Sunday 22 October 2017

Child support system hit by further delay

Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

MORE than two years after the HSE said it was prioritising the creation of a central database on vulnerable children, the project has been hit with yet another delay.

An expected rollout date for the National Childcare Information System in the second half of this year looks increasingly unlikely after the HSE admitted that a tendering process -- due to be finalised months ago -- has still not been completed.

The database is intended to hold details of all the children in state care, as well as those children about whom social workers have protection concerns. It will contain information about their health, education and legal status and will electronically record all case notes.

When operational it will be accessible to around 1,800 staff 24 hours a day. The tendering process was meant to be completed in early April of this year, however a HSE spokeswoman said this was still under way.

When a provider is finally selected, the system will then have to undergo a period of testing before it can go online. The HSE said it was unable to say how long this testing might take.

Asked when the database will be available for use by social workers, the spokeswoman said: "Timelines will be finalised as part of the tender and subsequent contract negotiations."

HSE national director of child and family services Gordon Jeyes, who will head the new Child and Family Support Agency when it is set up next year, has said the national database is on his agenda.

Criticised

However, child-safety experts have criticised the length of time it is taking to introduce.

Fergus Finlay, chief executive of Barnardos, hit out at the delay in the project saying the database was "long overdue".

"This delay is unacceptable. It is of paramount importance that this system be in place in time for the establishment of the new Child and Family Support Agency.

Calls were made for a national database more than two years ago after the scandal of children dying in care broke.

Irish Independent

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