Council criticised over child care to improve information sharing

A COUNCIL told it must improve its children's services is planning to invest in technology to provide a new information system for its staff.

Independent inspectors produced a critical assessment of children's services in Leeds and the Government imposed an improvement board to oversee changes in the service. One criticism levelled at bosses at Leeds City Council was that systems to record important information were not up to scratch.

Councillors will be asked to approve investment in new technology to create an integrated computer system which will allow staff to quickly gather, record and share accurate information from a number of sources.

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The costs have not been made public.

A report to members of the council's executive board, which meets on January 5, says any delay in introducing a new system "compromises the ability to safeguard children" because currently staff record details on paper and a computer system which means details may be missed as they are not all in one place.

It warns the current system: "does not meet the requirements of children's services sufficiently to best enable professionals to meet their duties around safeguarding children and young people. This reflects the fact that the current system was developed in house from a sales/case management system and, given the significant changes in children's social care practice, now falls a long way short of current service requirements.

The report adds: "The system was subject to criticism in the 2009 Ofsted inspections and some of those weaknesses cannot be fully addressed using the current system. Following on from this, Leeds City Council is currently subject to an Improvement Notice and monitored by an independently chaired improvement board. Despite significant improvements being made to the existing system, there still continues to be difficulties in meeting the requirements which will support and effectively record the practice improvements taking place."

It had been previously planned to also update the adult social care information system. However members will be told that the change of Government has made the requirements of the new system less clear so members are being urged to put this on hold until later next year.

They are recommending changes to children's services go ahead because these are deemed more urgent. However, giving the green light to a better information system for children and delaying one for adults could increase overall costs.