Qld child protection unit gets $9m apps overhaul

The Queensland Department of Child Safety is embarking on a $9 million upgrade of its client management applications to give welfare caseworkers better visibility across agencies and departments.

Known as the Integrated Client Management System (ICMS), the .Net based solution, sourced from a consortium of Fujitsu and Onyx Software, will replace a near decade-old distributed Lotus Notes enterprise system and a host of ad hoc manual workarounds.

According to ICMS project director Gerard Palk, the new application will be rolled out over the next two years and form the core client management application for1800 users across more than 30 offices of both Child Safety and Juvenile Justice departments.

Palk told Computerworld while the IT department handled many of the more technical aspects of choosing the new system, end user inclusion at an early stage - to help assess functionality and usability in the vendor screening process - was critical.

"Our social workers were part of the selection - we saw that as very important. It's part of the change management process ... part of getting [end users to accept and take ownership] of the changes when they happen.

"There was a fair amount of [user] education. We involved [users] in the evaluation reference team and people from the business were invited to the vendor briefings. There was a fair amount of teamwork," Palk said.

Part of Palk's brief is to create a service oriented architecture (SOA) base for the new system which will allow visibility of the state's most at-risk clients across both social welfare and justice sectors so case workers can monitor developments and act accordingly as they occur.

At the moment, the department of Child Safety uploads overnight batch files from its Notes system onto a read-only Ingres-based intranet to allow client visibility, with functionality workarounds largely based on paper forms.

"[on the Notes system] people see only the [details of]clients in their own office," Palk said, adding the new system will allow inter-departmental visibility.

The ICMS rollout also needed a refresh of Child Saftey's standard operating environment. Palk said the first half of 2005 will see operating systems migrate from Windows 98 to 2003, while e-mail front- and back-ends will move from Notes 4.6 to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook.

Queensland's Minister for Child Safety, Mike Reynolds and Minister for Communities, Warren Pitt, said while the ICMS tender had run late, it would form a catalyst for transforming both the youth justice and child protection information systems by having one central database to better address offending behaviour.

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