Edinburgh City Council is pushing for a major information sharing project with the NHS and the police, that would lead the way for other local Scottish authorities in child protection.

Under the proposals, data would be shared between the institutions as a standard way of operation, rather than simply on a case by case basis. This would guide them on their employee choices, as more will be known about people who are a threat to children.

Andrew Unsworth, head of e-government at the council, told CIO sister title Computerworld UK: “Edinburgh is driving forward the e-care framework, jointly with the NHS and police. To have the council involved in this is an important step.”

EDINBURGH CITY COUNCIL AT A GLANCE

17,000 PCs across 180 sites

Microsoft as standard
incl. Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange & Outlook

Microsoft Systems Management Server

BT key IT contractor

Oracle e-Business for procurement and accounting

Datacentre in Edinburgh, rationalised from 100 disparate servers

Data backup outside the city, other servers in Newcastle

“There will be data hubs across Scotland storing information crucial to child protection, and messages and alerts around children and other vulnerable people.” Unsworth said he planned to present the case on information sharing to the council “within the next couple of months”.

Explaining the benefits of sharing information on vulnerable people in Scotland, he said: “A lot of this information is being shared on a case by case basis between social services, the police and so on. But we know it’s important to have the right sharing in place as a standard way of doing things. We’ve all seen huge numbers of reports around incidents that have happened to children, because of a lack of sharing.”

The move follows another government project in which England, Wales and Northern Ireland will set up a system for various police forces to share data. IT contractor Logica has been appointed to run the registration system, which will go live in 2009, five years after an inquiry into policing by Sir Michael Bichard in 2004. The review followed the deaths of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, and concluded there was a lack of information sharing between police forces that needed to be urgently tackled.

Unsworth said the Edinburgh project would involve sharing information on a much smaller scale, but added that the council would not be complacent about the need for tight security around the information. “This is very sensitive data about people within the city. We have to be careful about how we design the systems, and have the change management in place to protect the data.”

Edinburgh recently completed an IT overhaul with BT, standardising its systems on Microsoft. The project was geared towards efficiencies, and aimed to create a £22 million reduction in IT costs over the next eight years, as well as a £25 million in reduction in costs for other departments.

By standardising, the council is able to introduce new applications more easily. This helped a recent move of 1,400 staff from disparate offices to the central council building, which would have taken “three times longer” without the standardisation, Unsworth said.

While Edinburgh has standardised on Microsoft, it will evaluate its IT setup in 2011 and weigh up all alternatives including the use of Linux.

The council has two other large IT projects underway. In the first, it is rolling out online human resources services to its staff, with the aim of saving that department £1.5 million annually, introducing more online administration and providing greater accuracy in staff records.

Secondly, it is working to increase the number of people who use online government services. “Only 20 percent of customer contact is over the web”, Unsworth said. “I think there’s a lot of work to be done in Scotland.”