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 Three components on one chip
06.12.2018 | Universität Stuttgart

nachricht New quantum materials could take computing devices beyond the semiconductor era
04.12.2018 | University of California - Berkeley

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface

What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.

Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...

Im Focus: Three components on one chip

Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.

Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...

Im Focus: Substitute for rare earth metal oxides

New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals

Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.

Im Focus: A bit of a stretch... material that thickens as it's pulled

Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.

Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...

Im Focus: The force of the vacuum

Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.

The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

Expert Panel on the Future of HPC in Engineering

03.12.2018 | Event News

Inaugural "Virtual World Tour" scheduled for december

28.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new molecular player involved in T cell activation

07.12.2018 | Life Sciences

High-temperature electronics? That's hot

07.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

Supercomputers without waste heat

07.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>