NSW govt dumps DoCS IT upgrade

The NSW Government has decided to cancel upgrades to a key Department of Community Services (DoCS) system that has been problematic since its inception.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor on

The NSW Government has decided to cancel upgrades to a key Department of Community Services (DoCS) system that has been problematic since its inception.

The Key Information and Directory System (KiDS) is used by DoCS caseworkers to record information.

Since it was introduced in 2003, there have been a number of issues, with a performance audit in 2005 and the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection in 2008 recommending that it be upgraded, while other reports drew attention to problems with the system.

The system was designed prior to policy and practice changes that occurred as part of a reform of DoCS, making it less relevant to case workers. Data quality of the system is also poor, according to the special commission, with records often being duplicated.

Workers have complained of difficulty in navigating the system, hindering their ability to find relevant information on cases.

DoCS developed a core redesign project to improve the system, enabling the capture of information from the helpline call centre, which would then alert caseworkers of activity on cases. The upgrade was also to increase automation of functions required under current business policies, and increase the validation of information entry, in order to reduce the need for data remediation.

Now, however, after $12 million in spending, the government has shelved the upgrade, as first reported by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward said that the benefits of revamping the system aren't worth the necessary costs.

"Given the problems with KiDS, upgrades developed since 2010 under Labor have been terminated, as the costs of continuing those projects outweighed what the department advised were limited benefits to community services of successful implementation," she said in a statement.

"Over $12 million of taxpayers' funds has been spent on updating a computer system that continues to let our frontline child-protection workers down, limiting their potential."

The NSW Ombudsman said in a special report in 2011 that the redesign work needs to be independently evaluated to ensure that the changes would provide a "best-practice system".

"In addition, what needs to be explored is the best solution for producing a range of aggregated reports. While the KiDS redesign project is clearly relevant to this issue, reporting tools of this kind are perhaps more likely to be able to be delivered through [the Department of] Community Services' Corporate Data Warehouse," the report said.

Goward said that she is determined to improve the systems. The Department of Family and Community services appointed a CIO last year and the department has been charged with preparing a strategic ICT plan. Goward said that independent experts will be asked to develop an effective system to help caseworkers do their jobs.

Editorial standards