Leeds City Council's '£5 million computer bill'

A computer system blamed for years of major failings in children's services in Leeds is finally to be replaced at a cost of millions.

The existing record-keeping network used by Leeds City Council social workers and managers was installed in 2001 at a cost of 2.16m.

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It was bought to improve the way the authority worked and to help protect vulnerable children.

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But in a report, it has been fiercely criticised by inspectors who branded it "unfit for purpose" and "wasteful".

Council chiefs have now decided the whole system needs to be scrapped and they have agreed to invest in a replacement.

They will not reveal how much the new network will cost for "commercial reasons", but it is thought it could cost up to 5m.

The council says the new technology will bring the authority into line with national standards and allow it to provide a "more effective case management system".

Coun Judith Blake, executive member responsible for children's

services, said: "Important decisions have to be taken everyday by frontline social care staff and managers on the unique and often complex support requirements for children. The new system will let them gather, record and share accurate information to and from multiple sources quickly and easily to help them make fully informed decisions.

"It will give staff more time to spend working directly with children and their families, and less time on administration duties."

Nigel Richardson, director of children's services said: "If we're serious about safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people in Leeds then we need to give our staff at the frontline the best tools to do the job.

"We've made significant improvements to our existing arrangements, but to move forward in the most effective way we need to invest in a smarter, more flexible system to help staff fulfil their responsibilities and meet the demands of keeping children safe."

An Ofsted report last January condemned Leeds's children's services department as "poor" and with "serious weaknesses".

It found that vulnerable children had been placed at risk of abuse and neglect because of council failings.

As revealed by the YEP, four senior managers left after the report was published - and received a total of 346,000 Children's services director Rosemary Archer brought forward her retirement.

A replacement director, Nigel Richardson, was appointed in September.

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