8 Dec 2005 : Column 113WS
Written Ministerial Statements
Thursday 8 December 2005
Uprating of War Pensions and Allowances 2006
The Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Don Touhig): The new rates of war pensions and allowances proposed from April 2006 are set out in the tables below. The Annual uprating of war pensions and allowances for 2006 will take place from the week beginning 10 April.
8 Dec 2005 : Column 114WS
EDUCATION AND SKILLS
Information Sharing Index
The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Ruth Kelly): I am announcing today a step change in the support the Government provide to front-line professionals in children's services by leading the implementation of an information sharing index.
The information sharing index is a key element of the "Every Child Matters" programme to transform children's services by supporting more effective prevention and early intervention. Its goal is to improve outcomes and the experience of public services for all children, young people and families. Better information sharing is essential for early and effective intervention. The index will provide a tool to support better communication among practitioners across education, health, social care and youth offending. It will allow them to contact one another more easily and quickly, so they can share information about children who need services or about whose welfare they are concerned.
Our decision about the way forward with the index has been informed by substantial input from, and consultation with, many front-line practitioners and managers across a wide range of children's services organisations. We have also drawn extensively on the experience of local index approaches run under existing legislation by Trailblazer local authorities. Our conclusions respond to what stakeholders have told us they need to be able to do their jobs more effectively and take account of views expressed on the design of the index.
8 Dec 2005 : Column 115WS
minimal identifying information for each child; name, address, date of birth, gender, and contact details for parents or carers. Each child will also have a unique identifying number. In almost all cases this will be a scrambled version of their Child Reference Number (which all children are allocated when a claim for child benefit is made);
where a practitioner judges it appropriate and necessary, an indicator showing that they wished to be contacted by other practitioners because they have relevant information to share, are taking action, or have undertaken an assessment in relation to that child.
No case information will be held on the index. Children, young people, or, where appropriate, their parents or carers will be able to ask to see their records and to challenge any inaccuracies, in accordance with Data Protection Legislation.
There will be a single central index with its data partitioned into 150 parts, one relating to each local authority in England. A central index will ensure that the system works for children who move areas or who access services from more than one area. Partitioning the data will ensure local authorities take the lead in maintaining the accuracy of the data for children living in their area. To avoid double-inputting of data and to ensure high standards of accuracy, information on the index will be drawn from and updated through existing systems. It will use proven technology.
Technical access to the index will be either through the practitioner's existing case management systems, via a web link or, where an approved practitioner has no access to appropriate IT facilities, via another approved user who does have IT access.
The Government are determined that the index will be as secure as possible, and will therefore ensure it complies with rigorous security standards. Access to it will be granted only to authorised users who have undergone appropriate checks, including those provided by the Criminal Records Bureau. Practitioner use of the index will be audited to ensure information is only accessed where it is necessary for practitioners to do so, and so guard against inappropriate access by authorised users.
The experience of the Trailblazers identifies significant benefits in the effectiveness of services. These include improved access to information to inform action, better identification of children not receiving universal services, and better multi-agency communication and information exchange. Scope for significant efficiency gains has also been demonstrated from time saved by practitioners on such tasks as identifying other services involved with a child, tracking down and contacting the individual practitioners involved, and making wasted referrals to services already involved with a child. These savings have been quantified as worth over £88 million per annum across England. We do not intend to reduce funding for children's services, but instead to enable savings realised to be reinvested in more and better
8 Dec 2005 : Column 116WS
services for children and more effective use of staff time. We anticipate that this will enhance staff satisfaction with their jobs.
The Government will commit substantial resources to the index. One-off implementation costs will be an estimated £224 million over the next three yearsthis includes the costs of adapting systems that will supply the data to the index and adapting the day-to-day systems used by practitioners so they can access the index from their own systems. It also includes the cost of ensuring the original data supplied to the index are accurate, that there are robust systems in place to ensure security, and that staff are trained to use the index properly. Operating costs, thereafter, will be £41 million per year. Most of these costs will fund the additional staff needed to ensure the on-going security, accuracy and audit of the index. Both set-up and running costs will be funded by central Government, so that the costs to local authorities do not form a pressure on the Council Tax.
Our plan is that a technically robust, secure and accurate index is available to support children's services across England by the end of 2008. To enable this to be achieved we plan to publish draft Regulations under Section 12 of the Children Act 2004, which will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. An initial set of Regulations in spring 2006 will provide the necessary vires to allow trials to take place for the creation of the initial records. We then plan to publish in autumn 2006 the main Regulations to govern the operation of the index. We will consult publicly on draft regulations in the summer/autumn of 2006.
Implementation will be led by a dedicated project team within DfES. The Project Team will continue to work closely with local authorities, users and other stakeholders to ensure that developments continue to be relevant and lead to more effective practice. Building on the current knowledge gained by the local authority trailblazers, the Project Team will directly and actively seek the views of children, young people and families and will ensure those views are taken into account as we develop the index.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|