Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Computer system fails the children it was designed to protect

15.12.2008
Just days after the head of Ofsted, Christine Gilbert, promised an overhaul of child protection inspection services in the wake of the death of Baby P, a new study claims that the IT-based procedures used by staff working at the ‘front door’ of local authority children’s services could be putting the very children which they are designed to help at increased risk.

Research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), involved a two year study of front line children’s services in five local authorities in England and Wales. It was carried out by The University of Nottingham, Lancaster University, Cardiff University and The University of Huddersfield. The results are due to be published in the British Journal for Social Work early in the New Year.

Researchers say the computer system — the Integrated Children’s System (ICS) — set up to standardise procedures and micro-manage decisions has the potential to undermine good social work practice. The need to spend more and more time inputting data into overly complex assessment forms and the pressure to take short-cuts in order to meet inflexible deadlines create, what the researchers call, “latent conditions for error”.

The Study claims that changes brought in by the Laming Report in 2003 — following the death of Victoria Climbie — together with on-going resource constraints have served to further burden front-line workers already under heavy pressure in busy offices.

Latent conditions for error, the researchers say, may have limited adverse influence where staffing levels were good. However, in situations of high referral rates, inexperienced staff, turnover or sickness, they will become increasingly dangerous.

David Wastell, Professor of Information Systems at The University of Nottingham said: “ICS is a crude technological attempt to transform social work into a bureaucratic practice to be governed by formally defined procedures, involving sequences of tasks to be accomplished within strict deadlines.”

The researchers say that the case of Baby P illustrates the paradoxes of the inspection regime and many of the unintended consequences of audit. The “tactical behaviours” criticised by the Ofsted head are not aberrations of the audit regime but are systemic adaptations directly produced by it.

Social work is quite different from teaching and cannot be observed in the same direct way as classroom performance. The researchers are concerned that Ofsted have only now considered the validity of their inspectorial methods.

The study focused on five local authority areas, a London borough, a county council, a metropolitan borough in the North of England, a unitary authority and a Welsh rural authority. It is estimated that researchers spent around 240 days observing and analysing everyday practice. This included work interactions and meetings, the inspection of key documents and case files. In addition the study ran ten focus groups and carried out 60 formal interviews.

Professor David Wastell from The University of Nottingham Business School, who specialises in public service innovation and believes in the critical importance of user centred design, said: “As far as I can see, the development of ICS has been driven from the top down, by central government, with minimal design input from the social work profession, front-line practice in particular. The architects of ICS seem to have been convinced that it was the correct approach and pressed ahead regardless of warning signals from pilot trials”.

The Study sought to examine how social work practice has been affected by New Labour’s programme of modernisation. It has focused on patterns of error and the attribution of blame in professional decision making. Researchers paid special particular attention to the initial handling of referrals to Children’s services as this work is particularly subject to bureaucratic-style procedures and exacting performance targets.

Lindsay Brooke | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk
http://communications.nottingham.ac.uk/News/Article/Computer-system-fails-the-children-it-was-designed-to-protect.html

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Stable magnetic bit of three atoms
21.09.2017 | Sonderforschungsbereich 668

nachricht Drones can almost see in the dark
20.09.2017 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>