Healthy relationship

The Child Protection Information Sharing project (CP-IS) is set to improve the way information is shared between health and social care teams nationally. Karen Reeve explains how the initiative is helping to protect vulnerable children in Swindon. 

The launch of the CP-IS project has paved the way for a new nationwide approach to the safeguarding of children and young people. For the first time, authorities can establish a secure connection between their social care IT systems and those being used by NHS unscheduled care settings such as hospital emergency departments anywhere in England.

Why is this so important?

If you are a social worker in contact with a child who is in care or subject to a child protection plan, you need to know promptly if they have been seen at a walk-in medical centre or hospital emergency department with an injury, so that you can take action, if needed, to keep them safe. Before, it may not have been possible to get this kind of information to social workers quickly, especially if the child has been seen in a different area. It is now.

At a time when early intervention is recognised to be central to improving outcomes for children and families, CP-IS could improve the exchange of information for child protection. And as one of the first authorities to get involved, Swindon Borough Council is already seeing the difference the programme is making.

How does it work?

As part of the CP-IS programme in Swindon, systems and processes have been put in place to help ensure that health and social care teams have the information they need to work in a more joined-up way to protect the most vulnerable children and young people they are in contact with. A piece of software from Capita One provides the vital link between the authority’s social care system and the national CP-IS database to bring this to life.

Although still in its initial stages, the way the authority’s CP-IS project works is that when a child or young person presents at an unscheduled health care setting, anywhere in England, a member of staff with the appropriate authorisation will see a flag against their details on screen, indicating that they are either looked-after or subject to a child protection plan.

It will even be possible for authorised medical staff to see that an unborn child is subject to a child protection plan, if the pregnant mother comes into contact with them at an unscheduled health care setting.

If you are on that child’s medical team, having this information at your fingertips could alter the decisions you are making on treatment plans. And if necessary, you could quickly find details for the relevant social work team to make contact.

Equally, when a health professional accesses the national CP-IS system, a notification is automatically sent to the relevant child’s social worker and this will be documented in their electronic record. The social worker will also be able to ascertain details of which medical setting the file was accessed from and by whom.

What this means is that if a vulnerable child or young person turns up unexpectedly at an emergency department in their own, or a different local authority, both the medical staff treating them and their social care team can respond quickly to get them the help and support they need.

The right help at the right time

The success of the CP-IS programme will help to ensure that issues are identified early and support can be put in place for children and families more quickly than it may have been in the past. According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), who are leading the national roll out of the initiative, there have been around 17,500 records for vulnerable and at risk children uploaded onto the system in 2015.

Nationally, the HSCIC, which developed the system, expects the records for around 100,000 vulnerable children to be available so they can be identified and helped sooner, if needed, as a result of the project. This has the potential to release significant savings locally from reduced administration costs and through the implementation of successful early intervention, where required.   

Swindon Borough Council is already starting to see the benefits of its involvement with the CP-IS programme.  As we progress with our information sharing project, I am confident that we have taken the first important steps towards offering greater protection to some of the most vulnerable children in our area.

Karen Reeve is head of children, families and community health at the Swindon Borough Council.

Colin Marrs

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