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A clean sweep From 25 databases to just one

Derbyshire County Council is the first in the country to amalgamate every piece of information it has about children and families into a single database, to help multi-agency teams do their job more effectively. The council’s head of service ICT for children and young adults, Andy Callow, discussed the challenges and opportunities arising from the project with PSE, and we also hear from Paul Richards, director of children & young people’s services at CACI, which is implementing the data and case management solution.


ig, central databases of information about citizens often come in for criticism

in the national press, on the ‘all your eggs in one basket’ principle. Early in its term, the Coalition Government scrapped ContactPoint, the national database of all children under 18 in England set up in the wake of the murder of Victoria Climbié and subsequent Laming report, due to concerns about privacy and civil liberties.

But multiple fragmented, complex, insecure databases are hardly good for children or practitioners, throwing up artificial barriers to good information sharing and unnecessarily sucking up resources in data duplication and re-entry across multiple systems.

In Derbyshire, a legacy of departmental restructures meant that multiple, fractured IT systems were being used by all the different teams associated with children’s services, on both the education and social care sides.

But the county’s Children’s Transformation Programme, launched in 2009, recommended multi-agency teams to improve outcomes and reduce fragmented and duplicated interventions – social workers knocking on the front door, and an education and welfare officer knocking at the back, as one anecdote has it.

28 | public sector executive Jul/Aug 12

Andy Callow, the council’s head of service ICT for children and young adults, said the establishment of a new team structure highlighted the problems with the existing IT infrastructure they were having to work with.

He explained: “The multi-agency teams are currently using five different software systems in a single office, to try to get the full picture about the families they’re working with.

“That’s a clear example of how our current systems don’t reflect our ways of working. The barriers between services needn’t exist: that’s our vision.”

A better way

The council decided to streamline its systems, and went into a long period of procurement and competitive dialogue to find the best way to do so. This has recently culminated in the council signing a five-year contract with CACI to decommission around 25 of its existing databases and implement a single new one for all of children’s services, using the company’s ChildView solution.

CACI’s director of children & young people’s services, Paul Richards, told PSE that this standardisation of previously bespoke databases wouldn’t mean a loss of functionality.

He explained: “We’re talking about a single core database, but we will still have 30 or however many individual tailored business applications at the front-end, which will continue to support the business sectors as before. They won’t lose functionality.”

‘Every service that touches the lives of children’

Callow said: “The focus for us is that this isn’t just an IT project: it’s about how our practitioners need to work, and we’ve purchased a tool that supports them in doing that.”

The council is certainly pioneering in just how many systems it’s integrating, he said: “We did a lot of research and networking with colleagues, and as far as we’re aware, there’s no-one who’s captured the range of services we’re looking at: children’s social care, youth offending, the Connexions youth service, children’s centres, education-based services, school advisers; it really is every service that touches upon the lives of children.”

The procurement process, lasting nearly two years, meant that by the end of it both sides had a very good understanding of each other, and the aims and objectives of the transformation. Richards said: “It was painful, expensive and lengthy – but useful.”

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