£1.5m to replace 'slow' IT system that Northamptonshire social care staff were 'reluctant' to use

The county council cabinet agreed to the procurement of a new IT system
The county council cabinet agreed to the procurement of a new IT system

Northamptonshire County Council is investing £1.5m to improve a critical children and adult social care IT system that was ‘so slow’ that staff were sometimes ‘reluctant’ to use it.

The current CareFirst system records and tracks social care cases for vulnerable people, but is now 14-years-old and there are concerns that it's not keeping pace with the growing demand.

A council report states that the system has 'blind spots' where ‘potentially crucial information is not available to the right people at the point of decision making’.

It added: “The system is not easy for practitioners to use and over time has been complicated by additional fields, markers and processes that mean assessment recording can take significant time, and staff are reluctant to record information.

“Integration with other systems is poor, which is driving further significant manual activity and increasing the likelihood of human error and further affecting productivity.”

On Tuesday (April 9), the county council’s cabinet agreed to purchase a new system to replace it.

Cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Fiona Baker said: “It is hard to overstate just how critical this system is. This holds all the information we have about the interactions we have with some of our county’s most vulnerable residents. This information is used to make crucial decisions about the care these people require.”

Cabinet member for adult social services Cllr Sandra Naden-Horley added: “The current system is in urgent need of being replaced. It is 14-years-old and the needs of social care have changed so much in that time.

“A new system will give us improved information to help people making decisions about people’s care needs and will also work more seamlessly with other systems like those used by the NHS, meaning people’s time is freed up to focus on their front-line activity.”

But Liberal Democrat leader Chris Stanbra questioned why it had taken such a long time to replace the system.

He said: “How many of the 14 years this has been in place have these been problems? I heard a year ago that this system was not fit for purpose. Who knew before me, and why has it taken so long to take action?"

Cllr Naden-Horley responded: "IT moves quickly. But 14 years is a long time and I welcome this updated system."

Director of transformation Paul Helsby said a previous attempt to update had changed scope and ended up costing a predicted £8million, which the county council could not afford at the time.

After that, he says, he doesn't know why an updated system was not looked at sooner.

£1.5million from the council’s capital budget will be used to pay for the new system.