A Chronicling System for Children's Social Work: Learning from the ICS Failure

Ince, Darrel and Griffiths, Aled (2010). A Chronicling System for Children's Social Work: Learning from the ICS Failure. Technical Report 2010/02; Department of Computing, The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000160a9


A major part of the work of British social workers in childrens' departments is interacting with one of a number of instantiations of an IT system known as the Integrated Children's System (ICS) that implements both record keeping and reporting functions. After a relatively short time in operation, the implementation of the system is now regarded as deficient and, disturbingly, there is a body of evidence to suggest that the impact of the implementation has all too often been antithetical to core social work values and ambitions. This article will provide a short review of the evidence and thereafter focus on the front-end processes and documentation that drove the development of the original system. It will also comment on recent government attempts to overcome the problems with ICS and posit a simpler, cheaper and more effective solution. The existence of ICS and the fact that it resembles systems developed for industrial application is symptomatic both of a lack of trust and of the idea that statistical reporting and local micro-management are the keys to better child protection. The article does not address these issues in detail but, hopefully, the suggestions set out here will, if implemented, enhance good practice and the professional satisfaction of social workers charged with child welfare. In the longer term the content could also provide a platform for IT support that will respond to a much needed change in governmental attitudes towards social work. This article describes the mistakes made in developing a specific computer system for child-care. It can be regarded as a case study in how not to develop such systems and how much of the functionality associated with children's social work can be implemented very easily. Although the article is based on one system that is extant in two countries it has a much more general context, both in terms of care provision and international applicability. In international terms reported concerns about inappropriate child care IT systems are not confined to the UK, as can be seen , for example, in the case of Canada, (Baines , 2004) and Australia (Burton and Broek, 2009). In terms of general applicability many of the observations and recommendations made here in relation to ICS could similarly apply to future chronicling systems adopted across adult social care and other areas, such as probation work and health care.

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