child Matters, the government policy established after the 2003 inquiry report into the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie.

A series of must-have enhancements to ICS was set in early 2007 by the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to be implemented by 31 March 2008 as part of Phase 1B of the initiative.

The deadline affects 150 authorities, but 30 are not expected to meet it and the number could be higher, according to sources.

Most affected councils are waiting for software from supplier Anite Public Sector, which will not be available until the end of May.

“We will not be meeting the 31 March deadline,” said a spokesman for one council using Anite software.

“The roadmap has slipped, so customers using Anite cannot possibly meet the deadline.”

Other councils are also experiencing delays, but Anite’s customers are worst affected, said Colin Gunner, consultant at local government user group Socitm.

“It’s not just Anite, but Anite is by far the worst, as most other suppliers have achieved Phase 1B compliance,” he said.

“I would put the number of affected councils at around 25 for Anite customers, and overall it’s about 30. Anite could deliver in May, but implementation will then take three to four months.”

Several councils that originally contracted Anite have already switched supplier.

“There has been a steady trickle of Anite customers coming to us following a series of missed deadlines,” said another vendor.

A number of councils will receive their software late, but the government has approved the new target of 31 May, said Peter Houselander, director of health and
social care at Anite Public Sector.

“The date is later than the initial target, but Anite’s plan to have the software ready in May has been approved by the DCSF,” he said.

A spokesman for DCSF said: “We are confident the vast majority of authorities will implement the basic ICS by 31 March 2008, but the department will of course monitor those that have not.”