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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
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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 200405" set out the main aspects of the 200405 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 200405", 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 200304 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
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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.
Margaret Hodge: The IT system, to support the use of Integrated Children's System (ICS), will enable councils with social services responsibilities to hold information electronically about children in need who are in receipt of their services. It will contain information gathered in the course of working with children and their families, which has been 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 ICS, social service records will all be kept electronically, replacing paper-based systems.
The Access to Personal Files Act 1987 gave people the general right to see social work records which related to them produced after 1987. The Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998, which came into force on 1 March 2000, enhances these rights and abolishes the time limit. Any living person, who is the subject of personal information held and processed by a social services authority, has the right of access to those records. The right of access only extends to the person who is the subject of those records, or someone acting on their behalf.
A person does not have the right to know what is recorded about someone else, even someone who is a member of the same family, without that person's consent. Requests from parents to see records relating to a child can be dealt with under these arrangements only where they are acting in the interests of a child who is unable to act for himself, rather than on their own behalf.
The right of access extends to children and young people under 18 who understand what it means to exercise that right. If they do not have sufficient understanding to make the request, a person with parental responsibility can make the request on their behalf.
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However, there are circumstances in which personal information can be disclosed. For example, an authority may disclose information to social services staff directly involved in a case, or to anyone who cares for one of their clients, such as a voluntary body or foster carers. An authority will also need to disclose personal information to various bodies with the power to order disclosure, when ordered to do so, such as the police, the courts and statutory inquiries.
Following the publication of the consultation document, "Integrated Children's System Working with Children in Need and Their Families", in December 2002, a programme of work was set up in partnership with local authorities with social services responsibilities to pilot its introduction and test the integrity of the Integrated Children's System (ICS). This will allow the components of the system to be amended and revised before full introduction.
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The first study is to assess the development of a multi-agency and integrated approach to implementing the ICS for children in need and their families. It is a two-year study ending in March 2005. There are four pilot sites: York, London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames and Lancashire county council in England and Neath Port Talbot in Wales.
A second study aims to investigate how the ICS operates within local authorities with social services responsibilities. It is a two-year study which commenced in April 2004. It has a particular focus on piloting the system with disabled children and black and minority ethnic children and their families. There are four pilot sites: West Sussex and Newcastle in England, and Flintshire and Wrexham in Wales.
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